Google Glass: The verdict for now

Posted by – February 2, 2014

Google Glass vignette

Here’s the bad news: Google Glass has not yet become a magical life-changing piece of hardware for me. A few problems linger, and a few apps are still downright baffling for me. The good news, however, is that the software is evolving. I’ve played around with a few new apps since my last Glass post, and I still see the potential. It’s not a device that’s ready for a wide consumer audience quite yet, but it’s finding its way.

MYGLASS FOR IPHONE

Functionality for with iPhones has improved significantly since Google released this iOS app in December. Nevertheless, some frustrations persist. You can now get step-by-step directions with Glass when linked to an iPhone. Unfortunately, you need to have wireless hotspot functionality enabled on your iPhone to do that, and for many users, that privilege requires paying your carrier (in my case Sprint) extra money. I haven’t done that, so cannot yet bask in the wonder of a hands-free guide as I walk around D.C.

GOOGLE PLAY MUSIC

This app is fun. It’s sort of like a voice-activated Spotify. It may not understand everything you tell it to do — and consequently play you some Thai pop music when you request “Pixies” tunes — but if you’ve got an ear piece, it’s decent, and I like using it while I’m doing household chores.

As soon as the weather gets a bit nicer, I want to try out the Strava apps. I also just downloaded the Glass team’s new set of mini games, so expect to see some reactions to that in the near future.

Christmas in Seoul

Posted by – December 26, 2013

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I snapped this right before a flash snowfall near the Namdaemun Gate in Seoul this afternoon. The edits came via Big Lens and VSCO Cam.

Google Glass Review: The best and worst of it right now

Posted by – December 22, 2013

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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.

WORD LENS
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.

PICTURES
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).

TUMBLR
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.]

Happy holidays from Seoul

Posted by – December 16, 2013

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For those who don’t follow me on Instagram, we discovered this killer cup of coffee at Takeout Drawing in Itaewon yesterday.

At long last

Posted by – November 17, 2013

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I’ve never seen Gwar or been to the 9:30 Club. Tonight, all of that changes. Advice is welcome.

48-hour vacation

Posted by – November 8, 2013

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If you need me this weekend, check the beach in Florida. I’ll be the guy by the water reading Alex Segura’s new novel Silent City.

Autumn in Dupont Circle—catch it while you can

Posted by – November 5, 2013

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I grabbed this shot on the way to work last week, but it already looks like it was a lifetime ago.

Fall elephant-watching

Posted by – September 29, 2013

Elephant at the National Zoo

You know what never gets old? Watching elephants walk around. We stopped by the National Zoo on Saturday and spent a few minutes by the pen.

George R.R. Martin gets his own Flipboard magazine

Posted by – September 21, 2013

World of Ice and Fire Flipboard magazineUp until recently, I’d been extremely selective about the “Song of Ice and Fire” commentary and analysis I paid attention to. The Westeros.org wiki can be a spoiler-laden minefield to navigate while you’re still trekking through the existing books, and I have no regrets yet about allowing BoiledLeather.com into my life. I was wrapping up an epic read through the latter’s chapter remix of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, though, and since it was my first time looking at both of those books, the goal had been to let as many shocks and delights unfold in their full glory as possible.

I’m 100% caught up on the series now, however, so I have no qualms about reading the new George R.R. Martin Flipboard magazine that Random House has launched. The publisher is actually backing two such author-themed ventures right now, one for Martin and one for author Margaret Atwood. And the more I think about them, the more I think these magazines mark a pretty smart move on Random House’s part.

Now, I’ve been on the fence and off again about Flipboard since I first tried it out on my first-gen (now aging, slow and nearly useless) iPad. At first glance, my thoughts were, “Why do I need an RSS reader that shows me fewer headlines at a time and requires more gestures and navigation to see everything I want to see?” Nevertheless, the interface and design have grown on me. Flipboard is a clever platform for tablet (and smartphone) reading when the content plays nicely with it. A lot of publishers just sort of show up, and some barely look like they care about being in Flipboard at all, but when it works, it works well, and I hope the library of accessible publishers who don’t make you click through to a web browser continues to grow.

Fan magazines like this new George R.R. Martin one seem like sensible fits, though, in theory. As I mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of Flipboard stories that require normal web browser viewing, but for magazine-type articles with curated content being mixed in, I could see “The World of Ice and Fire” working out really well. The iPad is where I do most of my novel reading these days, and having a magazine-like experience to complement that makes a lot of sense on Flipboard, both for reader use and an easy option for book publishers, who (let’s face it) can use all the help they can get to corral and connect with audiences these days. I’d love to see some similar Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie options show up to the party as well.

NASA’s LADEE over Washington, D.C.

Posted by – September 7, 2013

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The highlight of this weekend so far was definitely watching the launch of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). Here’s what it looked like over the U.S. Capitol Friday night as it was headed to the moon.