I’m not always in full agreement with Wired’s Mat Honan, but his I, Glasshole piece definitely struck a chord with me and my mostly similar experiences with Google Glass. I can agree with almost everything he’s said on the experience of owning and operating them, at least to an extent.
The biggest point to bring home is the outward awkwardness, but I wouldn’t characterize it as 100% negative across the board like Honan’s experience. He said that even in a room full of Wired writers he’s still ostracized for wearing them. That may be true, but at certain events like his Google event image, they felt pretty normal. I wasn’t at the one pictured, but at Google I/O every 4-5 people at the show were wearing them, even if Google’s own presenters weren’t. No one was uncomfortable in that environment. I imagine it isn’t uncomfortable at Google or any number of the places that are beta testing the Glass in large numbers relative to the population.
At home or in the general public, I agree – it is definitely jarring wearing them around. You get the same kind of attention that you’d get if you had a massive headwound at the grocery store or if you were waving a light saber around on the way to the coffee shop. The attention isn’t entirely negative, but it is certainly one of discomfort and curiosity. Some people ask about them and want to find out what the experience is like. I’ve let tons of people wear mine, and those who’ve tried have usually thought they were ‘cool’.
I’ve found a good way to mitigate the attention is to wear a low lying baseball cap coupled with the Oakley Blades wrap around shades attachment. With this setup, about 90% of the people don’t notice the Glass and just think you are some dork wearing Oakley Blades from 1987. Clearly, Google could innovate here – getting them on normal glasses hides the appearance. They’ve already promised a prescription lens attachement and even shown off some demos.
The 2014 model Glass, as I am now calling them, won’t do much for the appearance. The inclusion of a mono or stereo headset is just going to complicate the setup rather than simplify it. Note the left stereo earpiece comes out of the same right side hole as the right side ear piece.
I feel a little claustrophobic looking at them, and I imagine the final consumer version will have the earpiece coming out of either the back or the other side of the glasses.
Appearances aside, how does it work?
I still believe that this user interface has merit. What’s annoying to me is that you NEED to use your fingers on the Glass. Frequently. Everything should be voice controlled or even head/blink controlled to make it useful. If I have to scroll with my fingers across a bunch of menus, I might as well just be using a phone, and almost every interaction I have with Glass involves fingers, even if not initially.
Google Now is great and constantly improving. I’m convinced that this is the next stage of human-computer interaction and that keyboards and touch will become peripheral input mechanisms.
As humans, we have 5 input mechanisms (senses), and clearly the most bandwidth can be interpreted through sight and sound with touch, taste, and smell being peripheral elements. That means that Glasses are a good input mechanism to our brains.
On the other end, inputting into a computer has traditionally been the realm of our fingers. But as voice recognition continues to improve, and more importantly, our ability to use voice and other gestures (and eventually brain scans or something sci-fi), the glasses are going to become the best way to interact.
I don’t have anything better menu-wise to offer the Glass team in terms of UI. I think it has been evolving nicely and it is certainly pretty easy to pick up. As I mentioned before, it would be cool – at least to try – for the UI to be navigated through head movements. At present time you can activate Glass with a head up gesture (I currently use 30 degrees).
The biggest obstacle for Google to overcome is the backlash from the press and the general public. There are the bars/restaurants that preemptively ban Glass or the notion of them. There is the typical anti-Google press contingent that always seems to have a bad/scary thing to interject into any Glass news. And there are the people who distrust Google and their privacy treading ways. (That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate concerns, but when someone is 100% anti all the time, it isn’t helpful).
So here we are in 2014. I plan on getting the 2014 edition in the mail once I’m back from CES. I don’t see much in the way of improvement initially, but I imagine somewhere deep in Mountain View, all of this data that Google is collecting on current usage is going to produce something usable by a large subset of the population. I think that will be something special.