Google Glass (Explorer Version) - An Exciting Innovation And Potential Device (Part 5)

8/10/2013 9:22:59 AM

Real-world Usability

The navigation is a hot issue, and while not being able to say things like "home" or "work" is a disappointment, we found using Glass for directions was actually less distracting than looking down at the dash of the car, or a window-mounted smartphone.

Hangouts, when it works, is a great experience, too. Being able to quickly and easily share something with your friends that you are experiencing is going to make you smile. We also like to impress our friends over dinner by looking up the authors of obscure books or doing complex conversions just by asking Glass. And snapping pictures of impromptu moments is far easier than a smartphone. Business travelers, you'll enjoy taking pictures of your receipts and having them all synced (privately) to the cloud.

But there are also many deficiencies. We were surprised that Glass created a fairly trivial Bluetooth headset. You thought that calling someone would be easy based on everything else that glass can do, but the audio capture seems far more focused on grabbing audio of the environment than the wearer. People we called constantly had issues understanding us in even mildly noisy environments, like a car on the highway.

The bone-conducting speaker occasionally left much regret. In noisy areas, such as airports or streets, you'll struggle to hear anything. Plugging your ears with your fingers helps a lot, but also makes you look a bit silly. Fortunately, wearing earbud has the same effect. In fact, we'd love to see a 3.5mm headphone jack on a future set of Glass so that you could wear your own earbuds and listen to music - which you can’t do on Glass right now.

In addition, short battery life means you can’t go through one day in the streets - not without a charging pit stop, anyway. The photography in low light is a mess, having emails read to you is far too cumbersome and the general lack of customization options is surprising. There is also one other challenge affect not only the people who wear Glass but also everyone else around: privacy.

Privacy Concerns

We can’t talk about Glass without addressing its privacy concerns. There are many, and they are troubling. The most embarrassing bit is that you can record videos anytime and there's really no way for anyone else to tell. Google has made a regrettable decision to not include something like a red LED on the front to indicate when Glass is recording, which will be a limited (and easily defeated) step - but at least it would be something. (Granted, Glass's screen always open when you're recording, which if you look closely can certainly be seen from the outside, but a red light would be a far more comforting indicator to the world at large).

The most embarrassing bit is that you can record videos anytime and there's really no way for anyone else to tell

The most embarrassing bit is that you can record videos anytime and there's really no way for anyone else to tell

Of course the problem is that now you can take a picture or record a video of someone without their knowledge, but the situation here is a bit reversed: nobody knows if you do not say you're taking pictures or filming them. At least, this will lead to some innocuous comments like "you're filming this?". But as time passed, as a wearer, you will find people will act more cautiously around you. (In addition, they will also struggle to maintain eye contact. One person told us that Glass looked like a "third eye" that he couldn't stop staring at.)

Everyone can and should be a little worried about somebody walking into public restroom with Glass on and, since you can't fold them up and stick them in your pocket, finding something to do with them while you do your business is a challenge. You can easily envision many other situations where Glass owners would innocently wear their headsets much to the discomfort of others and as of now, there is no way to reassure them that you do not record them.


At this point, the Google Glass Explorer version is hard to buy. To try them, you had to pre-register at Google I/O last year, and even so, the headsets have been slow to ship. Ignoring it for a moment, if you can afford at this time, is Google Glass worth $1,500 for casual gadget fans? Of course not. Do not even bother considering it - unless your pockets deep enough to spend that much on regular watches, sunglasses or jewelry. The future version of Glass will be much cheaper before we begin to consider this good value, although much depends on the values that support the future development.

Google Glass Explorer version is hard to buy.

Google Glass Explorer version is hard to buy.

In fact, this Explorer version isn't supposed to be thought of in that way. The current Glass version is basically a prototype, intended for developers and a lucky few others. As a research project, it is very interesting. Developers will want to get this on hand ASAP and honestly, we hope they do because we can’t wait to see what they can do with it. The potential here is huge, and while we're expecting Google to drive much of that, unexpected things that developers do will really move Glass forward as a platform.

However, we also expect Google to address the privacy concerns. Right now, this problem is largely under the radar and will probably continue to do so until Glass began appearing publicly with larger numbers. If Google does not get ahead of this first, Glass's story could very quickly become one of fear, uncertainty and doubt by the public at large. The future is extremely bright for Google Glass project and it'd be a damn shame if it were dimmed by public outcry.

As several readers have pointed out, Glass screen is always open while recording, which is a sign for someone looking from the outside that the video is being recorded. However, we still feel a certain type of red lights will be a very comfortable addition to the front of future Glass iterations. (And we're sure there will be future versions. Glass is still in the development stage and there's lot more to come).

Also, we are talking about millions of people wondering how they can get their own Google Glass. Our glasses were pre-ordered at Google I/O last year and are provided as part of that process. Sorry, no, we can’t help you get some for yourself!


·         Price: $1,500


·         Incredible potential

·         Easy Hangouts

·         Extremely comfortable


·         Short battery life

·         Camera is poor in low light conditions

·         Privacy concerns


·         Google Glass is a more exciting innovation and potential than any other new device categories that we have seen over the years.

·         But, it is in the early stages and has an extremely high-price for most people.

Google Glass is a more exciting innovation and potential than any other new device categories.

Google Glass is a more exciting innovation and potential than any other new device categories.

Technical specs


·         Photos - 5 MP

·         Videos - 720p


·         Bone Conduction Transducer



·         Wifi - 802.11b/g

·         Bluetooth


·         12 GB of usable memory, synced with Google cloud storage. 16 GB Flash total.


·         One full day of typical use. Some features, like video calls and video recording, are more battery intensive.


·         Included Micro USB cable and charger.

·         While there are thousands of Micro USB chargers out there, Glass is designed and tested with the included charger in mind. Use it and preserve long and prosperous Glass use.


·         Any Bluetooth-capable phone.

·         The MyGlass companion app requires Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher. MyGlass enables GPS and SMS messaging.


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