Google Glass is a new product in the ever-evolving field of wearable technology. Although the product is currently open for beta testers – meaning that it is still not released for commercial use – we were able to pick up a pair. Behold our review of Google Glass!
Google Glass looks just like what its name implies: a pair of glasses.
The frame of Google Glass is as thin as any pair of sunglasses on the left side. On the right side, however, the frame has two noticeably thick sections. The thick section that is directly connected to the Google Glass screen is the touchpad. The touchpad, alongside the voice controls, is the main way to interact with the Glass.
There are three buttons: the top button takes a picture when pressed, the middle button turns the Google Glass on and off, and the last button, which seems to serve as a sensor to turn on Google Glass when you put it on.
Google Glass overall is designed as a “one-size-fits-all” type of product. The Glass itself is flexible, meaning that the frame can withstand pressure to make it fit on ones face. The nose pads, for example, can be altered to fit your nose perfectly. The glass also has a part where actual lenses can fit, to account for people who need corrective lenses to be able to see. Also, this part can double as a place for sunglass lenses.
Once you put Google Glass on the first time, you’re greeted with the Setup menu. The screen loops a video of a person swiping on the touchpad, with the message “Swipe forward on touchpad to start”. This is done partly to get people used to the touchpad. The setup then takes the person through the other gestures that are possible on the touchpad, such as swiping down and tapping. The Google Glass can only be setup with an Android smartphone, an iOS smartphone, or a computer.
I opted to set it up with an iPhone. I was asked to pair the Glass with my iPhone via Bluetooth, which I did. Afterwards, I needed to download the MyGlass app from the app store. The MyGlass app continues with the setup of Glass with my Google account (which is needed in order to setup). The initial setup is now complete, and I have access to most of the features of Glass.
One of the exciting features I can now access is being able to display the Google Glass display on my phone, which will be used to show the screenshots of the display from now on.
The Glass feels natural on your face, if you’re used to wearing glasses that is. It does not obscure your vision if you are looking straight ahead. However, once you look up the Google Glass display is clearly visible. The display can be obscured in times of extreme lighting or sunlight, which would be a problem in Egypt as most of the time we’re blessed with sunshine and bright days.
You’re greeted with the main screen, which shows the time and the words “Ok Glass” for you to command your Glass to do as you bid.
The screen displayed is one of the “cards” you have. Swiping left or right will allow you to see the other cards, such as the settings card and the applications (latest email/tweet, pictures taken, etc.).
These cards cannot be re-ordered, though, which can get annoying as they are arranged chronologically.
The Glass itself was made as a quick, on-the-go checking of notifications device, rather than a standalone one. The battery life however is very limited. On a full day of using it, albeit as a substitute for a phone/computer rather than a compliment of it, I needed to recharge the Glass three times. On a full day of its “advertised” use (i.e. with a phone), I needed to recharge the Glass once. The Glass also, after heavy use, overheats: requesting me to take it off to let it cool down.
This also seems like a problem many will face frequently in Egypt, and the Middle East for that matter.
Now, to move on from the hardware of the device and to focus on the actual software, the device has very limited capabilities out-of-the-box. The device can take pictures. The camera cannot be turned on to ‘aim’ though (although there exists an app, or Glassware, that does so). Below you will find a sample of the picture Glass took of my room, so you can see the quality of the pictures.
There’s also a pretty cool feature called making a vignette. If you take a picture, it shows the picture with the Google Glass display at the top right. This is as close to what I actually see while using Google Glass.
Glass can also take 10-second videos: if you want to extend the time of the video, you just need to press the top aforementioned button. The pictures and videos of Glass do provide a unique, first-person, hands-free style of imaging.
It can also make a call and send messages to the contacts you have saved on Glass. For iPhone users, though, you will not be able to SMS your contacts: only call and email them. The contacts must be saved on Google contacts. It took me a couple of minutes to migrate all my contacts from iCloud to Google contacts, so that’s not a big deal.
The problem is that you will need to add the contacts one-by-one from the MyGlass app, which can take a while. Thankfully, if someone sends you an email or calls you, you can reply/respond easily on Glass.
There is no built in browser on Glass yet. The only way you can access the Internet is by searching for it on the Google search engine. From Google, Glass supports many different websites. A quick search of “Game of Thrones” produced these results: the Wikipedia page, a few facts, a link to the Facebook and YouTube pages, the official website, and then articles about the series.
Another built in feature is the maps feature, where you can get directions to any location on Google maps, with a real time GPS. The feature works well, but the biggest problem I encountered was telling Google Glass the name of the place: Zamalek, for example, was only picked up once.
The most hilarious incorrect rendering of the word Zamalek was “Semitic”. The word needs to be pronounced in the most awful American-accent-inspired pronunciation of the word for it to be picked up by Google Glass. Once you get that out of the way, the actual GPS functions pretty well.
This feature does only work if you have your phone with you and functioning as a personal hotspot, because Glass on its own does not have locational features. The biggest drawback I see with this relates to the people who have limited data plans.
There are other miscellaneous features included in Glass. Head wake senses when your head is tilted by a predetermined angle and turns Glass on (off) if Glass was initially off (on). On head automatically turns Glass on when you put it on your head. Notification glance allows you to see the latest notification you receive (such as a message) when you look at the screen.
The final feature is Wink for Picture, which takes a picture if you wink while Glass is turned on. These features all work pretty well, but they are calibrated for the individual, meaning that another person who wants to try out Glass might not be able to work these features correctly without readjusting.
What I believe might make Google Glass either successful or a major flop will be the availability of Glassware. Glassware is the name of the applications that are available for the Glass, the “App Store” equivalent if you may. There aren’t that many Glassware applications available right now, which is expected from a beta product. The only way you can add Glassware applications onto your Glass is via a smartphone or a computer. A list of Glassware applications can be found here. Here is a quick summary of some of the Glassware that I thought were notable:
The Facebook Glassware isn’t that impressive. You cannot go through your newsfeed, post on someone’s wall, or check your notifications. What you can do is share a picture on your wall with a caption. The Facebook Glassware did not meet my expectation.
The Twitter Glassware does as advertised – you can send out a Tweet, reply to those mentions, and send direct messages. Although you also cannot go through your newsfeed; for a “at-a-glance” usage, it’s pretty impressive.
The ease at which you can go through your inbox (from when you activate Glass’ Gmail features) and reply to those impending emails is quite impressive.
Which is expected from the company that actually made the Google Glass.
Also a disappointment: you cannot view videos on YouTube, only upload them. Since I don’t have a need to upload videos to YouTube, I didn’t really use this Glassware.
Shazam actually has one of my favorite features. When it recognizes the song, it tells you the name.
Afterwards, it shows you the lyrics of the song corresponding to where the actual song is – and it scrolls through the lyrics while the song is playing.
These games are made for the Glass itself – no counterpart on any other product. While the games don’t boast the best graphics whatsoever, they’re actually quite fun, as they offer a new way of playing games. The five games you can play are: tennis, shape splitter, balance, clay shooter, and matcher. Clay shooter is my favorite. In clay shooter, you release a “plate” and you shoot it down by aiming.
Overall, we feel like the Google Glass is a first generation product (which would make sense, as it is the beta version). There are many flaws in the design, such as the battery life and the overheating. There are also a few shortcomings in the product, such as the limited availability of Glassware. However, we believe that Google Glass might just be the next big product: that is, if Google is able to fix these problems before going commercial.