Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Me and Google Glass - Part 1 of 2

Yes, I am a Google Glass Explorer.  No, I am not a Glasshole.  I was invited into the Explorer program in the second wave of invites that Google sent out back on November 26, 2013.  Prior to being invited, I had been been lusting over wearable pc/technology and more specifically Glass type of HUD overlays.  I plan to recap my last few months of using Glass and thoughts on it.


I still remember the moment I discovered that I had finally been invited into the Glass Explorer program.  It was one of those geek moments where you just want to high five someone since I had been tweeting with the Glass team on Twitter off and on and begging for an invite for the last 5 months.

After clicking the link to the Glass Store, the first shocker is the price tag:  $1500 prior to tax.  The second hardest part is figuring out which color you want.  I went with Charcoal since it seemed a bit more subtle (well, as subtle as wearing a small lcd on your head can be, hehe).

Two days later, I had Glass waiting for me at my condo.  Shipping was incredibly fast and secure in that they require someone to sign for the package; thank you Google!

Unboxing / Initial Usage

Unboxing was surreal; Google Glass version 2.0 was in my hands, mine! OMG! Childhood dreams being imagined in real life.

The first time you put it on, you realize that Glass is not an overlay/AR type of device but a peripheral notification type of device.  It is meant to augment reality by trying to be out of sight and hanging out in your upper right peripheral vision.  I personally believe Google decided on upper right area to look since most humans do that when they are thinking or brainstorming.

Setting up Glass was a bit of a challenge but has since been refined w/the last update XE12 to Glass.  I usually will redo my Glass setup just to see how the intial setup and pairing to phone works.  NOTE, if you want to get the full experience of Glass, you really do need a good Android phone.  iPhone's can't send text messages with Glass, but that is to be expected.  Facetime isn't on Android and never will be.

The first thing one must learn to do with Glass is to take a Vignette.  You do this by having whatever you want to show in the photo in the Glass display up and then use the camera button on the Glass frame to take the photo.  Once the preview comes up, tap on the touch pad and tap on Vignette and you get a picture like such. This has become a new way to take photos and very popular among the Glass communities.

Initially Glass is a bit hard to get a grasp on in how to use it.  The voice commands work well and recognition is fairly good in comparison with current voice transcription software.  The hardest part is knowing what commands you can say and what Glass will recognize.  The Google Now integration was not initially in Glass but was added in an update.

My favorite feature of Glass is it's camera and recording events in first person.  Here are a few photos I've taken with Glass, not too bad for an 8mp camera.  It's great for taking that fun, random thing you'll run across (ie atm message) too.

Below are a few videos I took with Glass of doing such things such as shooting a Sig P250 at the gun range, trying to shoot a toy bow and arrow, talking to my relatives and parents about the first time they had electricity and plumbing.   Recording conversations with loved ones (with their permission of course!) is a great use of Glass; parents love it for capturing moments with their kids and babies along with pet owners and their pets.

Feature-wise it's a constantly evolving device.  More and more features get added with each (almost) monthly update (XE13 should be perhaps this week!).  Yes, we did pay $1500 for a beta device and in turn should expect that it again is a beta device that we paid $1500 for. :)  However since I normally wear glasses, I had to wear contacts with Glass since there were no options initially for frames.  This definitely made it so I didn't wear Glass daily but only once a week or so.

Public Perception:

Google tries to stress to Explorers that you are Google's active, public PR machine for Glass.  Perhaps not directly but you get the feeling and as an early adopter know this already.  Explorers are not only PR machines for Glass or against it, but we are also blazing the trail for future wearable pc's acceptance in the public and private realms. We won't go into that since that is a whole different beast (camera and public areas).

The first thing you will notice when you go out with Google Glass the first time is that you are instantly a moving attraction.  Some people may make a quick glance, while others will stare and squint in curiosity and finally a few brave souls will come up and ask you "what are you wearing on your head?"    These brave souls don't realize it but they are in for a fun ride!

Whenever I am out in the public and someone stops me and asks about Glass, I give them a full demo (given it's a controlled environment).  I let them try them on and have them do a few commands such as "OK Glass, Take a Picture".  That one alone will put the biggest grin on their face.  Glass will indirectly make you a celebrity in most places you go or parties you attend; good or bad.

Some will inquire about if I am recording them as I talk to them; that is my cue to 'educate' them on Glass and recording.  When I am recording, the display will light up.  I also remind them that just because we have a camera there doesn't mean we intend to use it that way; if we want to be creepy we can buy way better camera/spy pens for way less and that in public CCTVs are everywhere and always recording so I am the least of their worries.

(btw, here's a link to each CCTV camera I walk by each day from work to my car.  CCTV camera album )

Updates / Frames:

Fast forward to January 2014, Google releases to much joy four different Glass prescription lens frames.

I ordered up a pair of the Bold frames and then went to Macy's Eye to get custom lenses made.  Total cost of frames ($225) and lenses ($325) ended up being in the $550 range (high index, transition carl zeiss lenses) but worth it.

I have now began to wear Glass on a daily basis.  The added features also are making Glass more useful but I still at times find myself looking for things to do with Glass.  Lately I have been enjoying having Google Music playing on it while walking around and also use glasquare to check into Foursquare places.  IFTTT is probably the most useful Glassware app for Glass.

With, you can setup Glass to get notifications, turn on lights with hashtag text messages, control your wemo or philips hue lights and so much more.

Texting and making phone calls on Glass is nice however the way you handle contacts on Glass is a bit weird and limited at the moment.  Navigation with Glass is well done and very useful but inputting addresses can be a bit of a challenge, there is where Map2Glass comes in handy.  You can send an address from it's web form to your Glass versus having to say the address and hope voice recognition can understand the street name.

So there's my part 1 of 2 on my Google Glass experience.  In part 2 I plan to discuss whether I, personally, like Glass or not, more public perception discussions and general wearable pc/computing thoughts.