The Future On My Face: My First 48 Hours with Google Glass
Back in February, I tweeted this out:
"I'm really into knowledge sharing: http://t.co/bOBw9pYSX5 #ifihadglass I'd endeavor to capture even more content to share with the world"
About a month later, Google notified me that I'd been accepted into their Glass Explorers program. Late last week, I picked Glass up. In this post I'll tell you what my first 48 hours with Glass have been like, what's been great about it, and why I don't believe Glass is yet ready for general public use.
Here's a video of me showing up at Google HQ to get Glass:
(In the video you'll notice that the rep actually made me stop taking a video, which I found incredibly ironic, considering that Glass is all about capturing content, and that my tweet was also all about how I capture content).
Here's the first video I actually took with Glass:
(You'll notice the video cut off -- that's because, by default, Glass videos are only 10 seconds long. You have to tap -- twice -- to extend the video to be longer. Here's a longer video I took with Angie, the Glass rep, who was very patient & helpful)
Here's a video of my initial thoughts on Glass while walking around Whole Foods:
So what do I think of Glass?
My brother Sam summed it up well: Glass feels like the first personal computer must've felt. Nobody's quite sure what to do with it. Maybe just accountants would use a computer? And then BAM! everyone is walking around with a mini computer in their pockets 30 years later.
Glass is not intuitive. You can't just hand it over to someone and have them use it (unlike an iPad, which a 3 year old can intuitively pick up and start using with no instruction.) It requires a learning curve, so it's smart that Google is starting with an "Explorers" program. Here's a video of my brother Sam trying to use it with no instruction:
But really, the value of Glass is that it's going to make it OK for innovation to happen in the wearable computing space. For example, there's already an Italian company with a product called GlassUp. VentureBeat says in this article: "it just might be better" than Google Glass. But the most meaningful quote was this one, from the founder of GlassUp:
“It has brought us a lot of publicity,”... “Before Google Glass, everyone said our project was a silly project … and if there is competition there is also an exit opportunity.”
The thing about technology and innovation is that you have to start somewhere. So big kudos to Google for having the chutzpah to be the first to go at it in a big way. This is an opportunity that Apple or Facebook (or some other darkhorse like Sony, HTC or Samsung) could've capitalized on but didn't. Google deserves huge accolades for taking the first big, meaningful step in the wearable computing arm's race.
Here's a breakdown of what works and what doesn't on Glass in its current form:
Having hands-free access to all the world's knowledge just by looking up & to the right is an incredible thing. It feels like some sort of Louis CK skit -- like it's magic. Being able to take a picture, record a video, have messages read to you (in a great text to speech voice) and more is all amazing. So my overall first impression is "Wow. This is totally the future, and it's on my face."
The small things are actually some of the best. Literally the best thing about wearing Glass is being at a networking event with it on. It's an incredibly great ice breaker. I was joking at an event yesterday that I could use a 3D Printer to make a non-working version of Glass for networking events, and already have 80% of the value of Glass.
The next best thing about Glass is being able to easily capture content -- both pics and videos. For someone like me that's fanatical about capturing content for knowledge sharing, this is priceless. The 5 megapixel camera on Glass is good; videos come out in great 720p HD quality. Here's a bunch of us Google Glass Explorers huddling to create a 'world record' at a PepsiCo networking event:
And here I'm capturing a 'largest business card passing circle' world record setting event at the PepsiCo event:
People ask about Glass all the time. Here's a cashier at Whole Foods:
I actually like wearing a hat when I have Glass on to minimize the strangeness factor -- it keeps most people from asking about it (especially since my ShareThis hat is black, and so is Glass):
Being able to take videos hands-free is awesome:
I also really appreciate being able to tilt my head up a bit and just see what time it is. Such a simple aspect of Glass, but I use it often.
The 'Places Nearby' feature is also great, and useful.
I would love to see a QR code scanning app -- that would be super useful:
Glass is clunky -- much harder to use than I expected. The problem is excaserbated for iPhone users, because the Android MyGlass app is not yet available for iPhone users. This keeps some of the functionality -- like heads-up turn-by-turn directions -- from being available. Also, since I don't have a data tethering plan on my iPhone, Glass has no network connectivity unless I'm in a WiFi area -- and even then, I have to specifically connect to an open WiFi network. This means that Glass is basically always offline when I'm out & about, and that really diminishes the value of Glass.
There are other usability issues. Videos can't be shared to Facebook -- only photos. And while videos can be shared to Google+, I couldn't find a way to embed those videos into this blog from G+. That meant I literally had to download each video to my computer, and then re-upload it to Vimeo, a huge pain from a workflow perspective. I really wish there was a Socialcam "glassware" app for Glass to let me use Socialcam right from Glass. That would allow me to post videos to FB, YouTube and Twitter all in one shot.
The battery life is also surprisingly short. I'm not sure what the actual standby/active time is, but it's not uncommon for me to see the battery go from 100% to 75% after under a half hour of use.
It's also hard to swipe the Glass pad when wearing a hat because the brim gets in the way, which is frustrating:
Also, the audio is hard to hear. Glass has a mini speaker that's supposed to use 'bone conduction technology' to make the sound resonate in your head. What actually happens is that it feels like a vibrating Mach5 razor, and it's hard to hear in anything but quiet environments. Here's a picture of the speaker/bone conductor:
One last nitpicking thing: Glass only works with an @gmail account, not a Google Apps account. Since I have all my email flowing into a Google Apps account, and I use Google+ primarily from my Google Apps account, that means i don't have any of my contacts in my Gmail G+ account, which makes Glass less usable from a social perspective.
All of the things above, though, are just early adopter growing pains, and my guess is that the current Explorer group will be willing to overlook most or all of these in exchange for the benefits of being among the first to pioneer this device. It was very smart of Google to roll Glass out this way.
There is, however, one thing that may keep Glass from getting mass adoption and turn it into a "Segway for your face" : Cultural Awkwardness.
In intimate settings, it's incredibly awkward to wear Glass. Think: Dinner parties, work meetings, with spouse & family, or in a public bathroom. I consider myself pretty willing to endure this sort of thing, and yet I've literally had to take Glass off in these situations because the pressure is so great. Literally to the point where people are unwilling to speak openly to me, mostly because they fear they are being recorded. The irony is that it's not at all easy to surreptitiously record someone -- you have to make a few gestures and/or say a voice command to initiate recording. However, that doesn't matter -- what matters is that people think they're being recorded. A cultural shift that makes it OK for people to wear Glass in anything but super public situations is likely many years away, and the problem is that if you take Glass off even just 5% of the time, it loses 95% of its value because you don't always have it on for easy access to capturing / retrieving information, which by definition is the point of it being a par of glasses on your face. I'm honestly not sure that Glass can overcome this barrier in the short term. It may just be too forward-thinking for what humans are ready for.
The good news is that you can actually tell when someone is recording you. The prism lights up, like this, and you can clearly see it if you're facing the person:
There's also the question of safety. My wife refers to Glass as a "cancer stick on my face." While it's hopefully not that, Glass does get unexpectedly hot, and I'd guess that its long-term health effects are unknown. The good news is that cell phones don't seem to have caused large-scale cancer epidemics, so maybe there's hope for early tech adopters like me.
What's Next for Me with Glass:
My new employer, ShareThis and I agreed it'd be cool for us to hack around on Glass a bit together, so we're going to dig into the Glass Developer API to see what kinds of fun stuff we can come up with. I'm really looking forward to seeing what our incredible dev team will be able to do with Glass. More to come, for sure!
I'd love to get your questions/comments below.
Here are a few more pics of Glass.