Monday, July 29, 2013

Google Glass and AR eyewear

There has been much talk and interest in AR eye-wear since Google announced its "Glass" last year. Wearable augmented reality technology has been around for a while now, developed for uses for example in the military, but the Google name-tag and big plans to make it part of our everyday life, has raised its profile high in our consciousness.

Reviews


There have been mixed reviews for those who have had access to the product and been able to trial it. In this post we will look at one review that praises the technology and one which is more skeptical. For those who are unfamiliar with the glass and what it does, you check out the minimalist glass site or watch the official video:




But back to our reviews. First up is a review that is enthusiastic of Google Glass and its possibilities. This is followed by an account of the glass which is a little more tempered in its opinion of the product's potentials. The reviewers we draw upon are tech bloggers Robert Scoble of "Rackspace" and http://scobleizer.com, and Mike Butcher. Butcher is also a journalist and the editor for the European TechCrunch. Of course these are just two opinions among the plethora of posts and reviews of Google Glass out there so if you want more, feel free to go forth and find them.

Robert Scoble


Scoble's review is pro Google Glass. In fact Scoble declares the glass so significant that it's life changing. Here are some excerpts from Scoble's review. The full review can be found here.

1. I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It's that significant.
2. The success of this totally depends on price. Each audience I asked at the end of my presentations "who would buy this?" As the price got down to $200 literally every hand went up. At $500 a few hands went up. This was consistent, whether talking with students, or more mainstream, older audiences.
3. Nearly everyone had an emotional outburst of "wow" or "amazing" or "that's crazy" or "stunning."
4. At NextWeb 50 people surrounded me and wouldn't let me leave until they had a chance at trying them. I haven't seen that kind of product angst at a conference for a while. This happened to me all week long, it is just crazy.
5. Most of the privacy concerns I had before coming to Germany just didn't show up. I was shocked by how few negative reactions I got (only one, where an audience member said he wouldn't talk to me with them on). Funny, someone asked me to try them in a bathroom (I had them aimed up at that time and refused).
6. There is a total generational gap that I found. The older people said they would use them, probably, but were far more skeptical, or, at minimum, less passionate about the fact that these are the future, than the 13-21-year-olds I met.

Also, Google is forbidding advertising in apps. This is a HUGE shift for Google's business model. I believe Larry Page is moving Google from an advertising-based company to a commerce based company.

I continue to be amazed with the camera. It totally changes photography and video. Why? I can capture moments. I counted how many seconds it takes to get my smartphone out of my pocket, open it up, find the camera app, wait for it to load, and then take a photo. Six to 12 seconds. With Google Glass? Less than one second. Every time. And I can use it without having hands free, like if I'm carrying groceries in from the car and my kids are doing something cute.

This has changed my life. I will never live a day without it on. It is that significant.

Glowing reviews from Mr Scoble then. But to balance the reviews we'll now look at Mike Butcher's not quite so enthusiastic review.

Mike Butcher


In a nutshell, Butcher claims that using Google Glass is well, just weird. He poetically describes the technology as "this era’s Segway: hyped as a game changer but ultimately used by warehouse workers and mall cops." The full review can be found here but here are some of the main points of Butcher's critique:
"Next up is using your voice to do various commands like “Take a picture.” If you have someone standing in front of you, this is extremely odd. Suddenly they are cut out of the conversation and you’re talking to the Glass. This is very unlike being able to check something on your smartphone while you are chatting casually to someone. The latter feels quite normal, but performing similar operations while wearing Google Glass would seem downright rude in front of someone.
Ultimately this suggests to me that Google Glass will be incapable of being used socially. Okay, people in the tech world may use it socially and wander around with them on at conferences Googling each other. But it’s my belief that ‘normal’ people will not.

In part this was suggested by Andrew Keen onstage at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam. His point is that there is “no permission” given when the person in front of you is brandishing Google Glass. He’s right, and I can see most people asking the person to remove their Glass before conducting a civil conversation. You just don’t see that happening when two people with smartphones start talking.

Where I can see Google Glass working is in activities where you require both hands to be free. Skiing down a mountain filming, using the Glass like you would a GoPro camera, for instance. And in industrial applications – building and manufacturing, yes, I can see this would work very well: “Show House Plans” for instance, would be a great command for a building app. And you can see the police suddenly thinking of a few useful applications."

So while Butcher thinks the technology will have some beneficial uses, he believes it is not going to seamlessly integrate into day to day life for the majority of people. Butcher also raises a good point concerning privacy. If it is so easy to take pictures, recordings, and collect data using the glass as Scoble suggests, then what right do wearer's have to subject others to the lens of their glasses, could wearers breach privacy by surreptitiously recording others, and what information about individuals can be accessed by wearers. In the end who has the right? Google glass wearers or non-wearers. For those who are keen to sport the new eye-wear, it might be a good idea to employ Google Glass etiquette. Google has recently released official advice on appropriate behaviour while wearing the smartglasses and to help wearer's avoid becoming "Glassholes".

Of course there are those who question the need to have all this information available at eye-level all the time. The UK newspaper, The Guardian, produced a brilliant spoof of Google Glass with their Guardian Goggles, for April Fools Day this year. You can watch the clip here.



Perhaps the Guardian Goggle's slogan hits the mark when it comes to such technologies "Guardian Goggles: because life's too short to think for yourself"



More seriously, Charles Arthur, technology editor for The Guardian recently reviewed Google Glass, discussing its potentials, shortcomings, possible impact on social interaction and privacy concerns:



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