I always enjoy sharing my opinions on technology with friends and family. Even more so, when someone in public asks me about a device, accessory, app, etc. I always enjoy answering their questions and helping them understand or find something to fit their life. In the last month, the device that’s sparked lots of questions from friends, family, and strangers alike is my Google Glass (check out my initial impressions of the device).
In the times I’ve taken Glass out in public, I’ve also received a handful of questions about how it works, what it does, and the like. Since Google Glass is extremely new, and relatively rare to see out and about, it seemed only fair to address some of the more common questions that I’ve been asked.
What is it? What does it do?
I feel like this is the hardest question to answer (which is why I am covering it first). The simplest answer I give when people ask is this: Google Glass is a wearable computer that sits right above your sight line, allowing me to search the internet, check email, send messages, get directions, and take photos and video – all without ever touching my phone.
Using a combination of voice commands, touch gestures, and the occasional head/eye movement, I’m able to perform any number of tasks wearing the head-mounted “computer.”
Are they heavy?
I suppose this depends on what you’re comparing them to… They’re heaver than an average pair of glasses, but not abundantly so. The entire thing is a little lopsided at this point, as all the actual device is on the right side, and the left is just the frame and earpiece. There aren’t any lenses in Glass (although both tinted and clear “shields” are available”), which helps keep weight down. Because of how the entire Google Glass device is setup, some of the weight is placed behind your right ear, which also helps the entire thing feel lighter than it may appear.
How much does Glass cost?
Currently, Glass is only available by invitation, and has a pretty hefty price tag – $1,500… plus tax. Keep in mind the version of Glass that’s accessible right now is a pre-release/beta version, so things can change – both with design, software, hardware, and price – before it’s publicly available.
Do you think it is worth the price?
For an average consumer, Google Glass would more than likely be a major flop at $1,500. Even as a total tech geek, the price tag seems a bit outrageous – but that $1500 is essentially funding development on a relatively small scale (I’m estimating around 20,000 Glass units roaming in the wild right now). For Glass to see mainstream success when it publicly launches, I’m thinking it will need to land below $499. The general consumer mindset sees it as a bit of a novelty, still, and the limited function (at least, in its current state) is going to have to be considered when Google really opens the floodgates on it.
Is it distracting, or does it get in the way?
Not typically…and I’m really amazed how many people have asked me this, while I’m wearing it and looking them in the eyes. The way Glass is designed, even though the nosepiece and ear pieces both sit on your face like normal glasses would, the arms or the nosepiece are a bit longer than your traditional frames, which holds the entire Glass viewer/camera module just above your line of sight.
Because of this, even with Glass on, I can do *most* day-to-day tasks without it interfering or being distracting, because it actually sits more in the upper right peripheral. Anyone who wears glasses with thicker frames (read: hipsters) can attest to having the same experience all around when wearing their glasses.
When I initially setup Glass, I had an issue with the screen waking far too frequently – mostly due to the “head tilt wake” feature. This actually uses a gyro inside of Glass to recognize that I’ve tipped my head up a certain angle to activate the screen – hands free. Because the angle wasn’t right for me, I found that when I was at work, I must look up a lot, because I’d wake the screen, which diverted my attention. After adjusting the angle a bit, I found it was more conducive for me to just disable the feature, and use a simple tap on the gesture pad to wake Glass instead. Doing it this way also greatly improved battery life.
Speaking of Battery life, how long will it last before a recharge?
Obviously, this follows the same principles as a smartphone, laptop, or any other “connected” device – it’s all about usage. Initially when I began using Glass, I was seeing 4-6 hours between charges, but again, I was inadvertently waking the screen a lot, which uses more battery. After disabling the head tilt wake function, I’ve found that I can get a typical 8-10 hours of wearing time out of Glass with “average” usage.
Yes, things like GPS navigation, and taking lots of pictures and video will deplete the battery faster, but in general, 8-10 hours. I think in the mass production model of Google Glass, we’ll need to see a minimum of 12 hours of wear time out of Glass (or 6 hours of actually usage) for it to be a good fit in our always connected, on the move lifestyles.
How does it connect to the internet for everything?
Glass has both Wifi and Bluetooth built-in, which can connect to any wifi network, or use your phones data (through wifi or bluetooth tethering) to stay connected on the go. Because of this, Glass doesn’t (at least currently) need it’s own separate phone line, contract, etc. for connectivity. Using a combination of Bluetooth and the MyGlass app for iOS or Android, Glass allows you to make and receive phone calls like a bluetooth headset, as well as pulls your device’s GPS location when getting directions.
The drawback I’ve found is that if your phone plan doesn’t include “personal hotspot” or tethering, it’s an additional monthly fee to take advantage of Glass on the go. In my testing, I’ve only used Glass with my iPhone 5, since I don’t have an Android 4.0+ device to test with, but I believe Android devices can use bluetooth tethering for data without the extra fee, so it may just be an extra cost for iOS users without hotspot included (basically, Verizon or AT&T customers holding onto unlimited data plans).
Do you believe Glass will further separate the social barrier?
I think, with the current collection of apps available for Glass, that it is working to bring us back to a place where we experience what’s going on around us, instead of being engrossed in our devices. For example, I wore Glass during family Christmas celebrations, and only used my phone 2 times the entire day. The first time, to connect Glass to the wifi network (the phone actually uses a QR code to share the wifi password with Glass). The second time was to demo the MyGlass app. The rest of the day, I wore Glass to take photos and search the web when we needed to quickly look something up, and was able to actively participate in everything happening around the Christmas tree, kitchen, etc. with out being buried in my phone.
With a simple glance off to the side on occasion, I acknowledged a couple emails, peeked at the forecast, checked the time, and wasn’t drawn to open my typical string of apps to “see what’s going on.” It was convenient and discreet.
Will Google Glass actually enhance our day-to-day lives?
I think anything that keeps us actively involved in what’s going on around us is enhancing our lives a little (as I mentioned above). When the first smartphones came out, they allowed business men and women to connect with the office on the go, to increase productivity. Obviously, it’s expanded significantly since then, but they still offer invaluable tools and access to knowledge that were never so readily available before. If Glass can do the same, and offer us access to the most important things, and help us be more productive and actively involved in our lives, it will certainly enhance out lives.
Google Glass really is a device unlike anything else we’re used to, and has potential to really impact peoples lives. Travelers won’t have to worry about needing to translate things with a book – Glass will do it for them. Parents truly won’t miss those precious moments of their baby’s first steps, words, etc, because Glass is always there. Not only that, but reports of potential face and voice recognition technology coming to Glass in the future could help those suffering from Social-Emotional Agnosia, Autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome experience a more natural, unimpaired social lives. As Glass’ functionality expands, the technology could truly change the world, and I think that is what Google is hoping for.
Are there other things you want to know about Google Glass? Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section down below.