Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First Impressions of Wearing Google Glass

Greetings from the Entry 29 Co-working Space in Canberra, which is hosting a presentation on wearable technology. by the Wearables Canberra Group. organised by BuildAR. The company Vandrico has an analysis of the types of devices available. There are three Google Glass head mounted display devices available to try, but the discussion is also covering other head, wrist and body devices (One experience of a wearable device I had was the Active Badge System at a research centre in Cambridge). One interesting observation is that education and training is not identified as an application by much of the literature.

At first glance the Google Glass device looks large and crudely designed, very much a prototype (less elegant than the MicroOptical_MyVu from 2002) . No doubt smaller head mounted devices will be produced. Also the device has limited battery time. Some limitations have been deliberately built in, such as no facial recognition.

The social issue of someone wearing what is obviously a screen and camera in front of their eyes was discussed. It would be interesting to see how much less conspicuous a device in a pocket, looking like a pen, would be.

Google Glass was compared with the FitBit exercise strap.The FitBit has a single application and does it well, whereas Google Glass has much potential, but no single "killer app". One limitation is that there is no easy way to enter text (no virtual keyboard). Also the quality of the audio is limited.

One tip is that if the voice activation software stops working in Google Glass, then reboot the device. A new term associated with the device is "Glass Zombie", for someone who is staring strangely as they are concentrating on reading the Glass' screen.

One interesting application for Google Glass and similar devices is for user interface testing, where much larger cumbersome devices are currently used.

There was discussion of the lack of standards for the wearable interface for devices. here has been some work on "Wearable User Interface and Interaction standards".

The discussion got on to the social acceptability of wearable devices.

The TV series Black Mirror was mentioned as illustrating some of the less pleasant aspects of human nature which wearable devices may bring out.

One more practical consideration was the hygiene, suggesting they should be washable.

First Impressions of Wearing Google Glass

While I was not impressed by the look of Google Glass, the experience of wearing the unit was a pleasant surprise. Other head mounted displays I have tried took a lot of adjustment and were never really comfortable. I have multi-focal glasses which makes fitting a unit and seeing a clear image in a display difficult. In contrast, Google Glass went on with no problems and I could immediately see a small clear screen apparently floating in front of my face to the right.

While the unit is low resolution (640×360 pixels) it was a noticeably less pixelated screen than other displays I have tried. Text was clearly readable. It was a little distracting looking at someone close up, with the display obscuring part of the view (and I wondered why white text on a black background was not used, rather than black on white).

The touch pad built into the side of the unit worked, but was distracting to use (you raise your hand to the side of your head and swipe back and forth, up and down).  Also the voice commands made me feel a little silly.

Overall the unit worked much better than I was expecting, but is still a solution looking for a problem and very much a prototype. What might make more sense is a slimmer head mounted display which is a Bluetooth peripheral for a smart phone. The headset could have a  camera, microphone and speaker, but would use the phone's touch screen and processing.

A much simpler, but almost as useful, device could omit the screen and instead use just audio. Omitting the screen would make the headset far less bulky, greatly extend the battery life and remove many of the social and safety issues.

Next Wearables Canberra

The next Wearables Canberra meeting is Wednesday, April 30, 2014.


Alexander Hayes said...

Thanks Tom for your feedback on this event. I was unfortunately waylaid with Family issues to attend to but have had many opportunities regarding #glass since the #glassexplorers community was announced . Here are some resources including educational trials and applications over a year old that may be of interest - - also, I've posted this via G+ ( and added some #explorers so that they can also make comment on your findings. Many thanks.

shane nuessler said...

Thanks Tom, it useful to have an impartial account.