My Experience with Google Glass: The Good Bad and the Ugly – Review

 

Howard Huang wearing Google Glass

On April 15th, Google made Google Glass available to the public for one day at the bargain price of $1500. I have been following Google Glass for quite some time now and was very intrigued in what the buzz was behind this product. I was lucky enough to have multiple cohorts that shared the same curiosity. We all decided to split the cost of Glass as an investment to get our hands on the product for educational purposes. Below is an in-depth review of my personal experience using Google Glass.

The Out of Box Experience

Google Glass - Howard Huang

Good: Excellent on boarding email with resources to keep you busy and anxious until Google Glass arrived. Great aesthetically pleasing packaging you wouldn’t feel embarrassed to display on your shelf.

Bad: First instruction before even receiving the product is to charge the device.

Ugly: Device had almost no charge and had to be charged before use.

A day after I was notified that Google Glass was on its way, I received an email from Google welcoming me to the Glass Explorer Program. The welcome email was a great way to start the on boarding process. The email (shown below), told me the next steps to take once Google Glass arrives.

Google Glass Onboarding Email

Google Glass Onboarding Email

What I found interesting was Google Glass shipped with low battery and the very first step I needed to take was to charge it up.  When I got Google Glass my unboxing experience was like Christmas. How can you not be excited about unboxing the latest new tech toy from Google? Imagine being a kid again and getting a new bike, board game, video game, barbies, or whatever it was that you were into….it was like that for me.

The boxes that Google Glass were in was aesthetically pleasing and well packaged. I could tell Google took their time to design the packaging, which is important these days because a lot of people do display these on their shelves to show off.

Google Glass Unboxing

Initial Impressions

Good: Google Glass is like nothing else out on the market. It’s your very own personal heads up display and assistant that you can manipulate hands free.

Bad: The heads up display isn’t HD and it takes awhile to get used to.

Ugly: You find yourself adjusting glass on your face a lot. Your eyes get crossed, you feel a little dizzy, and it can cause a headache during your initial use.

The first time I put Glass on I had a hard time finding a comfortable way to wear it. I kept trying to adjust Glass by tilting it up and down but it didn’t have this ability. The only way to adjust glass was to swivel it front and back. I kept picking up Glass off the bridge of your nose and re-situating it. Glass always managed to slowly slide back down from my ideal spot. Furthermore, I found that I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

As I allowed other people to try on Glass I noticed that they also had a hard time adjusting. Almost everyone that tried Glass on had some kind of negative comment about the display. Comments were always along the lines of….it hurts my eyes, this is giving me a headache, or I can barely see it.

By the way, it’s very impractical to use Glass ontop of your traditional prescription glasses. You have to wear contacts to use Glass or get Google’s special frames built for Glass and get prescription lenses on them. After getting used to the display and getting over the initial dizziness, Glass at this point in time is quite a novel device. Google has found a way to display information through Glass even out in bright sunlight. You have to slightly strain your eyes to see the display in the middle of the day, but it is tolerable as you get used to it.

Here’s an article talking about whether or not Google Glass hurts your eyes.

Usability

Good: Navigation through menus and installed “apps” or Glassware is easy to understand and use.

Bad: Sometimes you have to repeat voice commands and gestures on Google Glass not because it isn’t responsive but because Glass can get sluggish at times.

Ugly: Under normal use and checking to see if I had a firmware update, Glass completely stopped working.

Google Glass is in beta which could possibly explain the reason why it is so dang expensive right now. I think Google Glass is more of being in alpha because my Glass stopped working after a simple firmware check. I understand that things break during beta testing and all of that, but this is kind of ridiculous. I have contacted Glass support for help and they have gone back and forth with me for 3 days. No resolvable issue has been found and other Glass users have also reported the dreaded “bootloop” error that I’m experiencing with no solution in sight. They are working with me closely and planning on a replacement.

I could end the blog post right here, but let’s just say for review sake that I forgive them for this and talk about the experience I had when Google Glass was working. In this case, navigating through menus was easy to understand and use. You navigate within Glass by swiping forward or backwards, tapping on Glass to select or enter apps, and swipe down to back out or exit what you’re doing. The experience is typically responsive, but at times Glass does bog down and the menus will get a little sluggish. There was a few times where I had to repeat my voice commands and gestures due to the sluggishness of the OS but its something that you grow accustomed to and learn the quirkiness of.

Apps

Google Glass Glassware Apps

Google Glass Glassware Apps

Good: Google Glass has a lot of potential. As shown on a few of their demo videos such as their EMS example, Google Glass can help save lives.

Bad: There are very limited <50 Official Glasswares aka Google Glass apps in the Google Glass app store at the time of this writing. 

Ugly: 99% of the Glassware apps were poorly executed and did not offer a compelling service. As it currently stands, Glass’s killer feature is nothing more than an expensive head mount camera that can capture and share pictures and videos easily to the internet.

To get the most out of your Google Glass experience you must have it paired with an iOS or Android device. To pair Glass properly, you must first download the MyGlass app from the Google Play or Apple App Store. The MyGlass app is like a device manager for your Google Glass. From the MyGlass app you are able to add contacts, browse/add/remove Glassware aka Glass apps, and conduct a screencast. Activating screencast allows your smartphone to display what you would see if you were looking through Google Glass.

