Month: March 2014

2014 status check

Posted by – March 26, 2014

Dupont Circle fountain

Aside from the overabundance of snow in D.C. in Q1, 2014 has been a great ride so far. If you’re looking for me on a day-to-day basis, check out InTheCapital, where I stepped on as managing editor in January. It’s a daily news site for info about tech, innovation, politics, education and lifestyle goings on in Washington.

As always, you can find me on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook as well.

Google Glass mini-games: A review

Posted by – March 2, 2014

Google Glass has been a little short on new toys to play with in 2014. The latest news from the mother-hive is that there won’t be a software update this month; however, an upgrade to Android KitKat is in on the way (interesting!), and that could bring some help for Bluetooth support and battery life management. As those new items bake at Glass HQ, I’ve been nodding and swatting through the five mini-games that the Glass team has released. And though they feel extremely demo-ish, it’s interesting to see what they bring to the platform.

Google Glass game menu

If you tell Google Glass to “play a game,” you’ll see a menu with the options to try games called Tennis, Shape splitter, Balance, Clay shooter and Matcher. If I had to rank them from most fun to least fun, I’d probably keep them in almost the same order:

  1. Tennis
  2. Shape Splitter
  3. Clay Shooter
  4. Matcher
  5. Balance

Each one is an interesting exercise in the Google Glass interface capabilities, and as someone who really enjoyed the WarioWare games for the Nintendo DS and Wii, all five of these games made me curious to see what something similar could look like on this headset.

What follows is the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s beyond that menu as of March 2.

Google Glass tennis

Tennis should be a concept that come naturally enough to most users picking up Glass. The ball and the court are both familiar, though if you have played real-world tennis before, you are going to be tempted to throw out your neck in a fit of futile attempts to put spin on the ball. Nevertheless, after you fully grasp how simple the head-tilt controls really are, things get easy.

Google Glass Shape splitter

Shape splitter will make you feel much more like you’re in a Wii- or Kinect-like experience. Actual hand-waving is involved, and once you get a couple of seconds into the gameplay, you will realize (SPOILER WARNING) that you are actually just playing a simplified version of Fruit Ninja. Good grief, though. If Google Glass actually did turn into a full-on portable version of Fruit Ninja on Kinect, I think this puppy might finally have a single app that justifies the hardware cost.

Google Glass Balance

Balance is the epitome of a game I thoroughly do not enjoy but just sat through to see how it made use of the Glass controls. Blocks fall on your dotty-eyed character’s head. You have to tilt your head back and forth to try to balance the block. My recommendation for breaking your high scores on this one is to just line the Glass screen up with some flat-line reference points (like the edges of a shelf or door) and keep your head as still as possible. The controls are extremely sensitive, though, so don’t waste too much time on this one (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

Google Glass Clay shooter

Clay shooter is a lot more fun. It is a shooter after all. You use voice commands to launch your targets. Officially, you say “Pull” to launch your targets and “Bang” to shoot, but Glass is super-forgiving, and you can ultimately make up your own stand-in commands if you like. The targets explode into little rainbow fragments when you hit them, and you’ll find some motivation in trying to hit them all. Again, the concept is very basic (reminds me of a game on the old black-and-white RadioShack system I played in the ’80s), but inspiration is there.

Google Glass Matcher

And then there is Matcher. It’s a memory game in a 3D beehive full of hexagon tiles that flip over to reveal shapes and colors. The coolest thing about it is that you’re playing within a 3D space that you have to turn around in to advance. Like the rest of these mini-games, the experience never comes remotely close to Flappy Bird levels of addiction. However, the timer will give you something to return to as you attempt to get higher scores.

At the end of the day, I’d love to see any of these game evolve into more fully-formed concepts. Then again, that’s kind of what the Glass experience has been like on most front thus far. And that’s not necessarily a complaint; after all, everyone using a Glass set as an Explorer now is a beta-tester and/or developer. In the meantime, these games were enough to get my curiosity bubbling. I can’t wait to see what happens once we get into KitKat Land.