Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Google Glass Explorer Edition

Google Glass Explorer Edition is a Beta Product and it shows. It doesn’t do any of the things I want to do in the way that I want it to do them, the battery isn’t great, they look ridiculous, it doesn’t have many features - but I still want it because it’s the coolest thing I have ever touched. Cooler than the first time I touched an iPhone, cooler than the first time I turned on an XBox 360, cooler than the first time I used a tablet computer. They’re also really, really nerdy, but I can deal with that.

Everywhere you go when wearing Glass you get the same four questions:
"What is that thing?"
"What does it do?"
"What do you see?"
"How do you use it?"

What is that thing?
Glass is a Android based wearable. It syncs with your mobile phone via bluetooth and has a prismatic display that sits just above your right eye. It’s beautiful to look at, but you still wouldn’t want to wear it. They look like something I’d imagine I’d be wearing in 2042, almost alien. They feel nice in your hand, well built but unexpectedly light. When you put them on, they're comfortable. If not for the screen over your eye, you might not even notice you've got them on. They come in five colours: white, black, grey, orange and blue.

What does it do?
It works a lot like a standard bluetooth headset, except it has a screen so in addition to taking/making calls, you can also send emails, text messages, get directions and a litany of other things, all via a translucent display, voice commands and touch controls along the side. The call quality isn’t spectacular, on a busy street you may struggle to hear a phone conversation and whomever you’re talking to is definitely going to struggle to hear you, but in a quiet environment it’s typically fine. The speaker uses bone-conduction, which is cool, but not as high-quality as when using the included earpiece. The display is okay, but you’ll struggle to see it clearly in bright light.

What do you see?
You tap the side of the device to turn it on, and a small screen turns on in your peripheral vision. It says the time and “ok glass”. This is how you operate it, you say “ok glass” and then give your command (Google, Take a Picture, Record a Video, Get Directions To, Send A Message To, Make A Call To). THE UI is clean, simple and really nice to look at; you feel like you’re in a video game. You can also use the touchpad on the side of Glass to swipe through a timeline of events - your latest emails, text messages, notifications - great when on a busy train or to quickly read messages.

How do you use it?
Once you’ve got it set-up (which is surprisingly simple) - it just works. Get a text message? Look up and to your right, and just read it. Want to respond? Tap the arm on the side and speak your response, the Glass transcribes and sends it for you. Decided to walk to your nearest CeX and get a little lost? Tap the arm and say, “Ok Glass navigate me to CeX” and then follow the arrow on your screen. A friend gives you 500 Argentine Pesos and you want to know how much it’s worth? Tap the arm and say, “Ok Glass, what are 500 Argentine Pesos in Pounds?” and it will tell you.

Glass is something I never knew I wanted, but in it’s current iteration I’m not 100% sure it’s something I need. It stands out too much, you can’t make it more than a couple blocks without someone stopping to ask you about it. You would never, ever wear them on a date. But they’re fun and when they can make them look a little less outlandish, they’re the future.

In it’s current state, Google Glass gets a 2/5, but with the potential for a 5/5 in the not too distant future.


Alex Raftas

Google Glass Explorer Edition at CeX

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