Google Glass: my early impressions

by on December 26, 2013 at 7:34 am in Uncategorized, Web/Tech | Permalink

I have one now and I wish to thank whoever it is that offered me the invitation to buy.  It is a privilege to have an early chance to preview and try out what may well prove to be a major technological advance.

That said, I still don’t find this to be a useful device.  Here are my difficulties, many of which are specific to me:

1. Right now it’s only for people who see well.  I kept on wanting to put on my (non-Google) glasses to view things through Google Glass.  That doesn’t work.  I also find it involves eyestrain and discomfort to look up into that upper right corner.  That’s probably my defect rather than Google’s, but in contrast I know I am high quality enough to use their search engine and probably their driverless car as well.  (Gmail remains a toss-up but I fear I am failing at it, even though I use it only for storage.)

2. I would do better if the small screen were above the left eye rather than the right.

3. It works through wireless, which means either a) I can use it at home which is exactly where I don’t need it, or b) I can carry around a WiFi device, which indeed I do have, but at some point it all stops being so easy, and furthermore there are then two battery lives to worry about (4-5 hours for Glass, I am told by various sources), two things I need to turn on and off, and higher carrying costs.  There is by the way a Bluetooth method for running them through (some) smart phones, I am not sure at what difficulty or expense.

4. I tried to prime its connection to two wireless systems (home, and the mobile WiFi device) and each time I required the services of the help desk.  I wouldn’t call it buggy, but it doesn’t have the seamless, intuitive ease of use that we are growing to expect from new devices.

5. Glass is comfortable enough to wear, but when you take it off there is no easy and safe way to fold it up and put it away safely.  It’s non-wear carrying costs appear to exceed its liquidity premium.

6. The timeline seems to get crowded — but with what? — and getting out of the timeline and into other functions is not intuitive.  In general the shifting around across functions involves awkwardness.  There is the tap, the multiple tap, the forward and backward finger slides, and movements of your head, all of which need to be somewhat learned and coordinated.

7. Perhaps my biggest worry is that my iPad does most of what Glass is supposed to do, at least as far as I can tell.  I find that my carrying costs for the iPad are quite low, especially since I am usually carrying around a bag of books anyway.  When using Glass, I feel I first have had to grab an iPad, shrink it a good amount so I can no longer easily view it, tape it to my upper right forehead, and start tapping on it and sliding it instead of using the keyboard.

8. I do understand the “hands-free” point, but it does not benefit me much.  I wouldn’t use Glass when driving, don’t need it when cooking, and don’t wish to take photos when doing that other thing.

The pluses are that the voice recognition seems to work pretty well and the photos and video are decent quality, on top of the remarkable fact that the device is possible at all.  Wearing the Glass is extremely light and relatively comfortable.  The help line is open on Christmas day and involves no wait time at all.  It’s remarkable, when you first open the device, how little there is to the whole thing.  You keep on thinking “so where’s the rest of it?” and there is no more, a small band encased in light plastic performs all of these remarkable functions and Glass brings us yet one step closer to a future world of pure seamless magic, albeit a magic for acrobatic eyes only.

I still feel Google Glass has remarkable potential, but for me it is not yet something I wish to use rather than analyze.

Here is one useful review, more positive than my account, and here is another review.

Brian December 26, 2013 at 7:59 am

#3 – seems to be an essential point. #5 – this would be extremely annoying. #8 – thanks for the chuckle.

When will these devices be rolled out more to the wider commercial audience, and why did you not include a review on whatever the pricing point / asking price will be? (And what it’s it?) Any of these “flaws” become tolerable when the price is right.

Dan Weber December 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Surely #3 will become solved with time. Google could do nothing and internet connectivity will, by other people’s efforts, get lighter and cheaper and faster.

If you solve #1, people who currently need glasses automatically get #5 solved.

ummm December 26, 2013 at 8:03 am

contact lens

Rahul December 26, 2013 at 8:31 am

Overall, sounds like a great solution in search of a problem.

Z December 26, 2013 at 9:05 am

This is true of most bleeding edge technology. Often the thing gets into the publics hands and becomes something no one intended. The first tablet computers morphed into phones and music players. Modern tablets, while nice toys, have yet to find a niche where they are considered essential. (Note the word essential does not have any bearing on whether you think it is really cool)

My guess is the technology in Google Glass will end up somewhere else, but the devise itself will join the Merlin in the dustbin of history. I could imagine movie theaters using the technology to enhance the experience. Using the eyes to trick the brain into thinking it smells what is on the screen or feels the emotion of the characters would bring us close to finally replacing movies with feelies.

