Google Glass has kicked my expectations to two opposite ends of a spectrum since it was first announced. On one hand, it looks like an overpriced beta product that could potentially become little more than one more screen for receiving push alerts. On the other hand, there’s a sprawling world of augmented reality possibilities that it could eventually host.
Want to know what I’m talking about? Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story showcases a wide range of examples we might eventually see from Glass or a Glass-like device: instant Hot or Not-style breakdowns of everyone around you at a bar, online shopping distractions while you go about everyday life, and even credit score or life expectancy readouts of people you meet. I even wonder if an app like SocialRadar could be a bridge toward that kind of crazy environment in the not-too-distant future.
Anyhow, thanks to some successes at Industry Dive this year, as well as an invite to join the Google Glass Explorer program, I now have a Glass unit that I’ve been testing out in D.C. and Seoul over the past couple of weeks. Here are my initial reactions based on firsthand experiences.
The World Lens translation app looks like it has a lot of promise (though I wish like heck that it supported Korean). I tried it out on a Spanish songbook the other day, and the way it seems to instantly Photoshop text to visually switch what you’re looking at to a new language is remarkable. The catch is that it may not always recognize text, depending on a variety of lighting and/or font conditions.
The new wink-to-shoot functionality that Google just rolled out is super fun. This isn’t a camera that’s going to provide you with shutter speeds or manual options that put your handheld cameras out of business. But it’s better than I might have expected. At times, it seems to take a while to back up to Google+, which is where you’re really able to access what you shoot for other purposes. But the social sharing options are very usable (if at times delayed).
You may not view Tumblr in the same way after using it as a feed on Glass. Depending on how you have your account set up, you may literally walk right into experiencing a daylong flood of GIF animations and distractions as wide-ranging as the Tumblr users you follow. I’m actually contemplating setting up an extra Tumblr account right now, just so I can better refine what Glass shows or doesn’t show. Also, it is way, way too easy to accidentally re-post something with this app. I had an incident the other day where none of the images in my Tumblr feed were loading (probably a slow network connection); my Glass screen had stalled, and I only discovered about an hour or two later that I’d inadvertently re-Tumbl’d something I hadn’t even been able to see. So watch out for that.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The New York Times has an interesting app in the Glassware library. I’m not totally sold on it right now, because it tends to deliver bundles of stories from all over the place. In an ideal world, I’d love to just get quick breaking news snippets, rather than seeing short descriptions of long features and human interest pieces that I’m not going to be able to read in full on Glass anyway. Still, the ability to get Glass to read those short descriptions to you as the photos and headlines come in is kind of neat. [Update: The CNN app seems to offer more of the kinds of customizations I wanted.]
JUST RELEASE THE iPHONE APP
Most of my Glass activity thus far has been with a portable hotspot that I picked up for the Korea trip. That’s been way better than my experiences tethering with my iPhone, but I’m hopeful that the impending iPhone app release will dramatically improve my Glass capabilities stateside when I return. I’ll post an update here after I get some time on the street with that. [Update: I’ve got the iOS app installed now. I’ll have some more to say on that in a future post.]