Glass First Impressions: The Bad, the Ugly, and the Good

OK. I've had a couple of days to experiment with Google's Glass technology. It's still very early days, and I haven't come to any firm conclusions yet, but I'm ready to give my first impressions.

First, the bad. Glass is definitely not yet ready for Prime Time. To be fair, Google has never claimed otherwise. I am pretty sure they are doing this ridiculous expensive and slow roll out, because they don't want your average consumer to purchase a Glass thinking it should be something more than it actually is.  At $1500 only developers, or Google Fans, or die-hard geeks, will be likely to shell out the cash and each of those populations will be relatively understanding of the device's limitations.

There is no Glass app store.  After you register your Glass with your Google account, you get access to the MyGlass site.  Most of the setup, including wifi setup and app installation, is done on this site or on an Android or iOS mobile app. There a few dozen Google sanctioned apps that can be sent to your Glass with a simple authorization from this site. The apps vary greatly in usability and utility and there really is no "killer app" as yet. In the last few days, Google has added several new apps to this list, so I'm hopeful that that trend continues and is not just Google throwing a bone to all of the suckers new Glass owners who purchased a Glass last week.

If you are a developer or a die-hard geek, then you are probably fairly comfortable with a unix command line. This is where the interesting stuff is happening with Glass. If you turn on Debugging, and plug your Glass into your computer, you suddenly have the ability to install non-Google sanctioned apps.  These can be found on a number of sites dedicated to cataloging new Glass apps.  There is some "danger" in this process. You may install something that causes problems with other apps and you may have difficulty uninstalling some apps.  In my experience a lot of available apps simply do not work at all. (I suspect that's because Google updated the software version on Glass last week and a lot of apps have not yet been updated.) Thankfully, Google made it very simple to restore Glass to its factory settings.  I've already done this twice. This manual process reminds me very much of the early days of iPhone Jailbreaking.  It's easy to forget now that Apple has more than a million apps on their app store, but for the first year if you wanted the device to run more than the few included apps allowed, you had to do a little simple hacking.

Second, the ugly. This was the most surprising thing for me. I don't think they're ugly at all. I kind of like the look of them. Granted, I'm not exactly a fashion plate and I normally wear glasses so they just looked like glasses with a chunky right temple piece. I didn't get the day glow orange color, so I think my Charcoal Glass looks fairly classy (IMHO) and if I wear a ball cap, you can barely see it. I did wear it out for a walk on Saturday with my wife and she was only slightly embarrassed.  I went into a Starbucks and no one seemed to notice I had it on at all. Although, I live in Manhattan, and we tend to not look at each other much, so your mileage may vary. While I wasn't accosted by angry anti-tech mobs, or feverish fan-boys, I found I was still quite self conscious while ordering my latte. I didn't want anyone to see me. I'm not a flashy, out-going, look-at-me type, so maybe I had a look on my face that said, "don't you dare ask me about this stupid thing on my face!"

Finally, the good. I had a revelation on day two of playing with my Glass; my title from last week, Getting Google Glass All Wrong, was a little prophetic. I'm starting to think that everyone has Glass wrong. (Maybe someone else has said this, though I haven't seen it, so if this is not an original thought, please feel free deride me in the comments and send me links showing how derivative I am.) Google Glass is not a wearable smartphone, or Personal Electronic Device (PED) at all.  And I don't mean, it's not there yet, I mean, I don't think that's what this will ever be, or even what it should be.  I think Glass is the world's first Personal Internet Peripheral (PIP).

By internet peripheral, I mean, this device is a new method of interacting with the internet (obviously). But specifically, Google Glass has more in common with the computer mouse than it does with the smartphone. I don't mean that as an insult, I think that is actually quite brilliant. While there is some storage and processing ability within Glass, the real brains of the device are in the cloud and Glass requires an internet connection to do much of anything useful. And while the camera and the display will get smaller, and the storage will get bigger, over time, I don't see Google ever putting the brains in the device itself.  Why would they? They are an internet company and persistent connectivity will only become more common.

Most computer mice (mouses?) today use lasers to determine cursor coordinates, but they still work essentially the same as the old mice with two wheels turning at right angles to each other, to move a cursor on a screen in two dimensions. In the days of DOS, the mouse was of little use, but the Graphical User Interface quickly became the norm and computing changed forever.  In the same way that the mouse opened up new ways to interact with computers, I think Glass and its descendant technologies will create new ways to interact with the cloud.  Google Glass is an eleven dimensional mouse on the two dimensional web. It seems of little use now, but just you wait until the eleven dimensional online user interface becomes the norm. It's definitely not what I thought it was, but I am much more impressed with Glass after two days than I expected to be.

More to come...

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