Tummler December 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

The technology in Google Glass has been in use in other industry’s for quite some time. For example, helicopter pilots flying in complex environments have used a monocle as a heads-up display for some time now.

Z December 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

That’s just the thing. Technology invented for one purpose ends up pollinating a whole new species of products. We forget about e the stuff that went no where. Microwave ovens and non-stick pans are good examples of totally unintended uses of technology. The interactive heads up display has a narrow use for the the military. Others then try using it with combinations of other technologies until something is found to be useful. Jim Manzi wrote a book on this, I think.

Brett December 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Tablets may have become the TV “add-on” that Smart TVs were supposed to be. Instead of everyone buying a multi-capable smart TV, we kept regular televisions and bought tablets to use the internet while watching them, and cheaper add-on devices to stream stuff over them (like Roku).

They might end up replacing a bunch of check-out stand stuff in brick-and-mortar stores. I’ve seen that a lot in new physical stores, especially smaller ones – the merchant will run their “cash register” on the iPad/tablet instead of having a dedicated cash register machine.

brian December 26, 2013 at 8:45 am

Glass seems like an awful idea to me. Bluetooth headsets are an example of a straightforwardly useful device but few people use them because having to deal with a second device attached to your head is usually more annoying than just holding a phone. The same logic applies to Glass. They also share the Douchebag Factor. People who use bluetooth headsets come across as obnoxious, and Glass seems even worse so far. The main users will be awkward nerdy guys who can’t leave the digital cocoon. This will further tarnish the concept with guilt-by-association, preventing wider adoption.

I suspect the wider lesson is that “wearable computing” is failing as a concept (smartwatches are also a dud). Consumer technology companies are grasping around desperately for the next big thing and coming up with nothing. Smartphones and tablets have also plateaued.

Todd December 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

I suspect the wider lesson is that “wearable computing” is failing as a concept

Everyone I know has an UP band.

mike December 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm

It seems like half the black people in my area use bluetooth and are constantly bix nooding on it, but I wouldn’t call it obnoxious. It’s definitely not just nerds and type A assholes anymore. To the extent that it’s obnoxious, it’s less the device itself and more the deliberate shutting out of everyone around you in meatspace. But in that sense it’s no worse than people who are texting or diddling with their smartphones constantly (white women under 40) or people who walk around with headphones on all the time (young black males). And frankly the offensiveness of it is irrational, because I have no desire to talk to any of these random idiots anyway.

mike December 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Extrapolating from that, I could see a Glass-type device becoming popular if it allows the socialization addicts to add video chat to their constant blathering.

msgkings December 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

You don’t like to talk to white women under 40…so you prefer non-whites, over 40, or men?

Chris s December 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

Bix noodling?

Guest December 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Zing! Mike likes the golden oldies

Test December 26, 2013 at 8:46 am

Your point regarding eyestrain is important. And I wonder if it is bad for the eye to view images in the unnatural way that Google Glass shows them to the user, that is, so close to the eye? rhetorical.

Adrian Ratnapala December 26, 2013 at 9:19 am

There is the tap, the multiple tap, the forward and backward finger slides, and movements of your head, all of which need to be somewhat learned and coordinated.

I can’t comment on Glass itself, since I don’t use it (and don’t see the point); but I think Turing complete machines have spoiled us with respect to UI. We refuse to learn anything, and say “hard to use” when we mean “nontrivial to learn”. It would be nice to control mobile devices through a glove, using a new (an existing?) sign language. But not enough people are going to learn sign language any time soon.

I shudder to think what desktop text entry would be like if the PC had been invented *before* the clerk-typist.

I_Affe December 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

think Turing complete machines have spoiled us with respect to UI. We refuse to learn anything, and say “hard to use” when we mean “nontrivial to learn”. It would be nice to control mobile devices through a glove, using a new (an existing?) sign language. But not enough people are going to learn sign language any time soon

How much effort do I need to put in order to use something that is suppose to make my life easier? Why do I have to adapt to technology and not technology to me?

Adrian Ratnapala December 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

Sorry, I gave the impression that to “… refuse to learn …” is irrational. It isn’t; learning lots of stuff to use every new thing would be a waste.

