- Editor's Rating
- Comfortable to use
- Has a ton of potential
- Innovative and fun
- Still limited, with poor battery
- Not many useful apps at this point
- Connecting online is a clunky process
Quick TakeHere's the caveat: TG tested a developer unit, and the final commercial product should be free of many of the flaws cited in the review. That said, Google Glass is innovative, entertaining, different, and even as futuristic as the iPhone was in 2007. It’s hard not to be thrilled by Google Glass after the first test.
It’s tough to define Google Glass, being that it is the harbinger of a brand new product class dubbed “wearables”. The most apt description could be that Google Glass is a smartphone that the user wears on his or her face, like real prescription glasses or sunglasses. The difference being that Glass directs the field of vision in front of just one eye (this is probably why Google named it Glass and not Glasses), enriching that vision with smartphone-esque information, presenting it on a physically tiny display.
As for the hardware, Google Glass is equipped with a processor, camera, speakers, a microphone, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radio, and its pivotal component is a tiny glass prism holding a miniature projector that creates imaging on the screen. Outside of the tiny glass prism, there is very little glass in Google Glass.
Images and information are projected on the small prism, into the user’s peripheral field of vision. It should not distract the user from everyday activities… at least in theory.
It is this feature of eliminating the distracting element from standard smartphone communications that is at the very heart of Google Glass’ existence. It’s simply rude during conversations to check your smartphone to read the latest Tweet or text message, and dangerous to do so while driving. Google Glass can potentially eliminate that.
So is Google Glass the future of mobile communications? Will it open the flood gates to competitors and kick off the wearable revolution?
Maybe, maybe not. TechnologyGuide had the opportunity to test Google Glass for several days (the so-called Explorer edition, intended for developers above all, which will significantly differ from the commercial version once it hits the stores). Right now, Google Glass is impractical and unpolished, but one cannot help but think that this is a revolutionary product that has exceptional potential to change the way we live and use contemporary technology.
No doubt, Google Glass looks unconventional. Despite its modern design, it’s obvious this is not a regular set of glasses. Being inconspicuous with Google Glass on your head will be impossible.
Build and Design
As far as ergonomics go, Glass is a very light device, and it perfectly sits on the nose. Glass’ flexible handle ensures a comfortable experience for most, if not all, head shapes and sizes. Even though it is asymmetrical, Glass lays entirely horizontally. Clearly Google thought it out, placing the battery and electronic elements in the back of the handle. With the the screen in the front, the Glass horizontal center of gravity is on its physical middle, which rests on the top of the user’s nose.
Google Glass requires an Internet connection to really serve its purpose, and that requires Wi-Fi. However, Glass users do not have the option of typing in a password for protected Wi-Fi networks, so Glass also needs to be registered through an Android app called MyGlass or a website, Google.com/myglass. The Wi-Fi network name and password need to be entered through MyGlass (whether on a phone or a computer), which will then generate a QR code. The user then looks at the QR code with Glass to establish the connection. Users can also tether to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
After activation, one touch of the handle turns on the display, visible somewhere in the upper right corner of the field of vision as a transparent floating screen. It’s tough to put into words, but the display appears like it is both in front of the user, and not. Google claims the visual is akin to using a 25-inch HDTV while 8 feet away. That is not far from the truth; even though most usually watch TV without moving their pupils to the peripheral part of their field of vision, which is the case with Google Glass.
Google has not officially disclosed the Glass display resolution (the developers were told to orientate on working with 640 x 360 pixels), but whatever it may be, it’s currently good enough, at least based on its currently limited UI and applications. There were no grainy images, lack of sharpness or anything that would tire the eye on display.
The transparency is easy to get used to after several seconds of using Glass, apart from while viewing photographs. Depending on what you actually see and whether you are looking towards a brighter or a darker background, the same photograph can look both great and disastrous. You will never know what the photograph is actually like, as this display cannot depict it, until you see it on an actual screen, like a notebook or smartphone.
While Glass is touch-activated from stand-by, the screen only shows the time. The main menu is activated by the spoken command, “OK Glass,” or a nod of the head. TG was able to try the basic functionality from here, including taking photographs and recording videos.
It’s impossible for one to take a picture of exactly what one sees through Glass, and also impossible to properly frame a pic, but it’s still a neat feature, activated by voice command. Google Glass then notifies the users with an audio signal that the image has been taken, or the video recorded.
At this point, Google Glass is not particularly fast, and it takes a second or two for the notification after giving the order, which spoils the experience to a certain extent. Still, the potential for this function, recording anything in sight almost instantly and hands free, is unlimited. For the time being, it is just entertaining above all.
The same thing goes for the process of Googling. It is rather easy to command Glass by voice to search the Internet with a set term, kind of like Siri and all its clones. This effectively means that without having to pick anything up and turn attention to anything else, users can easily acquire relevant information at any time in the upper right corner of the field of vision. Again, this does not take place instantly, and it takes Glass a second or two to process the command and display the results. But just like the photo feature, this bursts with potential.
In fact, the Google Glass boundless potential apparent is most of its features. Shifting though photos by swiping the handle with a finger, selecting and sharing via email or social network with just voice commands; receiving email and text messages that appear right before one’s eyes, then dictating the response…
It is clear that TG was not using the commercial version of Google Glass, from the numerous flaws that significantly limit the use of this device at this stage. Above all, the battery is very poor, even with careful and economic usage. In fact, at best, it will last about four hours.
Google Glass is also in need of more obvious indicators for when the user takes a photo and is recording a video. It’s also not very responsive in noisy environments, and the lack of 3G or 4G capability severely limits it, as does the dearth of apps.
But again, this is a developer unit, and not the final product. In fact, after using it for a few days, TG is ready to declare this product be commercially successful. It’s as innovative, entertaining, different, and even as futuristic as the iPhone was in 2007. Despite its flaws, it’s hard not to be thrilled by Google Glass after the first test.