Earlier this week, courtesy of my friends at Toronto-based innovation firm BNOTIONS, I had the opportunity to give Google’s upcoming project “Glass” a spin. After about an hour of getting adjusted with the hardware by taking pictures of Bella, walking around outside Front Street and, of course, the obligatory toying with the “Ok Glass” system of voice activation, I am still left thinking about it; I am just unsure of how to put my feelings into words.
You see, I only had a short time to test Glass, but it was enough time to realize that this is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It feels immediately fascinating, strange, and overwhelming all at the same time. Matthew Patience, Technical Director of Android at BNOTIONS, describes the first moments using Glass as “really awkward.”
Even partaking in the mundane task of walking my dog on Front Street felt insecure and awkward. Everywhere I turned, with Glass conspicuously on my head, I felt like people were watching me, wondering nervously if I was someone from the future or simply a nerd playing with a new toy.
With just a simple tap of your right temple, or slight head jerk up, you’re met by the screen above, which seems to be anxiously awaiting its next task aimed at making your life easier. Once started, you’re greeted with a secondary set of questions aimed at narrowing down your wants; once announced, you’re off to the races.
With Glass explorers now roaming the streets, the buzz about this device has reached a fever pitch. But it’s important not to oversell Glass. In its current state, Glass does not deliver any magical new features, rather it delivers familiar and useful smartphone features in a unique and magical way. Patience says being aware of this distinction is pivotal in enjoying Glass.
Throughout our conversation, Patience sounded positive about the pick-up of Glass: “I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from my peers, developers are enjoying the possibilities of what it can do!” Throughout my time with Glass, I found myself reminiscing of another product that was quite the sight when it first launched: the Bluetooth headset. When early adopters were seen on the street using those then ugly, ostentatious pieces of glowing plastic, they were considered to be “nuts” and no one envisioned that it would go anywhere. However, fast-forward a few years, and now Bluetooth connectivity is considered the “norm” for on-the-go communication, though more evolved (think in car systems) from its previous headset-only status.
Whereas I can’t say I am necessarily sold on Glass in its current state, I can see the potential and how it can make us as a population more sociable.
“After using it extensively, I have found that my relationship with my friends has grown stronger. I feel like I am more aware of what they’re saying and how they are feeling because I am more focused on them and less on using my phone. I don’t need to touch my phone to send or respond to a text. Also, I feel like I am getting to know Toronto more…I feel like every day I am discovering more about it that I didn’t know because my head is no longer down!
He also goes on to mention how much easier, and less awkward, it is to take pictures “without needing to pull my phone out all the time.”
“I think overall adoption rate will be based on price point and, eventually, more GlassWare choice. Like with all new products, once the ecosystem grows and the price subsequently drops, people will be drawn to it; they’ll want to know what all the fuss is about,” says Patience. “The only real downside to glass is its inability to take or place a call in any environment that isn’t dead silent. The speaker just isn’t strong enough.”
From my hour with Google Glass, there was only one very prevalent issue that stood out to me and I think that is solely a user issue: the lack of current support for people who cannot wear contact lenses and rely on prescription eyewear to see. Because of this flaw, I found myself continuously squinting to see the screen properly, thus giving myself a migraine. Patience mentioned that Google does have plans to make a prescription-compatible variant to Glass, but that option isn’t available at this time. If you don’t fall into that category, however, I can see the allure that Glass offers. It’s our first real glimpse at the future of true hands-free wireless communication. Glass not only allows us to relive our childhood Dick Tracey-esque technological fantasies, but also gives us hope that in time we can truly compromise with our loved ones by being able to capture the special moments in life without our phones being anywhere in sight.
Now that is a concept I am excited for.