onsdag 29 maj 2013

Google Glass

Yup, those are not just any glasses, those are Google Glasses! I'm one of the lucky few who've had a chance to try these puppies out. And what do I think of them? Well, it's hard to put in few words but perhaps the experience can be summarized as feeling like you've stepped into a time machine and put a device straight from the future on to your face. It is that revolutionary.

The first thing that struck me was how compact and light they are. It's really just a tiny piece of glass and another piece of colored plastic, hanging along the side of a thin frame.

The screen is projected through the glass making it look like the screen is hovering in front of you, sort of in the upper right part of your view, and obviously always following you as you turn your head and move about. When you're looking straight forward you'll notice the screen but to read from it you need to look slightly upwards to the right. The screen is semi-transparent so you can sort of see through it. This, in combination with a quite low resolution, means it is quite far from a high-definition experience watching the screen. But that's not what the glasses are made for either. As opposed to other head-mounted display products where you typically immerse yourself in your own world to watch a movie or play a game, Google Glasses let you continue experiencing the real world but with a small enhancement in form of a small screen that is always there without getting in the way.

So what can you do with this enhancement? Perhaps a question like that needs be split in two: What can you do now, and what will you be able to do in the future. As for the future, we can only guess. As with many other Google products, Glass is a platform where developers can create their own applications and services. Time will tell what people come up with. And the functions that come with the glasses now are basically:

1. Take photos. The glasses have a camera aimed forward and you can take photos either by clicking a small physical button on the glasses, or by actually speaking to the glasses and saying "Ok Glass, take a picture."

2. Record videos.

3. Google search, based on voice recognition.

4. Google maps, for showing where you are or directions to where you want to go. The glasses have a compass in them so when you turn your head, the map on the screen updates accordingly in realtime.

I might have forgotten some function, but that's more or less it.

Neither of these functions are revolutionary alone. You can do all these things with any smartphone today, besides with more detailed UI. But the difference is how quick it is with Glass, and how they integrate with the moment. For comparison, taking a photo with your phone requires you to dig up your phone from your pocket, unlock the screen, perhaps be distracted by a notification about a message someone has sent you, navigate to and starting the right app, aiming your phone to whatever you want to capture and so on. Besides from taking some time, it interrupts you from what you were doing and momentarily disconnects you from the world around you. Doing the same thing with Glass is virtually instant, you don't have to use your hands, and you practically don't have to even change where you look. You are still connected with the world around you just as much. And this is a new experience.

I would say the function of taking photos and recording videos alone is enough to justify this product. I watched a recording made by my friend at a rock concert. My friend fully enjoyed the concert without caring about making the recording. Compare this with shooting normal video where you are stretching your arm to hold a smartphone up and you're only halfway experiencing the concert since your eyes are glued to the small smartphone display. Also, on the viewer side, it's fun to see videos recorded (or perhaps live-streamed) with Glass because it is a more immersive experience. It feels more like you are actually there.

So doesn't it feel weird to wear the glasses? Yes, it does. It feels really awkward when you're interacting with people you don't know, and you're wondering what they're thinking and whether they're freaked out that you may actually be recording them. Also, even if the screen is not very obtrusive, it does limit your (normal) view ever so slightly. You'll also feel cautious as the glasses are light, fragile, and crazy expensive. Google Glass today costs around 1500 dollars. I wouldn't pay that much and I definitely don't see the glasses taking off as a mass consumer device carrying this price tag. But I do think there are some businesses and use-cases where the price will be totally justified. And disregarding the current price, I really think Google Glass is a glimpse into the future and what will be common, albeit perhaps not in this exact shape and price.

It will be very interesting to see how this progresses. How will Google handle the product, what will people think of it, which new services will pop up, and which discussions of privacy will there be. This is truly a new type of product, and it's been long since I was this excited about a new piece of technology.

I'm back! In English!

Time flies! It's been way over a year since my last post here.

I finally decided to pick it up again, with a change of languages, from Swedish to English, and a bit of a change in focus. I want to have some place to jot down thoughts about technology and software projects, and rather than starting a new blog I decided to just continue posting here.

I'll still occasionally post photos and write about life in general just as I did before, so if you've been here before and you're not a tech geek, pleeease don't leave for good!

The photo below is from Ishigakijima, a beautiful island in Okinawa prefecture, where I found this sleek looking device just laying on the beach waiting to be picked up. I call it the shell phone.