Here are my initial thoughts using Google Glass. I will likely form more opinions about the device as I continue to use it. To make this review as well rounded as possible, I decided to break it up into Pros/Cons.
BUT if you don’t have the time to read all this, then here’s the TLDR version: Google Glass has a lot of potential. But the lack of apps, problems with phone calls, and the limited UI makes it extremely hard to justify the current price tag. Lower the price, fix the phone calls, and build more apps, and Google Glass will be a very hot consumer device in 2014 and beyond.
It’s hard to explain what I mean by “experience”. Mostly, because this is unlike any device that I have ever used. Imagine having the ability to project images and videos with in your line of vision whenever you want. The display fits so intuitively with your natural experience that it almost feels like the device is a part of your body, and the display is just a natural feature of your eye. It is like looking at a desktop monitor inside your eye ball. It is nothing like looking at your typical mobile display. Plus the transparency of the screen allows for overlays of your surrounding environment, which allows the device to become as ubiquitous as the other visual elements you engage. For me the most obvious potential for the device lies in the use of this display to engage data in the same visual context that you would engage a cup of coffee.
Search For Knowledge Graph Data
I am starting to feel that maybe Google’s Knowledge Graph was designed entirely to support Glass. The data that Knowledge graph provides fits really well inside the Glass “card” interface. Which means I can get information about pretty much anything right inside the device. I still think Knowledge Graph is killing the rest of the web, but its amazing on Glass. So, Google, if you are listening, how about remove Knowledge Graph from the web and keep it just for Glass? 😉
I love the camera. For a long time I wanted to get a GoPro for my wheelchair. With Google Glass I don’t need too. The camera functions are extremely easy to use, and I think are a good quality. For me it is easy to take pictures and video without using my hands (that I need to operate my chair). You can see in the video below that with the camera I can share my view with the world. The camera’s audio is actually really good. So good in fact that I decided to overlay some music to the below video so you all can’t hear a private conversation I had at the beginning! LOL Like any digital camera the image quality would be better if the lighting was better, unfortunately when I shot this video it was a dreary day out and not very sunny.
This was a feature that I was largely concerned about. Being partially deaf I was worried that the device would either not be loud enough, or would interfere with my hearing aid. However, Google is implementing what they call “Bone Conduction Transducer”. Which is a fancy way of saying the audio functions do not rely on the workings of your inner ear to operate. Instead the sound is conducted through the bone structure of your head, and then into your vestibulocochlear nerve (audio nerve). This is great for anyone that has conductive hearing loss because of low bone density in the inner ear. Also one new app looks to revolutionize the way that people with hearing impairments communicate.
Lack of Apps
Hopefully this will change over time, but the sad truth is that there are very little apps available for Glass at the moment. The ones listed on the official site are great, but honestly I only installed a few that were relevant to my interest. There are a handful of Glass apps that are unsupported by Google. But because they aren’t apart of the official app collection, you have to use the Android Developer SDK to install them, which is to complicated for most users.
Software Requires a Learning Curve
Google provides very little documentation on how to operate the device. Leaving the user with having to actually figure things out on their own. Because of the limited size of the screen there isn’t enough room for a traditional “windows” like environment. Instead there are a multiple feeds that contain “cards”. You can flip through each card in each feed with your finger on the arm of the device. Sometimes it is extremely hard to tell what feed you are on, and what application you have active. For many users that don’t naturally feel comfortable navigating new UIs, this one will likely get them lost every time they use it. It almost requires a certain level of abstract thought to remember what feed you are on, and what card is active. Otherwise you will get confused and frustrated very quickly.
Phone Audio Sucks
As mentioned above I really like the audio on Glass as a whole. However, when you make a phone call with the device it creates a horrible echo for the person on the other end of the line. and when I say horrible, I mean so bad that my own mother hung up on me. As a fix to this problem Glass ships with a small ear piece (seen right). This fixes the issue, but, quite honestly it is cumbersome to add the earpiece just to make a call, and the experience takes away from the rest of the devices ease of use.
Web Browser Sucks
Browsing the web on Glass is pretty much impossible. You are able to access web sites through Google search. But once you land on a web page you are unable to click anything, this includes links or any element of the page. You can however scroll up and down and that’s about it. It seems as if they could build in some controls that would let you navigate a web page the same way users of screen readers tab through the links in a web pages navigation or other elements.
In Person Social Engagement
Unless you are going to a tech conference or a bar full of nerds (do those exist?), most people that you engage with while wearing Glass will think you are really weird and give you a strange look. Some apparently will get drunk and try to fight you, and others will most likely just give you weird glances. Because of this, I don’t really like going out in public with Glass, or at least not to social settings. Maybe one day they will be so mainstream no one will care, but as for now everyone has a lot of growing to do.