Google’s head mounted display technology called Google Glass was made available to purchase in the UK earlier this week. To celebrate this, they had the device available for demo at I/O Extended London as well as a public demo near Kings Cross, both of which I attended.
It’s like Magic
The first time you put on Google Glass, you get a weird “trippy” kind of feeling. To actually see a virtual screen in front of you is quite a mind boggling concept and while your eyes adjust to this phenomenon it can hurt your eyes and you might get a headache too. After your eyes adjust, this isn’t much of an issue and you can immerse yourself in the small virtual rectangle screen. You can adjust the angle the front prism part lines up with Glass which will affect how you see the screen. If the prism is too close to the glass then obviously you won’t see the Glass screen so just adjust it till it’s comfortable for you.
To operate Google Glass is very easy. Once you place Glass on your face, the right portion of the device is where you interact with it. You tap on the touchpad area to turn the unit on and then swiping forwards and backwards allows you to navigate the various options and types of commands. To return the previous screen, you just swipe down with one finger and you can also swipe down with two fingers to put the device into sleep mode. There is also an “old school” on/off button towards the back of the right side if the touch experience doesn’t take your fancy.
Okay let’s get the negatives out of the way to start with. The software running on the device is quite temperamental at times. It can either wrongfully detect taps or it can glitch and freeze for a long period of time which can be quite annoying. The other thing is the device does get quite hot and it especially gets hot on the touchpad area which (when placed on your face) lines up with the top side of your face and this could induce an headache or just cause an uncomfortable feeling.
Google Glass can be controlled by voice for the most part. The central screen shows the time and the phrase *Ok Glass*. Once a user says this phrase, the screen presents you with some common commands to choose from such as “take a photo”. The picture quality from the Glass camera was actually quite good and once you’re viewing a particular picture, you can share or delete it. If you have Facebook or Twitter installed then it’s just a one touch share to these social media platforms. You obviously can try out your own commands too, similar to Google Now and the predefined commands can also be customized by additional apps which I’ll come back to later on.
Not So Okay Glass
Voice activated technology is cool but using it in public might make you look a bit odd. The good news is Google Glass works without voice as well. Once on the central home screen with the time, you can simply tap the touchpad and then it displays the same predefined commands which you can cycle through by swiping forwards and backwards on the touchpad and then tap again to make your selection and perform the desired command.
Explore The Stars
At the public demo event in Kings Cross, there were a lot of Glass devices in different areas, each to showcase a particular app that runs on Glass which showed me a greater experience than the quick five minutes I had at I/O extended. I digress but one of the apps that was showcased and one that I tried was StarChart. StarChart adds a predefined command “explore the stars” to the *Okay Glass* section of Google Glass. Once users either tap to or say this command, you see a real time map of stars and constellations. The best part is this is dynamic so as you move your head, the built in accelerometer within Glass allows the image you see on the screen to move as well. Once you find a big star or even a planet like Mars, it comes up listed by name and then as you stare at it, there’s a small speech bubble that emanates from the top right corner and once the speech bubble has fully loaded, you will feel a vibration just above your ear. Yes, this is Google’s bone conduction technology within Google Glass at work. Google Glass itself doesn’t have a speaker but through this technology you can hear what Glass is saying. What you hear is an audio description of the particular star or planet in question for the StarChart app but I’m sure this can be further expanded to other apps or even playback recorded videos with Glass. I was in a loud environment and despite the volume of Glass being 100%, I could barely hear what was being said to me. Perhaps they will improve this in the consumer edition, again it was just “magic” feeling vibrations going directly into my brain and interpreting it as sound, you have to try it.
Another app showcased was the Word Lens one. This app is very useful if you’re in a foreign country and need to translate signs in front of you. Similar to StarChart, the Word Lens app adds a predefined command “translate” within the *Okay Glass* Screen which users can say or tap to. Once activated, users can cycle through the various to and from languages. For example translating from English to Russian or Italian to English. I chose “English to Russian” and looked at a sign in English, you need to make sure the screen image lines up with the actual sign that you wish to translate, then stare in the same location, the screen will zoom in and capture an image and then it will begin translating it in real time. After a few seconds, you should see the sign translated into the language that you specified. However when I tried “Italian to English” and stared at a pasta recipe, it only made one or two words english and then as I moved my head, it would rescramble it into Italian but make other words English. I’m sure these are some bugs that could be worked out but overall from another language to English was difficult but English to another language was fine. Finally, it would be nice to have an auto detection language feature because if there are multiple signs in various languages and the user doesn’t know which language they’re in, it might prove troublesome and render the WordLens app somewhat useless.
Is it worth it?
While 45 minutes isn’t near enough time to give a full review on a product, quite a few people have asked me if it’s worth buying from the short time I’ve used it and so I’ll answer that question. Currently, Google Glass in the UK costs £1000. To give that some perspective, that’s the price of a high end laptop, a budget car and maybe a month’s rent in some flats in London. The software has some issues which should hopefully work themselves out in time for the consumer edition and the device gets very hot making the experience uncomfortable after even a short period of time like 5-10 minutes. If the final consumer edition hits shelves around £250-£300 then it might be worth it and if they fix the bugs and overheating issues then it’s an absolute steal. As it stands, you’re paying more for the revolutionary technology and the experience doesn’t warrant it at least not for me so overall I would say wait for the consumer edition if you do want to purchase Glass because buying the explorer edition will leave you with feelings of regret and sweat.
Video Footage: (Coming Soon)
So what do you guys think of Google Glass, are you excited to try it out and maybe buy? How will it benefit your life? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below.