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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Google Glass: One Year On

[caption id="attachment_13117203371" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Here I am at Google Glass Basecamp in NYC on June 26, 2013 having the Glass basics taught to me by a very patient Google Employee called Haley. Here I am at Google Glass Basecamp in NYC on June 26, 2013 having the Glass basics taught to me by a very patient Google Employee called Haley.[/caption]

Exactly a year ago, today, I visited the Google Explorer NYC Base Camp to pick up my Google Glass. It's been a wild ride since then. I've met lots of people who think Glass is really neat and I've seen plenty of hate for Glass users online and in the media. It's been great living in the future. I love taking photos with a wink, shooting hands-free video from my point-of-view and having a ton of information delivered directly to my eyeball whenever I want it. It is beyond awesome.

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This is what it looked like from my point-of-view last Friday when I took Glass on one of several ziplines near my mom's place in South Carolina!

However, it is also frustrating because I feel like this future is being made difficult by people clinging to old ideas and then there are a few odd choices made by Google.

As of today, Glass is better than ever in some ways and worse than ever in others. Last June, the OS was very rough but it was easy to hack and get it to do things that I and developers thought it should do. However, six months ago, Google stopped updating the OS monthly and, three months (I think) after that, they updated the Glass OS so dramatically a ton of my hacks stopped working. What was worse was that Glass started running slowly and even started locking up.

It was like Google had replaced the Glass OS with Windows XP. #arg!

On too many occasions I've found myself in the middle of an adventure, trying to take a photograph only to watch as Glass got stuck in the middle of taking the photo. All I could see on the display was the viewfinder frame and a blank image. Sometimes seconds later, other times almost a minute later, Glass would finish taking a picture but thanks to me having gotten bored and having moved my head, the shot came out blurry.

[caption id="attachment_13117203376" align="aligncenter" width="474"]So, when Glass got it's huge update, this is how a bunch of the photos ended up looking because it sometimes couldn't just take a photo. So, when Glass got it's huge update, this is how a bunch of the photos ended up looking because it sometimes couldn't just take a photo.[/caption]

Several updates later, things have gotten better, but it's still rough around the edges and none of the updates since June have solved the problem that causes me to never wear Glass at home: the battery.

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Captain America seemed pretty interested in Google Glass, but I didn't mention the battery problem to him.

The Worst Things About Glass: The Hate and the Battery I Hate

Tied for "Worst Thing about Google Glass" are the battery and the absurd backlash online and in the media against Glass.

The battery makes me scared to use it because I am worried the battery will die when I need it the most, say when capturing some unexpected event on video or in a photo. The battery dies really fast. Glass is going online to get my tweets and news updates and a bunch of other content and that kills the battery in a few hours. I have Dropbox installed on it and that probably makes it worse, but Dropbox uploading every photo and video I take is still no reason for the battery to drain almost completely. Especially when I am only taking a few photos and not doing anything else (not talking to it, not translating stuff, or watching videos or anything else, the vast majority of the time).

As a result, when I am home, I keep Glass plugged into the wall and not on my head. When I am out and about, I wear it, but often turn it off if I am in a supermarket or someplace else where I don't expect to need it. Of course, sometimes, I need it unexpectedly and thanks to slow boot times I end up just leaving Glass powered down and use my iPhone for what I need.

This is a problem Google needs to address, in my opinion. I didn't think the battery would be a problem, but it is. One thing Google also needs to deal with is the Glass-hate online and in the media. There are some seriously childish people out there who think that If you wear/use Glass, you're an asshole or that you look stupid.

They call us "Glassholes".

Haha! Get it? SO CLEVER.

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Peter Pan seemed to dig Glass just fine and Tinker Bell didn't even notice I was wearing it! What's wrong with all those Glasshaters out there on the intarwebs?

Last time I checked (right around grade school, I think it was) calling people names was what made you an asshole, not using a smart device with a totally new form factor. Sure, that may make me a nerd, but that's fine with me. You want to live in the past, that's your choice. I'd rather live in the future. I wish someone had said this to Daily Show corespondent, Jason Jones, when he did a piece a couple weeks ago on how dumb Glass is. He seemed perplexed as to why anyone would need or even want to wear a computer on their face. The Glass Explorers he had in the piece explained the most obvious benefit of Glass--that you don't have to reach in your pocket for your phone and then unlock it, and then find your app, etc. This is a good point, but doesn't cover what I think is the best reason for Glass.

Glass is for People with Brains that Adapt: in Other Words, People

Back in 2012, not long after Glass was first announced by Google, technologist Rod Furlan built his own version of Glass out of an HMD (Head Mounted Display) he found on eBay and an old iPod Touch. Writing about it on in December of that year, he hit the "why" nail on the head:
When I wear my prototype, I am connected to the world in a way that is quintessentially different from how I’m connected with my smartphone and computer. Our brains are eager to incorporate new streams of information into our mental model of the world. Once the initial period of adaptation is over, those augmented streams of information slowly fade into the background of our minds as conscious effort is replaced with subconscious monitoring.

In short, it's a new way to be connected to the world. Furlan goes on to explore the idea of "augmented cognition" which is what these streams will allow us to do. That is to say that devices like Glass will augment our ability to know and understand things more quickly and more easily.

Think of it like that scene in "THE MATRIX" where Neo learns kung-fu by having it downloaded into his brain. While that's not possible yet (duh), right now you can call up video lessons on Glass to teach you kung-fu. In theory an app could be designed that could use Glass' sensors and camera to help you with practicing your various kung-fu moves.

In more practical terms, if you meet someone at a party you can quickly Google them to find out more about them. Or if you're a surgeon in the middle of an operation you could literally "phone a friend" and have a consulting surgeon watch from another city or country and consult on the operation. You could come across a person who needed CPR and within seconds have instructions on how to do CPR served directly to your eyeball, or even better, an EMT on the display walking you through the process live. Or if you get lost behind the wheel, ask Glass for directions.

I feel like the people who don't understand Glass are really unimaginative people who would rather not challenge themselves by examining new things that aren't easily understood. I can think of a couple names for people like this but I'll leave the name-calling to the schoolyard bullies.

[caption id="attachment_13117203379" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Daisy Duck found me on Deck 4 of the Disney Fantasy and asked for a photo--how could I refuse? And hey, she didn't seem to think I looked dorky wearing Glass! Daisy Duck found me on Deck 4 of the Disney Fantasy and asked for a photo--how could I refuse? And hey, she didn't seem to think I looked dorky wearing Glass![/caption]

Are those two things all there is to dislike about Glass? Sadly, no. There are the aforementioned bugs in the new OS, the fact that Glass heats up a lot when it's processor gets busy, and the (in my opinion) snail's pace at which new software is being developed for it. Oh and after taking Glass into humid climes, the foil on the prism is bubbling a bit, though that has yet to hinder it's functionality.

Should YOU Buy Google Glass Now that Anyone in the US Can?

I'd say yes, assuming you're a tech fanatic, like me, who can't wait for the future to get here alreadyyyyy!

However, if you're not like me, thanks to this iPod-style price-strategy Google seems to be employing here, you probably want to wait a few years to jump on the Glass bandwagon. Over a decade ago, when the iPod first came out, it was overpriced and underfeatured. It was a luxury item for early adopters who could see the direction the future was taking us in. I wasn't sure at first but finally jumped on the iBandwagon with a 20GB 3rd gen iPod--still priced at $400ish if memory serves. Slowly but surely, features got added with each new iPod model and the price came down, too. Now, 15 years on, iDevices are ubiquitous. I suspect that Google is planning on the same thing happening with Glass.

The future is here for some of us and it's damn cool.

Here are some fun Glass-related photos and videos I couldn't fit in anywhere above:

[caption id="attachment_13117195680" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Lookin' Good! Seriously, I have no idea why people think Glass makes you look stupid. This is actually a pretty slick-looking piece of tech.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_13117203377" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Captain America seemed very interested in Glass. Captain America seemed very interested in Glass.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_13117203377" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Saluting with GlassSaluting with Captain America and Google Glass![/caption]

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Having my photo taken with my wife and Daisy Duck aboard the Disney Fantasy back in April.

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Here is what it looks like to sit in the front of a raft while riding the AquaDuck water ride on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship. Yes, I dared to take Google Glass with me on a water ride. Don't worry, it's not an excessively splashy water ride and Glass can take a bit of splashing just fine though I wouldn't recommend risking it more than a time or two. In fact, I enjoyed this footage so much, I went back at night! Have a look at that, here:

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