So, I did it. I used Google Glass, and not just for a quick selfie, but for almost a month! The amazing Dr. Melissa Dodd, a UCF professor in the Nicholson School of Communication, was nice enough to let me borrow her pair to help explore the uses and implications. I have to admit, I was very excited to explore the power of one of the most intriguing devices since the release of the iPhone. Of course, there are so many wearables available these days, with most being centered on the wrist, but the Google Glass is affixed on your face with information at a wink or tilt of the neck. I understand there have been many reviews of the device, but I want to share my own personal experience. Below are a few observations.
First off, this is a great social tool. You can wear it almost anywhere, and best of all, it’s all point-of-view. That means you can give a firsthand perspective of an event, news story, or your kid’s party. Just say “Ok, Glass” and you are off taking a picture or a video and then with a flick of the finger, you can instantly share your experience on Facebook or Twitter. I caught a few people around the office off guard by taking their picture (unbeknownst to them) and sharing it on Twitter in less than 10 seconds. So there is a privacy question (I took the pictures off of Twitter right away), but for now, I’ll focus on the positive.
I really enjoyed two apps in particular: Allthecooks Recipes and Word Lens. These apps quickly showed me the potential of this category of wearables. Allthecooks made finding and creating a recipe very simple. I just said, “OK Glass, find me a recipe for Chicken Parmesan,” and within seconds, I could flick through many recipes. Once selected, I could see the directions directly on the display and if I tilted my head back, I could see the items I needed for the recipe. No more dirty iPad or iPhone, it was all there in front of me. This could be an invaluable tool for students learning to cook.
The next app was Word Lens. This app translates text in real-time. You might say “we can already do this with the internet,” but not like this. It takes a sign or body of text in your Glass monitor and literally rewrites it directly on top. The potential for this is amazing. Imagine going to a foreign country and being able to understand all the signs around you, or reading a local newspaper. The technology isn’t perfect, but as it gets better, it will be a must for all people traveling out of the country.
These are just two quick examples of how I saw firsthand the potential of Glass. Others have explored some unique uses, such as Cornell using Glass as a replacement for sheet music, and the implications in health care are limitless. Almost any situation requiring a hands-free task would benefit from Google Glass.
Let me make this clear. I am well aware that Google Glass is still in development and not perfect, so what I didn’t like will get better as the technology gets better and more users gets their hands on the product. The biggest issue with the technology was battery life; it was awful. When actively using Glass, I was able to get around 60-90 minutes of battery use, so if you are a heavy user that wants to take pictures, videos, and integrate with cloud services, it’s not going to make you very happy. In fact, when I was at jury duty last month, a young gentleman was wearing Glass and the judge asked “Sir, are you recording this session?” He quickly replied, “I wouldn’t waste my battery life on this.”
Another issue for myself and many others is the fact that I wear regular prescription glasses, which make it difficult to comfortably use Glass. After a few days, I was able to get the Glass set just right so I can have the full experience, but I am glad to hear that Google is starting to offer prescriptions and various frames with Glass. This still seems like a temporary solution as wide range adoption will probably require Glass to work with anyone’s existing frames. Others have been very creative with magnets to take this task into their own hands.
Google Glass is always there in your face, so I was very disappointed to find it didn’t ping me with notifications throughout the day. It would have been convenient to receive a notification for new emails, calendar appointments, text messages, and various social media prompts without needing to wake up the device. I can understand how some users might find these notifications to be annoying, but there is something nice about having instant access to this information without taking out your phone.
During my month with Glass I noticed, like many connected devices, it’s basically useless without the Internet. Since the device is most useful when you are on-the-go and generally away from a dedicated Wi-Fi connection, you will want to enable your phone’s hotspot. The issue with hotspot is not all devices and carriers support this feature for free. Being an iPhone user on AT&T, I would have to spend an extra $20 a month to use Glass when away from work or the house. This would be a deal breaker for many including myself.
Like most people, it’s difficult to come to a definite opinion on Glass. At the explorer price of $1500, it’s really only for the innovators of this technology and not even on the chart for a casual user. The price will have to drop dramatically to entice the average user. It’s clear the best near-term implications for Glass are in the medical field, and any device that can help save lives should be taken seriously. As for education, I’m excited to see how different institutions are finding unique uses for Glass. There is a lot of potential in hospitality, engineering, foreign languages, music, and many more. Only time will tell if Glass is the next big thing, the beginning of a new category of wearables, or simply vaporware.