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Monday, January 20, 2014

The End and the Beginning of Google Glass

[caption id="attachment_13117201712" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Self-Portrait with v1 Glass Self-Portrait with v1 Glass[/caption]So, for me the lure of Google Glass was threefold. First, I loved the form-factor and have long believed it would be the future of computing. Second, getting picked as one of the first 10,000 people to be allowed to purchase Glass was a big deal to me as a tech fanatic. Third, it would be a blast living on the bleeding edge of a genuinely new technology.

And it was a blast--I'd put on my Glass and I felt like I was living in the future looking at everyone else still living in the past. In the beginning, almost seven months ago for me, the sky was the limit with Glass. Google had said we should experiment and do what we wanted. As tech fanatic and a purely amateur hacker, I started scouring the wilds of the Internet for instructions on how to sideload full Android apps onto Glass so I could do more than the paltry Glass OS would let me do.

I read about how indy video journalist, Tim Pool, had hacked his Glass and was able to live stream video over Ustream from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. I tried out what I'm pretty sure was the first VR game for Glass. I am the first person I know of to get Dropbox onto Glass and have it backing up every photo and video I shot to the cloud. I even installed the infamous Winky app that allowed me to take a photo with Glass just by winking my right eye. It seemed to work so well that I thought I would grab the code and tweak it so I could long-wink to record video.

Even before the fun ended, I still saw more directions to go in. I'm a non-developer, so I didn't know enough to just bang out some code and make it do what I thought it could do. If I had the time, I'd happily learn to code. Since that is definitely not the case, I decided I would just read about what other, more knowledgable folks were doing and then do what they did but hopefully in different ways or in interesting combinations with other hacks.

But then, in November of 2012, five months after I got my Glass, Google put the kabosh on the code that let a hacked Android settings app run. This settings.apk was required for accessing Launchy, a simple but insanely useful app launcher for Glass. It also stopped me from pairing the BlueputDroid app with Glass. BlueputDroid turns your rooted Android phone into a Bluetooth keyboard. If that wasn't enough, this new code from Google also caused a conflict where not only did the hacked Android settings app stop functioning but it actually stopped the official Glass settings app from functioning, as well.

Not sure exactly what was wrong with it, I decided I had to do a factory reset. One thing I didn't think of at the time was that Dropbox was still backing up my photos and video. So those Android apps were still able to run, but I had no way to easily access them. I could do it using text commands in Terminal, using an app called "ADB," but I was just worried that that settings app might be screwing up more than I could tell. This made Glass much harder to have fun with easily. Sure, if I had a few Saturday afternoons to blow on possibly not getting anywhere with it (always the risk hackers face), sure, I probably could do it, but as I'm not a professional developer, I knew I'd be doing a good amount of problem solving to get anywhere and, as I'm not getting paid for it...

Oh, sure, Glass is still a great device. However, Google seems to have rolled back some of the freedoms we had with it. At it's core, it is a bit more versatile than it was and there are a bunch more apps for it, which do make it more useful, but the fun just isn't as evident as it was.

Now, I heartily disagree with Robert Scoble when he says that Glass is doomed in the immediate future. The examples of how Glass is doomed that he cites are largely only things heavy tech users have to worry about. Those that aren't, like battery life, are things we have to deal with on smart phones, too. Seriously--who ever shoots 45 minutes of video on their smart phone?

So, maybe it's too much to call this "the end" of anything. Maybe the fun is just hiding. Maybe there will be new opportunities to push Glass forward with the new hardware Google is now making available to us (we trade our original Glass device to get the new rig).

But still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed in the way things are working out. I imagined being able to hack Glass to do my bidding (and I was on my way when XE12 came along). I imagined having Glass v1 in twenty years and having geeks who are my current age ogle it in awe the way I ogle the full-inch video recorder deck my dad has in his garage (it's the size of a washing machine). Yes. Full-inch. They used it for broadcasting. Dad also has one of the first multi-track recorders that famed guitarist Les Paul helped design. In short, bleeding edge tech runs in my family and it's in my blood--even formerly bleeding edge tech!

That said, I'm probably more sensitive than most folks to tech's failings. Maybe I should just have faith that Google will reignite the excitement once I get my hands on Glass v2. Perhaps it will run faster or have a better battery or something else will be different that I can't predict. I just wish I didn't have to give up my v1 to get it (that's how much I still love my Glass).

So, until my v2 gets here (three-to-five days from today, according to Google), I'll just hope against hope that v2 is just the beginning of Google Glass, part 2.

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