One of the great things about working for a company like Building Blocks, is that we often get our hands on new technology as soon as it is available.
Since the day it was revealed, I had been itching to get my hands on Google Glass. It seemed like such a huge step forward and appeared as though a mainstream company had finally released a device that looked like something out of a science fiction movie.
Needless to say that when I heard that our US-based VP of Technology Chris Morgan had purchased one for Building Blocks, I was the first in line to try it. I’ve had it on and off for a few weeks now and I thought it might be interesting to record a ‘day in the life of’ movie while using it and give you my thoughts on the hardware.
The opportunity for an omnipresent stream of information, as presented in the Glass interface, sounds enticing. But does the reality live up to the vision? I am a big fan of Google Now on my Android phone so moving this experience to Glass seems to make sense.
No more pulling your phone out of your pocket every few minutes to see if you’ve had a text message or email. No more missed reminders because you didn’t hear your phone ringtone. Instant notification of ‘interesting’ things based on what Google knows about you. (Which if my phone is anything to go by, might not be as much as everybody worries about…)
1. My life, through a camera, seems very boring!
Honestly, I lead a very full and action packed life, despite what Glass captured.
2. Having something stuck to your head all of the time can be very distracting, even with it turned off
Firstly, you will notice a couple of driving sequences in the video. I should add a disclaimer that:
- I didn’t wear Glass when driving for the most part, and
- I started the video using voice control (which is excellent in Glass!)
Legal disclaimer aside — wearing Glass feels like when your hair is too long and gets in your eyes, except that you can’t flick your head to get Glass out of the way.
3. For me, wearing Glass made me too connected
Now bear in mind, I am usually glued to one of the two smartphones (one Android, one iOS) I carry everywhere so I did not expect this conclusion at all.
The simple fact is that for me, there are times when I don’t want to read a text immediately, or answer a hangout or be notified that my parcel from Amazon has shipped.
For example, sitting in a meeting talking to client (about the space-aged thing glued to my head probably) — a notification card in Glass appears. I immediately glaze over (get it??) to read it.
Number one, I appear quite rude, and number two I have now lost focus on the thing I was talking about in the real world.
You will notice this with anyone using Glass; there are times when people just appear to stare off into space as they read something on their screen — it just looks strange.
4. On the two days that I wore Glass for extended periods, I ended up with a huge headache
Now this may be a coincidence, and I’m not necessarily suggesting that this is caused by demon microwaves cooking my head. However, I do wonder whether the constant shifting of focus from the real world to Glass causes eye strain?
Certainly Glass gets very hot at times and having this pressed against your temple isn’t the ideal remedy to a stressful day in the office.
And if you don’t already know — the audio in Glass doesn’t come out of a speaker, it works by vibrating your skull and using it as an acoustic transmitter to your inner ear.
5. The best feature of Glass is video conferencing. But you can’t have it.
On the day that Glass arrived chez Building Blocks U.K., I had a video hangout with one of the other guys in the office.
In that few seconds, I saw a glimpse of the future.
On his screen, he could see what I saw – in other words the forward facing camera in Glass acted as the webcam. On my Glass, I saw his webcam.
On a personal note, this is almost a reason to buy one in itself — I regularly video chat with my parents so that they can see their grandson. Holding a laptop or cameraphone up whilst chasing him around is tricky, Glass solves it.
However, Google say you can’t have this yet. The very next day Glass updated itself and the video chat feature was removed. Google say that the quality of the video and the speed is not yet good enough and they don’t want to tarnish the overall experience.
That being said, the camera and video camera do make an excellent life blogging platform. You simply can’t recreate some of the videos using any other mainstream technology easily — check out the Glass Instagram stream for some amazing examples.
6. I look ‘Borderline Psychotic’ wearing Glass
Amusing as my colleagues’ reaction to me wearing Glass was, it does present a serious point about how the general public react to Glass.
The U.K. ICO has already warned about privacy issues using Glass and headlines such as this influence how the general public feel about these type of devices.
Whilst wearing Glass in the excellent “This and That” curry cafe in Manchester, I was asked “Is that a camera?” I couldn’t tell whether the guy was worried that I may be filming or simply curious, but his reaction is common amongst people who don’t yet know what it is.
And to be fair, I was filming. Which he was fine with once I had explained what it was and he then became genuinely interested in the thing.
So is Glass a new channel to communicate to your customers and users?
In short, yes it can be. If you’re already engaging with them using micro-notifications (for example via Google Now) then Glass takes that experience to the next logical step.
For example, pushing delivery notifications, travel or event schedules and reminders, and urgent messages works really well.
Trying to push things like “we’ve just posted a new story on our website” really doesn’t work well and adds to the overpowering feeling you get using Glass.
I think the middle ground is yet to be tested — taking location sensitive notifications to Glass. For example, “I see that you’re near our coffee shop and you’ve previously bought drinks there, have a free coffee on us” could work but only if they are few and far between.
Would I buy one? No. They definitely feel like a first generation device. Even though I am very pro-technology, I did feel a bit daft wearing it outside.
I believe the next generation of wearables, for example the Moto 360 smartwatch will ease everyday users into using ubiquitous technology. Android Wear has 99% of the good things about Glass in a more ergonomic and socially acceptable format.
Perhaps in five years time we’ll see a consumer-accepted version of Glass that overcomes some of the shortcomings, both technological and social, but for now I think Glass will remain in the domain of the tech-hungry.
PS – Please don’t tell my wife that she’s in the video. She will flip.