The obvious, if unhelpful, answer to your question is “you should put as much effort into learning it as you expect to save over the rest of your life.” Obviously we can’t always tell when this point occurs; it’s even harder for us to collectively make such changes. Because of this, our mostly rational strategy can trap us in bad equilibria — personally I think the thing about gloves is like that.

Why do I have to adapt to technology and not technology to me?

But this kind of question is exactly the kind of “being spoiled” I am talking about. You should adapt when the end result of changin yourself will be better than the end result of changing the tools. The hard bit is figuring out when that happens.

derek December 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

But what is there to learn here? Something very useful will be learned.

The first uses of the PC were spreadsheet and word processing. What was the word processing program that had ctrl- sequence of letter? 123 had a command sequence as well that had to be learned. But both of these systems were enormous improvements over previous ways that learning was a small price to pay compared to the drudgery of adding up a series of columns. If the keyboard hadn’t been invented yet, one would have been.

Adrian Ratnapala December 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

But what is there to learn here? Something very useful will be learned.

You need to learn to type. Even two-fingered. If the world had no touch typists, and keyboards had been invented under the “Why do I have to adapt to technology and not technology to me? ” philosophy, we would still have no touch typists.

On the other hand, the QWERTY keyboard is far from optimal on a mobile phone, and yet we prefer it. An optimal solution — one which is about as difficult to learn as typing — would probably not even resemble a keyboard. If touch-screens are the way of the future, we should make the switch soon. But I think we should wait and see.

derek December 26, 2013 at 11:42 am

And yet people did learn to type. Because there was (and still is) an enormous return for the effort.

If these devices, along with a mixture of samurai and tai chi movements and some method actor facial control would pretty much guarantee that a young lad would get laid, there would be courses filled with eager participants. And extensive blog posts and discussions on the fine points and intricacies. People will learn almost anything including complicated and intricate things if there is a return.

So far there is no return to using this device. So why put forth the effort.

GiT December 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

People already learned a new way to type on mobile phones. It’s called t9. They’ve also learned sign language like ways of using touch and mouse interfaces. They’re called [pointing device] gestures.

dead serious December 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm

The ideal future doesn’t involve your fingers, but rather your voice.

TMC December 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

I wish it were true, but people continue to text rather than talk on the phone.

dead serious December 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

True, but I was thinking more in terms of manipulating devices. One could easily dictate a text message.

Rahul December 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm

You are mis-characterizing the problem. People will often learn when the payoff is rich.

Something like Google Glasses’ fundamental hitch is that the rewards are hard to see.

Adrian Ratnapala December 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Hard-to-see rewards are the common case. I came out too combative in my first comment. TC is *correct* to complain about the voodoo required for Glass, because we don’t yet know that Glass is important enough to be worth learning.

But there is a catch-22 here, because things will only have a worthwhile payoff if there is a critical mass of people who learn it. It seems that history found a way around that catch-22 for touch-typing, but not for gloves-and-sign language. Or if my speculation about the utility of sign-language is wrong, there are probably a hundred other equally hard to learn but worthwhile things which we are not seeing.

Dan Weber December 26, 2013 at 1:58 pm

People used to have to learn to use new tools. And, all else equal, in the long-term you will be more productive on a tool where you spend a day learning to use it than one that you can pick up in five minutes.

One problem is that things are changing so frequently the pay-off of learning a new technology is diminished. Linux and Windows desktops have both been regressing in usability for years as they try to make things so dirt simple a toddler can use them.

Sanjay December 26, 2013 at 9:37 am

In his excellent and entertaining review, Gary Shteyngart suggested that Google Glass was beyond excellent for taking pictures on animals, and that sounds right to me. There’s a red-tailed hawk that hangs out on a walking trail near here, and I find I can easily walk to within six or fewer feet of it as it sits watching me curiously on a fence, but the second you draw a phone from a pocket — however gingerly — off it goes. I’ve gotten some into observing backyard wildlife too and have more than once gotten very close to some resident foxes, but again, you can talk or walk but if you present a device, you’re done. Google Glass to the rescue? That seems highly worth exploring.

Ggsakgh December 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm

…I’ve gotten some into observing backyard wildlife too and have more than once gotten very close to some resident foxes

So now everyone wearing Googlasses is presumptively a peeping tom.

Adrian Ratnapala December 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Usually it is the foxes who invade my back yard, not the other way about.

Dick King December 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

#8 …
8a: Although you would prefer to not wear Google Glass during that other thing, you do realize that new communication technologies have been used for porn ever since the days of writing and clay sculpture. Probably spoken language was used for porn as well as for communicating warnings about predators and advice about hunting.

