Time has flown by and I’ve been living and working with Google Glass for the past five months. I’m about to trade-in my first generate Google Glass hardware for their newer second generation hardware so I thought it would be a good time to update my first impressions. Some of the good and bad points remain the same but there are also a number of new things that have surprised and frustrated me over the past few months.
Immediacy of information
One of the things I love most about Glass is that it is a new form factor that demands a new way of interacting with mobile technology and it demands a new way of thinking about app design. I continue to believe that if apps are going to be successful on Glass than they need to be experiences that are designed in a completely new way to take into account that interactions on Glass around an immediacy of information. You use Glass to help you with or to capture whatever is happening in that moment of your life. No one is going to use Glass to surf the web and it is I still believe what wrote in my article ‘Web surfing on Google Glass feels simultaneously futuristic and dated‘ remains true.
My job allows me travel a lot and over the past five months I’ve found that Glass is an amazing travel companion. I don’t say that for the obvious reasons of features like driving direction or Google now alerts but because it gives you the ability to access foreign cultures much more easily. An example would be on a recent trip to Vienna I speak no German but I used Glass constantly to help me find out how to say key phrases as I traveled around the city and worked with a local photography crew. Using Glass to so these translation was so much faster tan anything I had ever done with a smartphone and the quality of the communication was so much better because Glass would discretely read the phrase back to me in language. It was a great experience that I plan to continue to use on all of my travels.
Image and video quality
I remain constantly pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images and video have been that I have taken with Glass. I do still have mixed results when taking photos with large contrasts in lighting, in low light or if you get too close to your subject the photo will fisheye slightly. I have learned to avoid those problems and the photos I’ve taken with Glass remain some of the best of any of the mobile devices I have.
The battery life on Glass remains a huge disappointment. I am hopefully that this will improve with the new hardware but for me it has gotten so bad where I always have to keep it plugged into a power source. If I working with at my desktop then I have it plugged into my computer but if I am traveling I had to go so far as to buy a battery pack so I can have a portable power source to keep it running. Without these types of work arounds my pair of Glass will easily die inside of 45 minutes with minimal use. I still believe that if Google does not fix this problem then it will be the source of a huge backlash from consumer who won’t be as forgiving as the those of us in the Explorers program.
I raised my issues with the social media inspired timeline interface in my first impressions of Glass and it is even more true today. I’ve found that the problem has grown to the point where I get timeline paranoia with any content I want to keep. I’ve had several times where I would use Glass to shoot a bunch of photos, get directions and other tasks on one of my trips. I would then find that if I had posted something that caused a big reaction on Twitter all those responses would create new cards automatically in my timeline and as a result they would push all the content I had captured that off my timeline. Photo will automatically be backed up to my Goole account which is great for the Google ecosystem but that doest do me any good if I want to post it to Twitter to Facebook from Glass. It’s the combination of the timeline being so limiting in its length, that there is nothing you can do to retrieve the content from the device and the fact that other factors like Twitter can make you lose control of your timeline make still an incredibly frustrating.
I have documented my frustration with the process of creating content with Google Glass in the article ‘The problematic happenstance creativity of Google Glass’ and here again my original observations remain true. I still find myself take multiple pictures time after time trying to get the shot framed the way that I want. I still think there are ways to improve the problem through UI changes but I have seen anything out Google that leads me to believe they are going to improve this problem any time soon.
Frustrating app design and development process
My biggest frustration with Glass has been the process of trying to develop apps for it for two big reasons. The first is that Google limits you to creating 1000 cards everyday which makes is pretty much impossible to do any kind of serious design or development. You quickly find out that you usually have to stop all development work around noon everyday because you or your developers hit your daily quota. There also days when you want to clean out old version of your app off of Glass and that counts against your quota too. I you are able to survive all of this frustrating and actually create an app then you find out that doing QA on the app takes three of four times longer than it needs to because again you quickly hit your daily quota trying to run through all the flows in your app.
I’ve also found that you can not develop for Glass unless the person doing the work has the physical hardware with the all the time. Google tried to get around this problem by creating a site called the Playground which will let you start with set templates and customize their HTML code to create the layout you want. The problem is that there have been multiple cases where I would create a layout in the Playground that looked great but would then look completely different on the actual hardware. I think these two problems make Glass the most frustrating mobile platform I’ve ever designed or develop for and it’s why you haven’t seen any killer apps come to Glass yet.
It’s a Google device not a digital lifestyle device
If Google really wants to find wide-spread success with Glass then they need to understand that Glass is a new category for them. Glass is a digital lifestyle accessory and the more they try to limit its usefulness to their digital ecosystem and their platforms the less people are going to like it. The days of the digital consumer being loyal to one hardware platform, one social media network or one way of working with technology are over. So while Glass is defining a whole new genre of wearable technology the reality is that it isn’t a standalone device because if you want to do anything then you have to tether it to your smartphone. That simple fact current makes Glass more of an accessory than a true platform which means it needs to be able to play with a much larger device ecosystem if it wants to find success. I also leads to things like if they want to succeed they need to release the MyGlass smartphone app for Android AND iOS so connecting to a new WiFi network isn’t such a huge pain in the ass. This means that its great that you back-up my photos to Google but your timeline is limiting that I can quickly lose the ability to post them to other social network WHICH I HATE. It means that they need to be able to get GPS directions to work on an iOS device NOT just on Android. I could keep going with more examples like this but Google needs to get a wider understanding of the modern digital consumer and the ecosystem they live in. If they aren’t willing to do that then Glass is going to find limited success because it is a ground breaking device but it is isn’t such a game changer than it would make me change smartphone platforms or suddenly decide to not share content to primary social media platforms.
Glass continues to evolve every month with the release of new functionality and hope fully some of these frustrations will be relieved with the upcoming release of the Glass Developers Kit (GDK). But I worry that some of my larger concerns with issues like the creative happenstance of create content on Glass and that Google seems this only as a Google device will not be fixed and will ultimately be the downfall of this platform. Only time will tell. I’ll have a new review of the second generation hardware as soon as I get my hands on it in a week or two.