After I got through the initial setup stages I started to activate Glassware.  I wanted to experience it all so I practically tried everything that was available officially in the store. The most useful Glassware that I found was this Golf app called GolfSight by SKyDroid. GolfSight downloads information about the golf course you are currently on and tells you information such as how far away from the hole you are. GolfSight even suggests which club to use from where you are on the hole. Besides GolfSight, the rest of the apps had a lot to be desired. In fact, I was met with a lot of frustration when trying to setup apps for Glass. For instance, one of the things that I was excited to try out was the Strava Cycling app. The Cycling app was supposed to allow me to do a whole bunch of cool stuff like track where I was riding, how fast I was riding, and analyze my performance.

Unfortunately, after hours….and I really do mean multiple hours of trying to sign up for Strava I couldn’t get the app to sync properly to Glass. Another thing I found out was that, in order to activate a lot of these apps you have to have an account. Signing up wouldn’t be much of a problem if the registration pages actually worked.

Glassware app login error

For some Glassware apps, the signup process took you through multiple pages. Some of the signup pages wouldn’t even process my sign up because they would error out. Even worse, a lot of these multi-step sign up process made me pinch and zoom everywhere to see the correct fields. Additionally, Google Glass crashed three times on me, forcing a restart while trying to figure all of this out.

Glassware App Strava Dashboard

See how the dashboard isn’t even mobile compatible? The webpage doesn’t even fit on my screen.

Long story short, Google Glass is supposed to be cutting edge technology and yet the user experience for activating apps is abysmally poor. Google really needs to enforce stricter usability standards for developers to abide by. Ease of use is important if Google wants Glass for mass adoption.

Even though there are only about 50 apps to choose from there are lots of developers working on unofficial apps for you to experiment with. Here is a great site that offers links to download and try out apps for Glass. – Google Glass Application List 

Wearing Glass in Public

Google Glass at a Park

Atleast Glass actually takes decent pictures outside.

Good: Anyone under the age of 24 seemed to immediately recognize that I was wearing Google Glass and wanted to learn more about it.

Bad: Anyone above the age of 24 looked at me funny and I was even met with some hostility for wearing such device.

Ugly: When you are out in public and you need to use the bathroom, you can’t really take them off and put them in your pocket because they don’t fold up. Wearing Google Glass in a public bathroom feels extremely weird.

The first time I wore Google Glass out in public was at a public park. There were lots of families walking around and enjoying the weekend. I was doing the same and riding my bike around. I do have to admit that it was pretty fun watching almost everyone do a double take when I rode my bike past them. A few kids pointed and shouted, “That’s Google Glass!”

Google has been heavily promoting Google Glass as a lifestyle device. They have shown countless videos of people wearing Glass and doing crazy things with it. At the Google I/O conference in 2012, Google kicked things off by demonstrating Glass with a group of skydivers jumping out of a plane while wearing Glass.

Unfortunately, I live a pretty boring life. The most exciting thing I do on a weekly basis is go trail riding with my bike. Wearing Glass every weekend is something that I got annoyed with after the first bike ride. One of the major turn off is the fact that Google Glass is heavy. I wear prescription glasses so I’m used to having something sit on my face, however, Google Glass easily weighs 3 or 4 times heavier. Another turn off is the fact that when you are heavily using Google Glass, the right side of my temple gets sweaty. Google Glass heats up quickly, and when the device heats up, you start to sweat profusely.

In Summary

Howard Huang wearing Google Glass

Good: Next iteration of functional augmented reality and hands free operation make Google Glass an innovative device for specialists. Can be extremely useful for saving lives and optimizing workflow.

Bad: Because of its infancy, the Google Glass experience has a lot to be desired. Google Glass has little added value for the consumer that the smartphone don’t already provide.

Ugly: Google Glass is expensive at $1500 before tax and has a long uphill battle for the public to accept the technology. Google Glass is the latest tech, but it definitely is not the greatest. Even if you are a prosumer, the novelty of the device wears of extremely quickly.

In summary, I can see how Google Glass can be very useful. If they are really able to make Glass useful in emergency situations like helping firefighters out in the field or help doctors keep patient vitals in sight at all times then Google Glass is a completely valuable device.

With that said, besides having a somewhat convenient wearable that allows you to take pictures and video with ease, Glass is really lacking. I can’t foresee myself wearing Glass on a daily basis due to numerous annoyances which include….

  • Glass is way too heavy for all day use.
  • If you use it for extended periods of time, the device gets hot and the side of your head gets sweaty.
  • It draws a lot of attention and you look like the biggest dork in town.
  • The display is extremely blurry and it makes you dizzy
  • The user experience is extremely poor. Enabling apps is a pain in the ass

The novelty of the device is very attractive, but since I have spent a good bit of time with it I can say that I’m pretty much done with it. Even if Google came out with a version of Glass that was more affordable, I’m not too sure I would consider one unless they have addressed many of the issues I’ve experienced.

If you’re interested in learning more about other people’s experience using Glass, check out the video below by Marques Brownlee which gives an excellent demonstration and explanation of Google Glass. I’ll also insert a hyperlink to the Google Glass community on Google+ that has lots of great discussions and community support from Glass Users.

Google+ Glass Community

Now it is your turn. Let me know what you think of Glass and post it in the comments below. If you are a Google Glass Explorer yourself, let me know if you experienced the same issues that I have.

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