8b: I could see myself wearing it to fence, especially if it could shoot 120 frame-per-second video. Will it fit inside a fencing mask? Alas, the fencing governing bodies, in 2007 [IIRC], bothered to write a rule to forbid the use of electronic communication devices during tournaments, but I could still conceive of using it during practice matches. However, the pupil would have to significantly exceed 2mm, which it probably doesn’t, and purpose-built small video cameras would probably fulfill that use model much better.

-dk

NPW December 26, 2013 at 11:27 am

I was thinking something similar. I would wear a device that records what I and my sparring partner sees during a match for feedback latter. What someone on the outside sees is helpful, but I can only react to what I’m actually seeing. It would also help to know what openings my opponent is seeing and exploiting.
But I box. And glasses are somewhat of a detriment when being punched in the face, so until they make Google Contacts I think this option is out.
I would like facial recongnition software that reminded me of who I’m looking at or would display my eyes open, so I could get a nap in at the weekly staff meeting.
But this wouldn’t be enough to to pay money for them, unless, of course, they could cancel out snoring.

derek December 26, 2013 at 11:51 am

The seeds of a killer app.

Finch December 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm

The sports applications seem huge. Route running and team coordination in sports like football, soccer, and hockey, for example, could surely benefit from something like this. I imagine something akin to the ghost car you can follow in games like Gran Turismo.

I’m guessing it will be banned for this purpose.

NPW December 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I could see it banned in competition, but as a learning aid I think a quarterback or reciever who has been traded could come up to speed faster with live hints.

I also think answering the question, “What did I do wrong?” would be so much easier and useful if it was answered from the first person perspective.

Some aspects of military training could also be improved.

derek December 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

Will it help you get laid? I would suggest that the effect would be the other way around; wearing one around the opposite sex would mark you as voyeur and creep.

I can see an application for this, but very vertical. Reminds me of the Microsoft tablet from a few years ago. Neat, capable, but the only uses that would warrant the cost and limitations were very vertical.

What I would use it for is for training. The trainee would wear one, and I could see what they are seeing and walk them through it. A smart enough backend could automate the instant feedback and suggestions, but it would be very complex and vertical.

A negative, and a big one. I use the camera on my phone as a remote eye. I need to see or read information that is hard to get at; before the phone it was either sticking my head into a small space and cursing my bifocal glasses, or using a mirror and flashlight. Now I stick the phone in, take shots until I get one that tells me what I need. The Glass puts the camera on my head. I already have two.

The usefulness of something like this is where it sees what you see and tells you something that you didn’t know, and that would be useful. I’m reading a book and want a quick definition of a word. My e reader does that already. I’m looking at some device that I use or install, I frown and it gets the documentation for me. I meet someone I recognize and don’t remember, it gets me the name and some biography, or location where I have seen them before. The device has the characteristic of being something profoundly useless until it becomes useful. I needed to carry a phone and the added capabilities became useful because I have it with me anyways.

Bill December 26, 2013 at 11:18 am

You raise a good point about supply substitution for google glass. If you wanted to record your world, you could turn on the movie function on your iphone and put the phone in your breast pocket.

Supply substitution is interesting with respect to technology goods: if you break down your modern phone’s functionalities (phone, internet, camera, movie recorder, tape recorder, etc.) you can see both the value and the threatened industries.

Remember Kodak?

jqhart December 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

wearing one around the opposite sex would mark you as voyeur and creep.

Wearing one in general marks one out as a voyeur and a creep.

Willitts December 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

You mean tape the iPad above your left eye.

Lasik surgery is relatively cheap and well worth the price. If you need reading glasses, you can get a contact lens for that.

I can imagine some military uses of a personal HUD.

What people really want to know is how Glass can be used for pornography. I propose an Undress with Google Glass app.

Willitts December 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

Smartphones can act as a mobile hotspot.

Bill December 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

Dont wear them and record:

While you are in the shower room,

While someone is entering their pin or password;

But, you should wear them when you give a lecture so you can tell the students you will later play back your view of the lecture hall to see who was asleep or checking their email.

What will be the social norms from wearing google glass and what will be prohibited by law.

Feyi December 26, 2013 at 10:55 am

This post is rendered utterly meaningless without a selfie of you wearing said glasses

Sanjay December 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

Oh, God, seconded.

