A week behind Google Glass reveals the world may not be ready for the high …

I hate it.

It shouldn’t be this way. I’m a tech reporter. I like new technology. And I admire the vision of technology that Google promises Glass could offer: a device that lets you keep track of e-mails, texts and other messages and seamlessly allows you to discern which beeps and buzzes from your smartphone are important, and which aren’t — all through a screen perched just over your right eye.

Headed into a week with Glass, on loan from a co-worker, I was prepared to review a buggy product. Glass after all has only been released to developers, media and a handful of “normal” people willing to spend $1,500 on an untested product. I expected tension headaches from constantly trying to focus on a floating screen above my line of vision. (I only got one, for what it’s worth.) I even prepared myself to be comfortable talking aloud to the product in public, because one way to control it is through voice commands.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the attention. I was one of the few sporting Glass in D.C., and that means getting a lot of it. Most of it was good attention from curious people. Still, I am a wallflower and wearing something that puts the focus on me is more or less my personal idea of hell.

Anyone who buys Glass should be ready and willing to be on display. Wearing Google Glass in public is like wearing a sandwich board that says “Talk to me!” And given the rare but highly publicized fights, robberies and other incidents Glass users have experienced, I was more than a little wary about wearing them in public. I had a job to do, though, and I wore them nearly everywhere: to work, to the grocery store, out with friends — even to choir rehearsal.

Here’s a sample of what I heard (or overheard) in the week I spent with Glass from friends and strangers: “Is she wearing Google Glass?” “Is that what I think that is?” “Are you recording, like, right now?” “You look ridiculous.”

Or, my personal favorite, delivered deadpan, from a friend: “Oh. Hayley.”

Oh, yes. Google Glass is an intriguing device but has a lot of flaws. More than two years into development, the number of technical bugs is surprising.

On the hardware side, Glass tended to heat up — sometimes after just 10 minutes of use — and needed to be charged multiple times a day. The sensors on the device were also far from perfect, and there were many times when I’d have to re-tap, re-swipe or (and maybe this is the worst) jerk my head repeatedly to wake the device when it went dormant. I probably reset it at least half a dozen times in the course of normal use, because it wouldn’t respond to my frantic taps, or refused to connect to my smartphone, even when there were no other network problems.

Glass works better with Google’s Android phones (in my case, an HTC One M8 on loan from HTC) than with the iPhone, if only because the integration between the Google systems is quite a bit smoother.

As for software, developers have been smart about designing apps in ways that minimize the amount of data that bombards users. Big names such as Facebook, Twitter and CNN provide a strong core for Glass. The CNN app, for example, will let you see headlines for top stories, or by subject, and serves you headlines, photos and short videos.

There are, however, other apps that would be nice to have — particularly photo apps, for example, to take advantage of the point-of-view vantage you get with the device.

The iPhone experience with Glass is improving. In fact, Google added a feature allowing Glass users to see iPhone’s text notifications the week I wore the device. And some functions of Glass, such as the ability to project what a Glass user sees to a paired phone, were fantastic and useful in ways I didn’t anticipate, because it made wearing Glass a social experience. Other functions, such as turn-by-turn directions, worked naturally on the heads-up display and let me take in the scenery while getting to a new destination.

But even though I tried, very hard, to make Glass a part of my life, I didn’t feel comfortable with the screen hovering just out of my line of sight. I didn’t get any direct challenges about filming others without their permission — not that I ever did — but nearly every person I encountered asked if I was filming.

Most of all, when letting others try on the device, I got a glimpse of what they were seeing with me: a conversation partner who was like a dinner guest who keeps looking at the door, as if to check if there’s another person in the room they’d rather be talking to. Think of every person with earbuds or a Bluetooth headset who’s annoyed you for the same reason. Now multiply it by a factor of 10.

And that goes against what Glass is about: The idea is that you can avoid those awkward moments when you try and sneak a peek at your smartphone — something that’s always much more obvious than you think.

After a few days, I started to use the device as I think I would in real life: in situations when I needed to watch something hands-free, or when I wasn’t required to actively engage with others . In those cases, Glass worked as promised. It delivered updates to keep me informed without bombarding me, and acted as a useful second screen to my smartphone.

But that also meant, more often than not, Glass ended up on the top of my head — the way you wear your sunglasses indoors — or discreetly tucked into my bag, in order to keep it from being the subject of conversation.

Would I buy Google Glass? No, not now, especially at the $1,500 price point. The device has a lot of evolving to do before it’s ready for the world.

And the world has some evolving to do, too, before it’s ready for Glass.


Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/a-week-behind-google-glass-reveals-the-world-may-not-be-ready-for-the-high-tech-device/2014/05/02/178939be-cfad-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html

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