My childhood was steeped in science fiction and copious amounts of Dragonball Z. As such, I have been thoroughly enamored with the concept of an eyewear-integrated computer interface for a long time. Needless to say, I was quite excited when Google Glass was announced. I recently had a chance to play with Glass for a few hours and came away with mixed feelings about it.
My immediate impression of using the device was an unfavorable one. After setting up the MyGlass application on my tablet and verifying connectivity, my first venture into using the device quickly resulted in my taking several random photos (all entirely of my desk, thankfully), all of which were immediately shared to Google+. Granted, as I have with all forms of technology, I neglected to read any sort of documentation and jumped right into figuring out the interface for myself. Regardless of the uninformed leap I made, it was alarmingly easy to take and share photos. A point that my caused my imagination, mixed with a hint of paranoia, to whip up all manner of scenarios in which that feature could cause one trouble.
Moving on – now that I have several unintentional photos stored on my Glass, my next inclination was to delete them. Lacking any sort of file management interface, or an explicit photo gallery, deleting my stack of random imagery was vastly less simple than I had initially expected it to be. Eventually, I managed to deduce that I had to swipe forward (via the touchpad on the side of the Glass device) from the Home screen in order to access the photos it had taken, at which point I could delete them. Simple, when you know where to go, but not as intuitive as I had expected. A proper content-management interface, either on Glass or the MyGlass app, would be a welcome addition as this product evolves.
My photo debacle having subsided, the next whim I had was to put some more applications on the device. I installed Google’s native game pack and LynxFit which, per the tethered app, appeared to install quickly – the Glass device, however, yielded no new applications in its menu. I waited a few more minutes, came back to the Glass device again and still no new applications nor any notifications of changes being made. So, per the default IT troubleshooting tradition, I restarted the Glass, which remedied my issue. A forgivable, but notable annoyance and further indication that this product is still in it’s infancy.
Onto the applications themselves. The Google Mini-Games package [consisting of tennis, balance, clay shooter, matcher, and shape-splitter (essentially Fruit Ninja)], I must admit, was highly addicting. Controlled primarily by the device’s accelerometers, with occasional direct intervention through the device’s touchpad, an interface experience reminiscent of the Nintendo Wii is produced. In the tennis game, for example, one must move back and forth in real space to hit the ball back at your AI opponent, using a brisk forward swipe on the touchpad to serve the ball. In the card-matching game, one must move about in real space to interact with a sphere of cards surrounding the player, using a tap on the touchpad to flip the cards over. All-in-all, a refined casual gaming experience.
The other app I acquired, LynxFit, looked intriguing in theory but quickly proved itself silly.
LynxFit is a fitness tracking application from Byte an Atom Research. It uses the device’s sensors to observe your movements, account for activities like push-up reps and running/walking statistics. It includes a variety of social fitness features and can stream personal coaching sections directly to your Glass. Which, in theory, is all an excellent idea and could be extremely beneficial. In my playing with LynxFit, I found a singular, severe flaw – the Glass didn’t want to stay on my head. In doing several sets of push-ups to see how LynxFit performed, the Glass either fell off of my face or came very close to doing so. Perhaps my head is oddly shaped, I was wearing the glass improperly, or I move too violently – regardless, my experience attempting to utilize LynxFit was a complete fiasco.
On to the topic of the Glass hardware itself: three miscellaneous, yet significant aspects of Google Glass that I believe are obstacles to its success are  it’s aesthetic properties,  it’s limited display, and  it’s dependance on a handset.
Google Glass looks silly. Until Glass is relatively indistinguishable from a pair of glasses, its potential for mainstream adoption will be compromised. Glass’s display can be clumsy at times. In my using it, I quickly grew tired of looking into the corner of my eye to interface with the device. I would much rather have an immersive, two-eye display, where I could linearly switch focus between my surroundings and the Glass display. Having a stereoscopic, two-eye display would make the interface feel vastly more balanced – after using Glass for a prolonged period I felt as if my right eye was becoming overworked when compared to my left.
Glass isn’t really going to work until it’s a stand-alone device. At this point, it is an auxiliary display for your handset. Until Glass is your phone, it is just going to be niche device.
Despite my reservations, I realize that Google Glass is still in its beta phase of development and, in that light, I believe it is an excellent proof-of-concept. Wearable systems are undoubtedly the next step in mobile computing and I commend Google for pushing this frontier forward.
While my experience with Google Glass wasn’t perfect, I can appreciate applications in which its unique interface is singularly beneficial. Google Glass would be an excellent navigational aid to cyclists, motorcyclists, and motorists alike – offering an omnipresent, hands-free navigation interface. Its ability to translate signage and provide the translated output directly in place of the text on a physical sign would be of outstanding benefit to those travelling abroad, as is its ability to translate overheard speech in real time and deliver it directly to your field of vision. Furthermore, Google Glass would be an excellent asset to anyone delivering a lecture, or conducting music and, less specifically, anyone who needs dynamic hands-free information.
Overall, despite its relative infancy, Google Glass has the potential to be the basis for the proverbial “Next Big Thing,” if not the “Next Big Thing” itself.