Glenn Alan Mercer December 26, 2013 at 10:56 am
Claudia December 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

Birthing pains aside it seems to me Google Glass will push forward the frontier of personal data projects, for better or worse.

iPads are great for absorbing/finding information from others on the go and iPhones are good at that (in smaller doses) and even good for some own info collection (pics, short videos, etc) … but there are times that hand frees and even passive info collection would come in handy. The apps will be key. As one mundane example I could envision: weight loss. I have a neat little app on my iPhone to track what I eat, as a data junkie at first it was even kinda fun to make calorie charts and track progress toward goals. But after a few weeks, I got bored with scanning bar codes when I ate (and was bummed at how boring my eating habits are). It would be much nicer to have glasses that log what I ate and maybe even start flashing warnings if I wander back to the frig. Of course, there would be downsides to such transparent tallies of our behavior … it would mean missing the joy of losing (and regaining) that same five pounds multiple times in one year AND even more important it would just dial up the external pressure not to eat too much (or engage in some other problematic behavior) or force you to be honest that you really don’t care about it as much as you tell yourself and others. Brave new world of reduced (self) deniability.

Bill December 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

AC Nielson will probably be doing this for you: you wear google glasses and they record your eating, watching and other habits. If you go into a store, the google glass is two way: it tracks your eye movements as you look at prices or compare products.

Then, if you wear the Siri earbud, it tells you what to buy.

Who or what is the robot–you or the machine?

Sean Brown December 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm
Sean Brown December 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Oops, just saw Glenn posted the same thing an hour ago (before I refreshed the page).

Ethan December 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Very good and honest, these are things I wouldn’t think about.

mike December 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

#1 should have definitely included a link to the movie The Jerk, as a cautionary tale

msgkings December 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm

LOL, +1

Willitts December 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Lawyers are probably already preparing their briefs.

Brett December 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm

It sounds like you would really want those kinds of smart glasses to have a perpetual connection to some type of 4G network with high capacity for data (since you might be sending a ton of video by it). That’s expensive, although probably not that expensive compared to the cost of the glasses themselves.

I think they’ll eventually want to try something like the Kinect or Wii U’s sensor motion detectors, particularly if it lets you manipulate stuff you see on your eye screens with your hands instead of it being All-Voice-Control. I’d love to ultimately have it capable of overlaying the image of a keyboard on a flat surface, which you could then type on.

Ryan Vann December 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Not quite as lame factor as the Occulus Rift, but still too Poindexter for me. I’ll pass

David Brown December 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I wonder if there is an industrial/manufacturing market for this. Allowing multiple members of a team to literally see what the other is seeing would be pretty nifty. Google’s focus on consumer applications seems myopic to me.

I’m a graduate student in experimental science, so I could imagine using it to hold a protocol checklist. My hands are very often not free. It might also be a useful way to accomplish remote hands-on education and training.

Serf in the middle December 27, 2013 at 11:24 am

Google Glass is a geek object confined to geeks without a whole lot of real world practical application. Like the reviewer stated, the Ipad does nearly everything the google glass does. Most people will opt for the ipad. It’s sort of like video gaming. Gaming has a hard core market of people who spend hundreds if not thousands on high end computer gaming rigs; but most gamers opt to use a console – Xbox or PS3 – or play angry birds on the iphone. Same for Glass, a small chunk of people will love it and use it to push the frontiers of technology, but the tablet market will continue to expand and push frontiers too.

Chris s December 27, 2013 at 11:53 am

What it does or does not do well right now is irrelevant. It is an experiment to see what people will come up with to use it for. Google is outsourcing (crowd sourcing?) product research.

Maybe it does prove to be a dumb idea or unworkable in some way. The research goal is still accomplished. “What is this thing useful for?” “Nothing.” Ok, fine answer.

TallDave December 27, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I’ve been in IT for 15 years. I love all these devices in theory, but in practical terms I only find PC, laptop and Kindle useful. My phone basically only calls people.

TallDave December 27, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I should add I think it’s easy to underestimate the market for these things though — at the Christmas party all the kids over 3 were glued to their phones and tablets.

Glass may find a niche yet. It wasn’t that long ago that the utility of a bunch of computers hooked together (as opposed to, say, the fax machine) wasn’t clear.

Andreas Moser December 30, 2013 at 6:03 am

And for those who don’t have the money to buy Google Glass, there is a solution which has exactly the same effect, but much cheaper: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/better-than-google-glass/

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: