A Week With Google Glass

eHow Tech Blog

Last week, I was lucky enough to stumble into a pair of Google Glass(es?) These things are so new I am not entirely sure how you refer to having them in your possession. Google Glass, of course, is Google’s $1500 wearable computer shaped like a pair of eyeglasses (minus the lenses). There’s a battery and computer built into one of the stems, and a small heads-up display above the right eye. If you imagine that Google Glass is sort of like having the most useful information from your phone beamed directly into an unobtrusive corner of your eye, you start to get a sense of what this is all about.

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You can’t walk into a store to buy Google Glass today, and the Google Glass website reports that “applications are now closed” just in case you wanted to throw money at the computer screen to get your own pair. Eventually, Google Glass be widely available, but for now, only a select few have one. Those select few include the eHow engineering team, and I managed to borrow the pair of faux glasses for a week to try them out for myself.

First and foremost: They utterly reek of geekiness.

There’s nothing subtle about wearing a pair of glasses that have no lenses, but sport a massive cyborg-like frame on one side. If you’re wearing a pair, people know it, as you can see in this photo, where eHow editor Rachel Horn models the Google Glass in question. And the primary way to interact with Google Glass is via voice command: To take a picture, for example, you start by snapping your head upwards as if you just woke from a power nap — that nudges Glass and readies it to receive a command. Then you speak to it: ”OK, Glass.” After a moment, you can say the actual command, “Take a picture.” It’s deliciously futuristic, geeky, and goofy, all at the same time.

Don’t fear that you’ll forget the possible voice commands; there’s only a half dozen or so, and they appear as a list when you say “OK Glass.” You can take a picture, shoot a short video, send an email, perform a Google search, set a route in Google Maps, and open a Google Hangout. That’s pretty much it.

Glass depends a lot on touch as well. In addition to the half-dozen voice commands, you navigate around the Glass interface by swiping or tapping on the frame with your finger.  The Glass UI, you see, is actually organized like a timeline of cards, sort of like Google Now. Everything you do (email, photos, and so on) becomes a card that you can flip through by swiping forward and backwards with your finger. When you want to do something to a card, like email a photo, you tap it to make a selection, and then continue swiping to choose a command.

Bottom line: If you see someone talking to herself and appearing to brush her eyeglass frame, she’s either wearing Google Glass or a little crazy. Or, I suppose, both. No reason to rule out both.

A few third-party apps have started to appear for Glass. For example, you can install a to-do list that lets you dictate tasks that get turned into to-do cards in your timeline. CNN and the New York Times have apps that send news updates to your Glass, but they inundate your timeline with such an enthusiastic flood of news items that they end up being useless. Perhaps the best app I’ve found yet is a recipe tool that displays detailed prep and cooking directions so you can make dinner without fiddling with a phone, tablet, or recipe book. That, folks, is a cool and compelling experience.

But aside from a couple of interesting apps, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in my week with Glass. It just didn’t do enough that was genuinely useful to justify a place on my head all day. (Assuming that it can last a whole day before the battery gives out, which it can’t.)

That said, eHow Tech contributor Jason Cipriani disagrees with me. He’s had his Glass for a month, and he told me about how Google Glass is a piece of tech that completely and seamlessly fades out the way for him – like when he pulled up navigation data while on a trip without ever looking at his phone or breaking the flow of conversation with his wife. “The longer I use it,” he told me, “the more I find it working itself into my daily life.”

I’m completely jazzed about the potential of wearable tech like Google Glass, but even I — the consummate early adopter — will wait for version 2.What do you think? Is wearable tech like Google Glass going to take root? How soon?  Let me know your opinion in the comments or on Twitter @davejoh.

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