Google's Glass Explorer Edition kit showed up at my house late last week, and I've been living with it ever since. We have first impressions on ergonomics, etiquette, practicality, performance, and the future of Google's wearable computer.
Want to feel like a celebrity (or a tool—is there a difference) in a place like Bakersfield, CA? Walk into an AT&T store wearing Google Glass. Or a local brewery. Or just watch other drivers do double-takes out of your peripheral vision. I did all three and more this past weekend; everyone wants to know, “Is that the latest from Google? How does it work? Can I try?”
The truth of the matter is that there’s a ton of upfront novelty to the Google Glass Explorer Edition kit. It ships in dramatic packaging, which you pry open, exposing the wearable computer resting on the closest thing you get to instructions: bullet points to indicate each button and function.
Also included are Glass Shades and a Glass Shield, the former a collaboration between Maui Jim and Zeal Optics to double as sunglasses and the latter to protect your eyes on windy days. Of course, you can also use Glass without either. A drawstring pouch with a hardened base protects Glass when you aren’t using it. A flexible USB cable facilitates charging and data transfer, while a USB-to-AC adapter plugs into the wall as an alternative power source.
When it comes to discussing hardware, it's most natural for me to dive right into tech specs, since that’s often where we get the best sense for performance. In this case, Glass' internals don’t seem to be as relevant (although Jay Lee, a Google Apps Solutions Architect, discovered that the SoC inside is a TI OMAP4430). The experience is far more important, and that equally involves speed, features, weight, battery life, and the interface.
With that said, it's still nice to know what Glass can and can't do:
|Google Glass Tech Specs|
|Display||Equivalent of a 25-inch HD screen from eight feet away|
|Camera||Photos: 5 MP|
|Audio||Bone Conduction Transducer|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g (2.4 GHz-only)|
|Storage||12 GB usable memory; 16 GB total|
|Charger||Bundled micro-USB cable and AC charger|
|Compatibility||MyGlass app currently requires Android 4.0.3, enabling GPS and SMS messaging|
The Ergonomics of Glass
So, right off the bat, what’s it like wearing Glass? Carrying it around? Glass isn’t one of those devices you can easily leave the house with and discreetly tuck away if you find yourself getting stared at. The frame is flexible in that it’ll stand up to significant bending, but you can’t fold the arms back. So, you’re wearing them, you’re holding them in your hand, or you’re carrying around the protective bag like a little murse, in my case.
Fortunately, you probably won’t find yourself pulling Glass off due to physical discomfort. That is to say, it fits well. As-configured the bridge sat on my nose delicately, and I didn’t have an issue wearing Glass for hours at a time. The Explorer Edition kit came with two additional sets of pads, so I’m sure if the originals weren’t quite right, I could have done a bit of customization.
You’ll also notice that one of Glass’ arms is longer than the other. The side with all of the electronics extends past my head a bit—but not so much that it interferes when I lean back in the car. Glass appears as though it might be imbalanced on your face; it’s light enough, though, that this isn’t noticeable. On a digital scale, Glass weighs 43 g (sans Shade or Shield), while my Ray-Ban Warriors weigh 37 g.
I don’t wear glasses or contacts, so sliding in the bundled Shield during the day wasn’t a big deal for me when I needed protection from the sun. However, multiple folks wearing their own corrective lenses reached for Glass, eager to try it out, only to realize the incompatibility with a second frame. The good news is that Google’s team already has plans in place to support prescription glasses in the not-too-distant future. Moreover, the company readily admits that eye strain or headache aren’t unheard of. I still remember when Half-Life 2 came out and some gamers reported nausea. Likewise, this is going to be a technology that simply doesn’t agree with everyone’s physiology.
The only other issue I stumbled across was a tendency to hold Glass by the more rigid right side. Because that’s where all of the electronics are stashed (most notably the touchpad), I snapped untold pictures of the ground as I walked around with Glass in my hand. Enabling On-Head Detection should have fixed this, but it isn’t foolproof; the sensor that’s supposed to be calibrated for your face still picks up hands.