25 . 7 . 14

My fortnight as a glasshole

Since the moment that Google announced that folks here in the UK would be able to get their hands on Glass in exchange for a paltry £1000, I knew that a set would be mine (well, property of twentysix, attached firmly to my face). And having struggled through the ordering process I near ripped the top off the box of my Cotton (white) flavoured Google Glass headset just over 2 weeks ago!

In those two weeks, as the rest of the UK has been coming to terms with Glass hitting our shores and the BBC, Guardian and every other news source has been jumping on yet another Glass related news story, I’ve sat/stood/laid with somewhat of a perplexed yet vacant stare on my face because I am honestly at a loss as to the a) how Glass will allow people to pirate Guardians of the Galaxy, b) how Glass will distract drivers causing untold damage and death to Glassholes on the road, or c) herald a new era of none-privacy where everyone’s everyday lives are going to be live streamed in either video or photographic form to the internets.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, Glass, what is it and what do I think.

So for those not in the know (likely just my mum), Glass is a tiny computer and VDU (the screen appears just above the focal spot of your right eye) that through choice you decide to stick to your face as a pair of glasses; it comes in a number of nifty colours, all with their own creative names, and if you’re visually challenged you can have Glass stuck into a set of frames into which you can have your prescription lenses crowbarred into. Beyond this, I knew NOTHING about Glass when I ordered mine, I didn’t know what the interface was like, I didn’t know the apps that were available, I didn’t know how useful or otherwise that Glass would be.

So first things first then – You know the scene in The Lawnmower Man where Jeff Fahey puts on the VR specs for the first time and the world changes? You know where Robocop surveys a scene and his computer vision pulls out everyone’s faces and reports on their crimes and how dead they are? Well Glass, it’s absolutely nothing like that. What it’s actually a lot like is half your vision (the right half) takes on a slightly darker tint than the other side, just slightly mind. And that’s it. Until activated Glass sits on your face and does nothing – besides making you look like you have a computer strapped to your face.

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Activating Glass? Tap the panel that sits down the right hand side of the frame and you’re confronted with the time, and the two words that will change your life forever, “ok glass”, for it is with these two words that you can command your Glass to do your bidding.

Of course, no one wants to be sitting in the cinema or walking down the street and so you can also control your Glass through a series of swipes and finger gestures on the aforementioned panel down the right hand side of the frame, and it is in this control mechanism that I’m found that you look less like a crazy person. I’ve got it down now so that with only a few half disguised swipes I can make my Glass do most of the things that I want it to – which is much better than as previous “ok glass…. Ok glass… okay glass, take a photo… okay glass, take a photo… TAKE A PHOTO!” followed by pirate level expletives. The features of your Glass are also available through voice control too – so you can check into locations using Foursquare (does anyone do that anymore?), read your gMail, or browse newspaper articles that are sent straight to your face.

Whilst on the subject of taking a photo, one of the experimental features of Glass is the ability to have it take a photo when you wink – experimental is the right term, working about 40% of the time – but the ‘wink’ that most people manage to make the feature work with is the half demented grimace of someone having a grand mal seizure, it’s NOT something that in my two week experience I’ve found that you could honestly pull off without the entire room around you noticing.

One of the experimental features which does work a lot better is the automatic ‘on’ when you get an audible notification and look up and to the right – be it emails arriving, news articles becoming available or other notifiable events the ability to get them with a glance before looking away and having the display dim to nothing is one of Glass’ better features.

As I’ve said previously I had very little understanding of Glass before it arrived on my desk, and seemingly many colleagues were the same, with the majority I think expecting Robocop/Lawnmower Man levels of interaction, a screen that was constantly on, and a phenomenal game changer.

The reality of Glass in my opinion is much less game changing than I think those who haven’t experienced Glass expect; the default state of Glass is off, the voice interface is decent but at times awful, the limited apps that have little real world use cases are going to have to get a lot better, and disastrously low battery life, delivering at best a few hours of use, all mean that Glass isn’t a consumer device – and that’s fine, because it’s NOT meant to be a consumer device – but at the same time I’m not entirely sure I can see it becoming a consumer device any time soon either.

And with that, it shouldn’t be seen as a piracy concern, it shouldn’t be seen as something that is going to cause pile ups (it’s little more than a hands free kit), and it shouldn’t be seen as the massive affront to privacy that everyone would have us believe. It’s a toy, it’s a gadget, and it’s the destruction of your street cred and loss of all your cool points – but that friends, that’s about as dangerous as Glass is.

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