Earlier this week, I finally got my long awaited invitation to become a Google Glass Explorer. No more than 5 minutes had passed between the time I got the invitation email and the time I had placed an order for my very own Glass. The very next day I got an email saying that my Glass had shipped and the day after that it arrived at my door. Google had the Glass shipped to me over night. Very cool Google! I’ve now had a couple of days to play around with the Glass and I’m now ready to share my thoughts about it. I’ll go ahead and warn you now that I have some mixed feelings about Glass. So, if you are expecting a Glass of your own and don’t want any spoilers, you might want to stop reading now as I will be putting it all out there for you to read.
Before I jump into the actual Glass product itself, I want to first say that I’m a true fan of most things Google. Notice I said “most things”. There are some things that I can’t get on board with and I absolutely hate it when I’m forced to do things I don’t want to do or to be part of. After receiving my invitation, I immediately logged onto the Glass site to place my order. I was expecting to be presented with some basic page that allows me to make a payment using my credit card. Even though that was true, I couldn’t make my actual payment until I had registered for a Google Wallet account which I didn’t want to do. Why do I need yet another system out there that has my credit card information stored in it? I’ve actually avoided buying products from some online stores just because they require me to use Google Wallet. Since I badly wanted the Glass, I gave in and registered for a Google Wallet account.
However, before I could register for a Google Wallet account, I first had to have a Google account, period. I’m not a Gmail user, but I do carry an Android cellphone (and other Android based tablets) which all require that I have a Gmail account. Since I only entered my Google information on those devices the first day I got them, I couldn’t remember the username and password for my Gmail account. So, I had to do the whole “forgot password” mumbo-jumbo just so I could get my credentials for logging into Google so that I could register for Google Wallet so that I could purchase my new Google Glass. Very frustrating, but I managed to get thru it and placed my order.
I’m not sure how Google did it, but it seemed like only about 10-12 hours had passed between the time they sent me the email informing me that my Glass had shipped and the time it actually arrived at my door. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced shipping that fast before. And believe me, between my fiancee and myself, we get a lot of shipments. Plus, we live pretty far from any big cities. Had we lived somewhere such as San Francisco or New York City, I could see how the package got to me so fast. Living where I do, it takes a while just to drive to my house from the nearest largest city. After calculating time for loading, unloading, handling, etc…, Google must have pulled some major weight with UPS to get them to deliver it as fast as they did. It’s almost like they skipped everyone else on the list and came straight to my house first. Again, that was very cool.
Anyways, after signing for the package from UPS, I was pretty much ripping the box apart with my teeth. I couldn’t wait to get into it. As you can see in the pictures below, the package that actually contained the Glass was very well done. Having a price tag of $1500, I wouldn’t have expecting anything less than 100% quality on everything in the package including the package itself and I was not disappointed. In fact, there were 2 boxes within the UPS delivery box. The first box was a smaller box that contained shaded lenses that can be attached to the Glass so that it can be used outdoors. The second box contained the actual Glass product as well as a very nice travel bag, ear-bud, charging cable, and extra nose pads for a better / more comfortable fit.
If the packaging is any indication of quality, you know that the Glass itself was perfect and it is! The Glass feels extremely durable and is fairly light weight. Even though it feels nice & sturdy, the box also included a FAQ card that specifically states that you should still be careful with the Glass as it is not indestructible. The Glass feels just as comfortable as a normal pair of glasses or sunglasses. The battery for it is located in a section that sits just behind your ear which keeps the glasses balanced as far as front and back. However, the glass does seem to tilt to the right side a little. Maybe I need to swap out the nose pads to balance it out a bit. I’ll try that later. The part that includes the battery also includes a speaker which behaves kinda like Jaw Bone. Since it’s positioned just behind your ear, it doesn’t really need to be very loud in order for you to hear it. In locations that are loud, the Glass includes an ear bud that can be connected to make things a little more audible.
