5/1/14

Google Glass: 2 Weeks In

Jacked In - You have to look serious
when exploring the Matrix
So, I've had a lot of people asking me about Glass over the last few weeks.  How is it?  What do you think?  Should I get one?  My answers have generally been: It's interesting, I think I like it, and No, you definitely should not get one. There is one caveat, however.  If your idea of an enjoyable Saturday morning is firing up a new LAMP Stack, pouring over GitHub to find new Open Source packages to install, and troubleshooting them for hours, then you might be interested in Glass.  If that doesn't sound like fun, hold off for a little while longer.  If you don't know what any of those words mean, then any time someone mentions Glass, stick your fingers in your ears and hum The Battle Hymn of the Republic until they are done speaking. Listen very carefully and take this to heart...Google Glass does not yet exist in your world.

From a geek perspective there is something undeniably cool about putting on Glass, plugging one end of the USB cable into the earpiece, and the other into the back of my computer. This creates the physical sensation of jacking in to the Matrix. I feel powerful and connected. My wife, on the other hand, says it reminds her of a scene from Douglas Adams' and Terry Jones' novel, Starship Titanic.  The characters of Lucy and the Journalist are trying to get amorous as the Yassaccans are invading the ship, but third-wheel Dan keeps interrupting. The Journalist hands Dan a virtual reality helmet and tells him to put it on.
"Wow!" he exclaimed. "I see what you mean! I'm right in the ship... Hey! This is great! I can get into the consoles! Wow! Now I'm running along the wiring! Hey! The circuit boards are like vast cities!..."
Meanwhile, the Journalist and Lucy go at it.
...then she suddenly pulled away, and glanced anxiously over at Dan, who was climbing some invisible stairs in his virtual reality and then turning around and handling invisible objects and letting out delighted yelps.
"Oh, don't worry about him!" panted The Journalist. "He can't hear or see us. We're still MatterSide.  He'll be totally absorbed in that thing - it's always the same - first time you put on one of those you're usually off for five or six hours!"
I'm not sure whether I should be concerned about what my wife is up to while I'm exploring the Matrix, or just be extremely proud that I married a woman who effortlessly references Douglas Adams and Terry Jones.

After mining the Glass forums, and Googling for APKs that have been updated to run on XE16 (See, doesn't that sound like fun!), I have found a few apps that, if not yet consumer ready, at least point to the promise and potential of Glass.

Word Lens translating a French sign.
Word Lens - This app is truly awesome, in the "worthy of awe" sense. Word Lens is one of the apps that is available through the MyGlass site, so no need for side loading .apk files, and I think it is the closest that Glass gets to a killer app. You look at a sign in a foreign language, and the app manipulates the pixels of the image to rewrite the sign in English. The translation is only as good as Google Translate, and it's a little slow, but... Holy freakin' cow, man! That's awesome!

PhotoGlassic Memory - This app allows you to say, "OK Glass, Remember where I left my keys." Glass takes a picture of the keys in their current location, grabs GPS coordinates and stores that information. Later when you've completely forgotten where you left your keys, you say, "OK Glass, Recall where I left my keys." The picture and a map showing the location of your keys pops up.  I'm sure there are better uses for PhotoGlassic Memory than the keys example and I only have an 850 square foot apartment, so the GPS coordinates don't help much.
Viewing the PhotoSphere Demo as I edit this post.
(That's Sergey Brin in the blue shirt in front.)

PhotoSphere Demo - There is an "Easter Egg" hidden in the Glass settings that displays a 360 degree picture of the Glass team.  You can turn your head all the way around to see all of the people developing for Glass at Google. Some enterprising developer has made it much easier to access that picture, and to upload your own PhotoSpheres (360 degree pictures). People using this app for the first time closely approximate Dan's experience in the Starship Titanic excerpt above. They immediately become oblivious to anything around them and are transported to the world of the picture. They spin and contort their bodies to look up at the ceiling and down at the floor, and strangely enough down under their armpit. ?? Unfortunately, if you run this app for more than a few minutes, Glass gets hot and you get the "Glass must cool down to run smoothly." message.  There is another Google application that uses PhotoSphere technology, it doesn't take a genius to see where that is going.

Glass Calculate- This is a Glass implementation of Wolfram Alpha. There is nothing really Glass specific about it. The amazing part is Wolfram Alpha itself.  I hesitated to mention it at all, except it's really cool to ask your glasses "OK Glass, Calculate how many teaspoons are in Lake Michigan?" and have it come back to you in seconds with an authoritative answer, including charts, graphs, and comparisons to other bodies of water.  (A: 988 quadrillion.)

There is a well documented tendency for human beings to over-value things that they pay way too much for. With that in mind, take what I'm about to say with a huge grain of salt. I like Glass a lot. No, it is not ready for the consumer market, and after having spent time with it, I think a consumer version is further off than most people think. A friend of mine said he was waiting to get Glass until they released the $500 version this Holiday season. It's not going to happen. Maybe next Holiday season, in 2015.  Maybe. I think a real, viable, easy to use, and affordable consumable product is 3 to 5 years off. But I'm keeping mine. It's not going back to Google for a refund, unless I find out my wife is up to no good while I'm lost in the Matrix. Thankfully, there's a very good chance she's busy re-reading one of the five books in The Hitchhiker's Trilogy. I'm a lucky man.


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3 comments:

Susan Hackett said...


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

WHAT'S THAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!

:-) -Susan

Blake Carroll said...

Unbelievable. The future of things, and the apparatchik for Google's ambition for the "internet of things", has arrived in full force if not rapidly approaching. And that thing Susan Hackett said too!

Shaunna Mireau said...

Translation, seriously cool.
PhotoGlassic Memory was clearly inspired by airport parking lots.
I know I can enter my coordinates in my (gasp) iPhone notes app, but still...

 

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