In this article I wanted to run through the basic apps and functionality that are installed on Glass right out of the box. They are basic but they are the building blocks you will use in creating third-party apps so it is critical to understand how they work, their strengths and weaknesses. I will have another article shortly that will run down and review all the third-party apps I have been able to try out on Glass.(Click into article to see screenshots for each app)
“OK Glass” Launcher
The ‘home’ screen of Google Glass shows a simple clock and the words “ok glass” which is how you access the primary built-in functionality including taking a picture, recording a video or sending a message. The speech recognition is really good and the interface is really fast and an easy way to use the hardware. If you are in an environment that doesn’t lend itself to being able to speak the commands then you can simply touch the interface bar and scroll the options. The only problem I have found is that Glass listens to everyone so if your friend walks up and says “ok glass take a picture’ you will have a photo of him whether you want it or not. So while the voice controls are a great piece of functionality for this launcher screen I would love if it they would be able to do some type of voice recognition so Glass knows to only listen to me.
The first option from the ‘ok glass’ launcher is Google Search which prompts you to “ask a question”. The results are either a list of six links with short descriptions or a grid of six images. You quickly learn that using search terms like you would Google.com does not get you very good results and you need to ask it questions instead. For example instead of saying “Oscar De La Renta” you need to be more specific and ask a question like “How old is Oscar De La Renta?”.
But after just a few days Google released a software update that drastically improved this process returning more results on your searched with less need for the question based format and letting you actually browse websites. You can read in more detail about my thoughts about Web browsing on Glass in my article Web surfing on Google Glass feels simultaneously futuristic and dated.
Take a Picture
If you say “Take a picture,” Glass will take a picture almost instantly which is a problem that I detailed and posed possible solutions for in last article ‘The problematic happenstance creativity of Google Glass’. After it has been taken the photo flashes on the screen and is then put in your timeline and synced to Google+. When you swipe over to the card and tap it, you get the option to share the photo through your social media networks. The photo is put in physical storage on Glass and you can manually transferred them to your computer over USB.
Record a Video
When you start recording a video Glass will automatically set the duration to 10 seconds but with a tap of a button you can extend recording indefinitely. Videos are then stores and shared the same way that photos are but at this point not every social media channel will accept videos. The quality of the video is much better than I was expecting with 720p quality but the camera struggles with the same problems as I have seen with photos where low lights and high contrast lighting do not get good results.
Get Directions To
From the launcher you can either use the ‘get direction to’ command or if your search results includes an address you can access this functionality to get turn by turn directions. The only thing to note here is that this functionality is only available if Glass is paired with an Android phone and Glass has to have this connection as it does not have GPS functionality on its own. Once you ask for directions Google does give you a large warning that reads “Do not manipulate this application while in motion” for your safety. I have only been brave enough to use it for walking directions because I am concerned that the change from driving to looking at Glass is just too big of a focal length change to be safe. Directions are clear and instructions are read to you just like the GPS system in your car. I use it all the time walking around NYC because having directions on a heads up display is awesome.
Send A Message
Send a message is probably my least favorite options from the launcher. Before you can even use this functionality you will need to go into the Glass web portal and add your contacts one at a time to your contact list so you can access them later. At first you were limited to just 10 contacts which was insane but they recently expanded that list so you can now have all your contact in Glass but the process of adding them is incredibly painful. After saying ‘send a message you will be presented with that list of names and you can speak the person you want to send a message to. You then speak you message, Glass will transcribe it and display the message on the screen. You will have about 2-3 seconds to proofread the message before it is sent through Gmail and this timing is never even close to enough time for me and as a result I have sent many insane sounding messages littered with typos. If you think that your message just isn’t close to being correct then you can swipe down on the touchpad in that 2-3 second window and cancel the message and are then forced to start the whole process over again.Messages are also subject to the same problem I mentioned before about Glass not recognizing only my voice so if you record a message in a crowd of people it will be a mashup of all of the conversations it could hear. The inability to edit your message or have one voice recognition makes this whole process too clumsy and happenstance for me to ever consider using it everyday.
Make A Call
If Glass is paired with your smartphone then you can use to make call to anyone on your contact list. I have found really mixed results with this experience since I really like it if I am in a quiet space because the call is easy to hear and people can easily hear me. But making a call in a noisy environment is almost complete impossible because I have a really hard time hearing the conversation and they could not hear me because the microphone picks up all the noise in the environment. So if they are able to make a more directional microphone in the next generation of the hardware I think this could be a much better experience but right now I use it sparingly.
Hang Out With (Make a video call)
Hangouts are by far my favorite app on Glass. From the launcher you say ‘Make a video call to…” followed by the name of the circle you want to call. This is the only problem with this app because you have to name a Circle and not an individual contact which forces you create a hack where put friends in circles by themselves so you can video chat only with them. This is obviously a very different way of using Circles compared to how set them up initially on Google+. Once you have these individual Circles set up the personal will automatically be invited to the Hangout once you speak their name. The experience of the Hangout is what has blown most people away since I can see them on the Glass display but they see through the Glass camera. This means they are literally seeing through my eyes and it is a totally new experience for a video chat. I also like love the experience where if you are in a hangout with multiple people the Glass display with automatically change to show you only the person who is talking. This started as a cool novelty but it is the feature I use the most since its so easy to show people designs, do sketches and move through experiences seamlessly while having both hands free to mark up comps, sketch, or use your laptop.
There are two other apps on Glass outside of the launcher screen which are weather and nearby recommendations which live to the left of the launcher in your timeline. The first is weather which is a simple display that shows you the current temperature, high and low temperatures and chance of rain for today. Touching on the card will give he high and low forecast for the next three days. You can also access the app by saying ‘ok glass google…. whats the weather today’ and it will ready you todays weather forecast. It is a simple app but I find myself using it more than I expected.
After the weather app you will find a card that displays 4 to 6 restaurant recommendations based on your current location. The recommendations can be useful if you are in a new city but the problem is that you can not control the criteria for the recommendations. Because of this lack of control the results can be very hit or miss depending on the neighborhood and what type of food you are in the mood for. I have found one small work around where from the launcher you can say ‘ok glass google the nearest Italian restaurant’ and it will return the closest Italian restaurant but again the only criteria is its proximity and nothing else. It feels like this could be a really useful app if it was refined a little and if you could control some of the criteria to be able to get results that were more useful.