The display is provided by a small piece of acrylic (I think) that sits just above your field of view. This makes it nice since it’s out of your way when not needed, but is easily viewable just by glancing up when you do want to see it. Since there is only one display (over the right eye), it is a little annoying since most people use both eyes to view the world. It’s also a little awkward after you’ve been looking up at the display and have to look back down or after you take it off. At times I can still see ghost images of the display floating in front of my eye even after removing it from my head. I haven’t had a chance to wear it for long periods of time yet. So, I can’t really comment on the long term use of it. I do however like the fact that you can pivot the display in and out as to adjust for better visibility. This allows people with different heads of different shapes & sizes to use the product unlike some other heads-up-displays I’ve seen floating around lately.
Next to the display is a tiny camera that seems to have pretty decent quality. I believe it’s only 5 megapixels, but it’s enough to handle most situations. The camera can be activated by pressing a tiny button on the top of the frame or by using the voice commands. When recording a video, it begins with only a 10 second duration but can be extended by tapping the side of the device. Speaking of tapping the side, the Glass includes a “touchpad” on the side of the unit that allows you to navigate the menus by swiping your finger up, down, forward, and back depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. When the display is off, you can tap the side to “wake it up”. You can also tilt your head backwards to about 30 degrees (configurable in settings) to wake the device. In order to use any of the features of the Glass, it has to be in the “active” or “awake” state.
Setup was fairly simple, but I did run into a few things I feel like mentioning. First, in order to use the Glass, you have to have a Google+ account. Aside from already being forced to have a Gmail account and a Google Wallet account, I found myself having to give in and setup a Google+ account as well. I’m not into social networks much these days. So, I felt like being forced into registering for a Google+ account was a cheap shot on Google’s part. I mean, are they really that desperate to get new users? Whenever you take pictures, record videos, or do pretty much anything interesting with Glass, it automatically uploads your media to your Google+ account via your tethered cellphone via Bluetooth or over the WiFi connection that can be setup directly on the device. I do not want all of my photos and videos being uploaded to Google+ and I have not found a way to prevent that from happening short of disconnecting from my cellphone and wireless access point. Even when I do that, the next time I reconnect, it automatically uploads everything anyways.
The next problem I had when setting up the Glass was when I tried configuring it with my wireless network. You have 2 options to choose from when connecting your Glass to a wireless network. The first option is to connect your Glass to your cellphone and use the “MyGlass” app to configure the wireless connection. This is the easiest and my preferred way of doing it. The second way is to connect the Glass by selecting your wireless network directly on the Glass. For either of these solutions to work, your wireless router has to be broadcasting its SSID. If you go with the second option and have selected your wireless network from the list of available networks, Glass turns on the camera and tells you to point your Glass at the screen that has the QR Code. However, I haven’t found anything that provides me with this QR code nor have I been able to figure out how to create it either. So, the second option for connecting Glass to my network is pretty much out of the question.
After I finally got everything setup and working correctly, I did run into one more issue that I want to mention. During the setup process, Glass walks you thru using / learning how to use the device. One of the steps it walks you thru is how to control it using voice commands. During setup, the voice control worked fine. However, immediately after setup was finished, the device stopped responding to any and all voice commands. I would say “Ok glass”, and nothing would happen. I even tried shutting down the device and turning it back on to see if it would start working again, but didn’t have any luck. I was forced to perform a “factory reset” on the device and go thru the entire setup process all over again (which was a pain in the ass since I just got done doing it just minutes before). After the factory reset, I also had problems getting my cellphone to recognize the Glass again. On my cellphone, it was detecting the device as “Glass 1” after the first setup and kept looking for that again after the factory reset. After the second setup, my cellphone started recognizing the device as “Glass 2”, but that only happened after I uninstalled and reinstalled the “MyGlass” app.
Now that I have the device working a little more stable, I’m beginning to enjoy it a little more. The voice control seems to be extremely accurate, but it still has problems from time-to-time understanding my deep-South accent. When it does understand my commands, it works great. Navigating thru the menus is a breeze using the swipe techniques on the touchpad. I’ve already installed a couple of the apps listed in the “MyGlass” app on my cellphone and all of them are really cool. I can think of thousands of scenarios where Glass would be a great addition. I haven’t had a chance to make any calls or send any messages yet, but everything else, including performing searches, seems to work like a charm. I’ll use it for some calls and messages when I get a chance and will share my results afterwards.
