A weekend with Google Glass

First Impressions: Geordi La Forge eat your heart out!

“I feel amazing!” Those were my first thoughts when I finally put on the cyborg glasses from Google. I was very excited to finally see what all the fuss was about. The promise of Google Glass is that it would finally give us an idea of what a heads up display (HUD) would look like, and how it could be used to push relevant information to us.

Now, I’m a little late to the table with regards to publishing my first impressions about Google Glass. So, I’m not going to rehash everything the device can do. Instead, I’m going to provide my initial impressions (pros and cons) and then speculate what Glass’ best applications might be - specifically its use in specialized fields and education.

The first problem I noticed with Glass was its weight. I don’t wear glasses generally. I have reading glasses for those days when I’ve spent too much time on the computer and I’m really tired. The rest of the time I don’t need them, so having something on my face is foreign to me. The weight of Glass - specifically the right side - resulted in the device sliding down my nose, and it didn’t seem to matter how much I adjusted the nose pieces. However, Glass does offer more fitting options than I excepted. The nose pieces can be adjusted as well as the display itself. After a couple hours of use I was able to find a comfortable spot.

The interface

Glass uses a very basic, linear, card interface. (If you’re unfamiliar with card interfaces you can read a recent article I wrote about them). The user can tap (to select items), swipe forward or backward (with one or two fingers) to scroll through items, and swipe down to dismiss items. It works well for the most part and the performance is relatively snappy. It’s a little confusing and at times it’s seems impossible to find the items you want.

I had more success with Glass when I stopped trying to use it as a smartphone. By that I mean I began treating it as a passive device. I let notifications come to me and I only interacted with Glass when I saw a text, recieved an email, or needed to use the navigation. I would take the occasional photo or video, but I found using video was the fastest way to drain the battery. The smartphone has essentially replaced the personal computer as the digital hub, so I let my iPhone do the heavy lifting while Glass just augmented its capability.

Navigation

This is the most useful feature of glass. “Ok Glass, find directions to Oliver Square.” Instead of asking Siri a similar question and being presented a standard iPhone map, Glass pulled up a 3D map in the HUD and showed my position as I progressed through the streets of Edmonton. Now that’s cool! A HUD is a much better tool for navigation as it is far less distracting, and it provides a spacial context that is infinitely more immersive. While my girlfriend drove the car, she would ask for directions. I could just read them off to her from the HUD and we got to our destination super fast.

Battery

The major downside to Glass isn’t what it can’t do. Battery life is the main problem. It’s not good. Actually, it’s abysmal. Google claims that users can get a full day out of Glass, but I was only able to get a maximum of six hours, and that’s with very light use. Now, given that this is a proof of concept - and not a consumer device - I’ll give Glass a pass here. As one of my co-workers said to me when I griped about the battery life, “just think about what it’s doing. It’s connecting to the internet, running an operating system, and it’s giving you information, notifications, and can do images and video. It’s this big!” He’s right, it does a lot considering all the electronics can probably fit inside something the size of a USB drive.

Where do we go from here?

Google glass is a bit of two edged sword. On one hand, it makes sense having information and notifications right in front of your face. What could be more convenient? On the other hand, it’s annoying to wear a piece of technology on your face all the time, and I’m not even going to delve into the social paranoia surrounding Glass.

Where Glass could really shine is in Education, and I mean that in the broadest sense. Any application where the user can either record or photograph what they’re doing for archival purposes or to garner professional feedback is valuable. Industrial trades were one of the first applications to come to mind. Students completing their apprenticeship or professionals who want feedback from their peers to help them solve a technical problem could use a hands-free device. Many of these people have their hands full (literally), so a hands free-system for receiving notifications and getting help could be very powerful.

Medical science education and research would also benefit from Glass. Nurses and doctors could get immediate help from more experienced practitioners via a Google Hangout. Photos or videos could be sent to colleagues to get opinions on a diagnosis. Rather than having in-person surgical observation sessions, students and colleagues could dial in via a Hangout. In fact, any scientific research whereby the researcher needs to take notes, record observations, or share to other relevant services would benefit from Glass.

But, lets not forget education students themselves. Teacher assessments have been done via live video for some time, but Glass could offer an entirely new insight. Perhaps student teachers could record their class lectures from their perspective to get an idea of how well they engage students. Videos could, theoretically, be uploaded to a video streaming server to be evaluated by their instructors. When I think about how easy it is to take photos and videos with glass, I immediately thought of all the times I could have used a camera to photograph a formula or some complex idea (political science diagrams come to mind) to review later. When testing Glass I saved voice notes and photos to Evernote - a fantastic use case because they were instantly synced across all my devices.

I was curious if any videos had been made regarding the use of Google Glass in Education and I discovered a more personal story about a student’s experience.

Conclusion

The uses for Google Glass are huge. It’s certainly a powerful educational tool for those getting started in their professions, and for those who want to collaborate in real time with their colleagues. But, I don’t think it will become a wide-spread consumer device for some time. Is it because the technology won’t get there soon? No. It’s because people simply are not ready.

I wore Google Glass in public on a number of occasions. I got some strange looks, but for the most part people said nothing. However, I know people and colleagues who’ve been ordered to turn off Glass because others were worried they were being recorded. (My personal opinion is that people are a little self-interested if they think my biggest priority is to capture a secret video of them, but I digress).

Google Glass will hopefully continue as an innovative research side-project for the search giant, despite no longer being made available to the public. My opinion is that other wearable devices, such as the smartwatch, will be far more popular. That being said, Google Glass is a brilliant proof of concept and perhaps it will become the Microsoft Kinnect of wearables - becoming a niche market player in industry and education.


Do you have ideas regarding Google Glass’ application to the workforce and education? Please leave them in the comments below :)