Posted by Matt Egan 13 September 2013
Using Google Glass: 5 things we love, 5 things that need to get better (and probably will)
I tried Google Glass, and I found it to be every bit as cool and futuristic as you would hope. Here are 5 things we love about Google Glass, and 5 things that need to get better (and probably will).
Today I had the opportunity to try out Google Glass on a prototype headset. As a colleague said to me, it's not often you get to literally see the future. Well, reader, I have seen the future. And I put the future on the end of my nose and talked to it whilst eating Sushi. (Now that's a Friday the 13th.)
So I'd like to share my experiences of using a Google Glass device, but first a little housekeeping. This is not a 'Google Glass review'. Google Glass is the idea, the concept. What I played with today was a prototype headset using what might loosely termed Google Glass technology. I wouldn't expect a commercial consumer release in the UK until 2015 at the earliest, so I'm not about to give Google Glass a star rating.
For the uninitiated, Google Glass is wearable tech. It offers a user interface for your smartphone's capabilities, but placing a projected image just above your right eye. Thus you can search the web, send and recieve messages, use social media, take photos and video, and source and follow directions - all without holding a device, and controlled via finger swipes and voice control. A bone-conducting earpiece allows you to hear as well as talk.
Here then are 5 things we love about Google Glass, and 5 things that need to get better (and probably will). See also: What is Google Glass? Everything you need to know for all the hard information.
Google Glass: 5 things we love
1. Form factor. My description above doesn't really do the idea justice. Indeed, until I was using Google Glass I didn't really get it. But being able to glance up to the right to access everything the web offers is incredibly useful in a variety of situations. It's not there to replace your mobile device, but to augment it. It puts information where you need it, you just need to glance up at the rear view mirror. When it is finally developed Google Glass could well be wearable tech that improves life in small but significant ways. Imagine following directions on a tiny screen in the corner of your vision rather than staring at your phone. Or quickly grabbing that photo of your grandson's first steps, without having to fish around for your camera.
2. Comfort and strength. Okay, we saw just a prototype, but the portents are good. The 42g. titanium headset we used felt very comfortable indeed. It's intuitive and comfortable to use. That makes it less of a crazy idea.
3. Versatility. What if you already wear glasses? No problem, you can affix any lenses to a Google Glass headset. And any frames, for the fashion conscious. As I said above, 'Glass' is the idea and the tech, not the headset.
4. Wi-Fi. For almost all functionality you need to pair your Google Glass device with a smartphone, but the standalone Wi-Fi connectivity offers the potential for limited standalone use one day.
5. It works with the iPhone! Although the first Google Glass hardware products will be locked down Google devices, they will work with the iPhone as well as Android phones. This is sensible - lots of hip early adopters use iPhones. But it is also a reflection of the fact that Google is committed its own version of open sourcing. If Google gets the glass tech right all hardware makers could get involved, which could lead to some very interesting products.
Google Glass: 5 things that need to get better (and probably will)
1. Learning curve. Google says it currently takes about an hour to train someone to use Google Glass properly. My experience suggests less time than that (and I am notoriously slow on the uptake). But it isn't easy to use straight off the bat. It probably will be by the time you and I can afford to buy one...
2. Ubiquity ...and that time can't come soon enough. I wouldn't feel comfortable walking around with a Google Glass device on my face for two reasons. For one thing I'd look stupid. And for another I'd be scared of being robbed. Until lots of people have them, Google Glass will remain very niche. And yes, I do realise how that sounds.
3. Bluetooth. Google tells us that the current Google Glass device offers up to one day of average use, which is fine. But how will your smartphone stand up to a full day of being paired via Bluetooth? There has to be a better way, right?
4. No specific voice recognition. Again, this will almost certainly change. But right now anyone standing close enough can shout instructions to your headset and so far it's been trained to recognise US english.
5. Price... The big one. As I said in point 2, Google Glass devices need to be popular to make them comfortable to use in public. And for that they need to be affordable. Google tells us that is its aim, so we wait and see! Here's hoping. See also: Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity smart watch review.