Even though I’m beginning to enjoy the Glass more and more, there are still a couple of other things I’m not impressed with. Almost as expected, the battery life of the Glass is horrible. Since there is no way to disable Bluetooth or WiFi, the battery drains faster than it would if you could disable these. I would like to be able to use the device without it being paired with my cellphone or connected to a wireless network. For people that enjoy the outdoors and want to use their Glass away from their house and on the go, there’s no reason to have Bluetooth and WiFi running. If you plan on using any of the navigation apps, you have to pair your Glass with a cellphone that includes GPS. Glass does not include GPS of its own (not that I’m aware of anyways). Not only does the Bluetooth connection drain the battery of Glass, but it also drains the battery on my cellphone as well. Hopefully Google will provide a way to disable Bluetooth and WiFi in a future firmware update. If you record video longer than the default 10 seconds, that too speeds up the battery decrease. Basically, any time the display is own, your battery drains a lot faster. In fact, you can swap over to the Settings tab where you can actually watch the battery life decrease in real-time. Within a very short period of time (about 2 or 3 minutes), I watched the battery decrease from 90% to 85% and lower. The version of Glass that I got supposedly has a better battery life than the previous version. If that’s true, I would hate to see how fast the battery drained on the previous version.
The next thing I don’t like about Glass is that the display doesn’t seem to stay active / awake for very long. I constantly find myself having to tap the side or tilt my head back to reactivate the device. I wish there was a way I could tell the display to stay on until I tap the side or tilt my head back a second time, telling the display to turn off. Google, please add this to your enhancement list along with a menu for disabling Bluetooth and WiFi. 🙂
At this point, I’m still not sure if I think Glass (in its current version) is good or bad. If you ask me if I think it’s worth $1500, I would definitely say “NO”! I would not recommend anyone to spend $1500 on Google Glass until they do something about the battery life and have some more useful apps for it. Even though there are some semi-cool apps already available, I haven’t seen any that makes me say “wow” or can justify the $1500 price tag. However, that is one of the reasons I wanted to get my hands on Glass at this early stage in the game. As a developer, I think Google Glass is a gold mine. Being that it is powered by Android, I know the possibilities are endless. I’ve already created several apps that run on Android powered cellphones and tablets. And, I have already started working on some apps to run on Glass as well.
For example, since I’ve been on a bit of a home automation kick for the last couple of months, I thought what would be better than a home automation controller for my first Google Glass app. And so, after only 10 minutes of coding, I already have an app that allows me to control my home automation system using Google Glass. I can say things like, “Ok glass, turn on the Christmas tree” and “Ok glass, turn off the front porch light and close the garage door”. The app works great and allows me to control every device & light in my house. However, the response time between me issuing my command and the actual device responding takes a little longer than it should (~30 seconds). Then again, I do only have about 10 minutes total in the development of the app. It’s just a matter of revisiting / refactoring the code to get response times to an acceptable time frame. Once I get the response times a little faster and acceptable, I will publish the app for others to enjoy. I will also be posting the code and a demo video of Glass in action controlling my home automation system. Over time, you can expect to see lots and lots of apps from me for Google Glass.
Overall, the jury is still out when it comes to my opinion about Google Glass. I can see lots of exciting opportunities and usage of the device, but I believe it is still too immature to be anything substantial. Once Google gets some of the kinks worked out and the price tag way down, I think that Glass can & will revolutionize how we operate in our day-to-day lives. I believe that wearable computers are gradually becoming mainstream and Google Glass has the ability to take us one step further. Once we begin seeing a mountain of applications for Glass as we do for other Android devices, I think it’s just a matter of time before we begin seeing people wearing Glass just as much as people carrying cellphones. As for me, I want to become one of the leading app providers for Google Glass as I believe this little device is the future. Now I just have to get busy creating some more apps for everyone to enjoy. So, keep an eye out for me. 🙂
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