Last week, I started my journey with Google Glass. As part of the Glass Explorers program, designers, developers, and other people with something exciting to share (including soccer moms, journalists, and Neil Patrick Harris) will have a sneak peak at what it’s like to live with the next generation of mobile technology. Over the next few months, I’ll be exploring ways to meld our work in GIS, crime analysis, and digital humanities through Azavea’s R&D program. But many people still don’t know what Glass does, why it’s exciting, and where this new technology will lead.
What is Google Glass
At the orientation program in New York City’s Chelsea Market, Glass Explorer’s are given a full walk-through of how to use Glass by a trained Glass expert. The device, which is worn as a frame-less pair of glasses, displays a 640×360 pixel transparent screen, projecting information slightly above eye-level. This allows the screen to to fade away when not in use, avoiding distractions and saving precious battery life.
Glass features a handful of core features, including voice recognition for making and receiving phone calls, Google searching, taking photos and video (and sharing via social media), and turn-by-turn directions. Glass integrates with your personal Google account, pulling in your Gmail and Google Now data, like email, weather, point of interest information, and flight itineraries.
Why Glass is Exciting
The idea of wearable technology has been around in science fiction for a long time, and Glass isn’t the first attempt at this type of device. To those who see Glass as a glorified Bluetooth headset, I urge you to remember how new the device is (the iPhone 3G was released with an App Store of only 500 apps, many of them utility apps). The thing that makes Glass unique is the way that you use it to acquire information.
Need to look up a recipe? “Okay, Glass. Google recipes using chicken.” You’ll get your results side-by-side in your right eye, easily accessible for when you don’t have a free hand and out of sight when you don’t need it.
Glass isn’t about playing Angry Birds at the dinner table without anyone knowing. It’s about giving you updates and information quickly and easily, hands-free. Glass can also get and receive data via the Mirror API – making it easy for developers to build apps to give users useful data. This is where my research project comes in: finding ways to port the work we’ve done with HunchLab and PhillyHistory to the world of Glass.
What the Future Holds
Google has been releasing updates on a monthly basis for Glass. XE7 featured mobile web browsing and the ability to import all of your Gmail contacts into Glass for calls and sharing. In the coming months, Google will likely continue to work on improvements to the system, improve features and capabilities of the device itself (including battery life), and add more polish to the interface.
But the people who will make or break Glass (both literally and figuratively) are the Glass Explorers. The success of the device is going to rely on the development of apps, called Glassware. The release of an app store filled with Glassware will make the device incredibly useful to both professionals and casual users. Glass Developers will need to remember the point of this device – not for escaping reality, but improving it by making it easier to connect with the information we need quickly.
Will Glass replace the smartphone or tablet? Doubtful – at least not for quite some time. But its one of the first big contenders in the wearable technology arena and I see a lot of potential moving forward.