Friday, January 3, 2014

My journey with Google Glass (so far)



If you have been following me on social media, you know that I am a Google Glass test dummy.  I was tapped to buy one of the first incarnations of this device from Google out in Venice California back in July of this year.  I actually ponied up the $1500 (plus the air fare out there) to get a set.  

At first, it had a certain gee-whiz factor to it, but I wasn't really sure if spending that much money was really a wise investment.  Although, the Google headquarters in California was pretty damn cool.  Sort of like the coolest garage every built.  

Anyway, I played around with Glass but found it rather limited in a lot of things.  I used it a bit, but not that much.  Often it just sat charging next to my iPhone.  After fiddling with it, the potential of the device started to become apparent.  Every other month or so Google would release an update for the device and I would put it on and there would be a new feature....neato. 

What became apparent with the device was that Google was 'thinking outside the box' with the way they were developing the unit.  Instead of trying to make it a better cellphone or camera like the devices that already existed, they were trying to think up ways of doing things that had never been done before or had not been possible.  

With the latest update that recently became available for the unit I sort of had a 'whoa' moment. They are finally starting to flush this thing out and the potential of having something that is always on right in front of your face, that you don't have to hold is pretty impressive.  It starts to let you see the world differently, sort of like Techno-LSD. 

The recent updates to Glass have included the following applications: 

Vignettes.  Something that seems sort of odd at first, until you really experiment with it.  It allows you to embed a small image of what is displayed in the current Glass display panel you are looking at onto a picture that you take with the camera.  WTF? you say.  What good is that?  Well, quite a lot if you experiment with it.  I have learned from my walks around town that you can interpret anything see with this concept and share it.  Just recently, on my walk back to the office from lunch I was climbing one of the many stairways around Bisbee, Arizona that branch out from Tombstone Canyon Road.  As I walked up, I was reminded of the old Hollywood Musical Number "Building a Stairway to Paradise".  Feeling rather creative, I gave Glass a voice command to take a note to my Evernote application and dictated the phrase "I'm building a stairway to paradise, with a new step every day.".  Once the note was uploaded to my Evernote account, I pulled it up in the Glass Display Panel and then took a picture of the stairway I was on.  I then gave it the command to make a Vignette of the image.  Easy Peasy, Lemon Squezey.  Then I told it to upload it to Facebook.  It is out there to look at on my Facebook photos if you want to look at it.  I did all this without having to use my hands or type anything.  

Word Lens:  Another new feature, this application will translate anything that you see through the Glass camera in real time right in front of you.  So if you see a large sign in front of a Russian Restaurant that you don't have a clue about, you can turn on this feature, look at the sign, and as you are looking the letters will rearrange themselves into English so that it reads "Free Food In Honor of Lenin's Birthday".  The best part being, you don't need an internet connection for this feature.  It works internally through Glass....and it has 5 languages built into it (and yes, Russian is one of them). 

Umano: 
The news, read to you by competent voice actors, not some computer voice.  It is like having someone read you stories form the Wall Street Journal while you are walking or driving.  Stories that you get to select.  Sounds rather simplistic, but it makes that noon time walk to the coffee shop a lot more interesting. 

Stava Run: 
Nothing really earth shattering here.  You don't need Google Glass to use this, it is an application that you can download to your phone.  But Glass extends it, to give you a 'heads up' display of your workout / run / cycle, showing you your elapsed time and split times.  It beats holding your phone in front of you while you run to keep track of pace and distance.  

I could go on and on....

As the new year dawns (2014), there has been a lot of press about the eventual demise of Glass and how the concept can't work.  While there is generally no such thing as 'bad' publicity, the pun-dents that deride Glass as a fade that can't work are really missing the point here.  Glass is still in its gestation phase and has a ways to go before it is ready for wide scale public use.  

The same can be said with the smartphone 10 years.  When it first came out, folks didn't really see the social media implications and the connectivity benefits.  But ask the average person today how to get somewhere or the definition of something, that they whip out their iPhone or Droid without even blinking an eye.  Something no-one thought about doing 10 years ago.  The same can be said of Glass.  It is hard to predict what a new paradigm will foster which is what Glass is doing.  

Whether we like it or not, we are all becoming part of a global network.  Those that live in constant fear of a 'New World Order', or loss of privacy are the same folks that did not want a new fangled telephone installed in the kitchen back in the 1920s because disembodied voices coming out of a box on the wall was the work of 'Satan'.  Society moves on and Glass is one of the components of the future.  There will be others.  They will restructure how we think, communicate and create. Change is inevitable.  If you don't like the change, close the door and turn off your connections to the outside world.  You will stand still while the rest of us move into a future that you will eventually have to catch up to.