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Google Glass: Ergonomics, Performance, And Practicality, Tested

Google Glass: Ergonomics, Performance, And Practicality, Tested
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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

Video: 720p
Audio
Bone Conduction Transducer
Connectivity
Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g (2.4 GHz-only)

Bluetooth
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.

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  • 5 Hide
    Benthon , May 14, 2013 10:03 PM
    I'm personally excited to see where this takes off to. They just need to bring the price down and they have a new generation of product. Great review! It definitely was cute to see your kid walking around and getting him water/playing with him from his perspective.
  • 0 Hide
    blackmagnum , May 14, 2013 10:05 PM
    Elitist geek tech. Making it illusive like Gmail beta. We can only watch and dream.
  • -1 Hide
    witcherx , May 14, 2013 11:01 PM
    why not just make lens.. come on aliens...
    why give us outdated products...
  • 6 Hide
    CaptainTom , May 15, 2013 12:30 AM
    This really is the future. It will just take the third generation or so before it becomes mainstream practical. Oh and I want the lenses to be screens themselves, that would be cyberpunk badass!
  • 0 Hide
    virtualban , May 15, 2013 1:25 AM
    Why do you keep saying "Equivalent of a 25-inch HD screen from eight feet away"? The resolution, according to other sources, is not even 720p.
    You could say "Equivalent of a 16:9, 25-inch screen from eight feet away"
  • 3 Hide
    cats_Paw , May 15, 2013 1:37 AM
    Considering the Privacy issues this will bring on the population, this product might be a big fail.

    I know if i had any form ob bussines, i would not allow my customers to be filmed there. That means, no google glass.
  • 0 Hide
    Vorador2 , May 15, 2013 3:23 AM
    cats_PawConsidering the Privacy issues this will bring on the population, this product might be a big fail.I know if i had any form ob bussines, i would not allow my customers to be filmed there. That means, no google glass.


    Privacy issues? The same than people with a phone. Nowadays anyone with a smartphone can take photos or record videos.

    The only thing it needs to do is to put a led than lights up when people take photos or make videos.
  • 1 Hide
    kettu , May 15, 2013 3:53 AM
    "Take it from a dad, though: there’s something to be said for playing with your kid and recording it, rather than watching him run around, passively, through a smartphone camera (50 minutes of video at a time, that is)."

    I bet that recording everything gets real old real fast. What are you going to with thousands of hours of video? Show it to your friends? I bet they'll love every minute of it! :) 
  • 3 Hide
    randomizer , May 15, 2013 4:00 AM
    That is going to be shown at his 21st isn't it?
  • 1 Hide
    butremor , May 15, 2013 5:49 AM
    I like this video showing how it looks like looking thoriugh a glass http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-y3bEjEVV8
  • 1 Hide
    ruffopurititiwang , May 15, 2013 6:52 AM
    I'll wait until apple comes out with their version, made of glass and aluminum. Because more weight means higher quality. Patented, of course.
  • 0 Hide
    AndrewJacksonZA , May 15, 2013 7:45 AM
    What I wouldn't give for a recording of my Dad and my Mom playing with me as a child, from my perspective and from theirs.
  • 0 Hide
    Tuishimi , May 15, 2013 9:10 AM
    The video was adorable. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    TeraMedia , May 15, 2013 11:28 AM
    Next it will be at weddings - possibly even as part of a photog package. Brides and Grooms can see the entire affair from each others' perspectives, as well as from that of guests, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    internetlad , May 15, 2013 11:42 AM
    kettuWhat are you going to with thousands of hours of video? Show it to your friends? I bet they'll love every minute of it!


    How old are you? Old enough not to appreciate looking back on your life, apparently.

    My son is only 3 years old now, and my wife and I constantly remark that we wish we had taken more videos to remember all the incredible things he did in the first couple of years, some of which are now certainly forgotten.
  • 1 Hide
    kettu , May 15, 2013 1:56 PM
    internetladHow old are you? Old enough not to appreciate looking back on your life, apparently. My son is only 3 years old now, and my wife and I constantly remark that we wish we had taken more videos to remember all the incredible things he did in the first couple of years, some of which are now certainly forgotten.


    Old enough to realise that there is nothing more boring than watching other peoples homemovies about their children who do "incredible" things.
  • 2 Hide
    travish82 , May 15, 2013 2:12 PM
    I think I'm done with technology until batteries advance. As it stands now, my smartphone has to sit on the charger for half the day, and it looks like these glasses are no different. The only battery powered tech I own that's worth a crap is my eInk Kindle Touch. EVERYTHING else should last a month on one charge. I'm not kidding. Make this happen. You can have all the money I have if you give me a month long cell phone battery. Otherwise, keep your garbage outta my face.
  • 1 Hide
    AnUnusedUsername , May 15, 2013 7:56 PM
    travish82I think I'm done with technology until batteries advance. As it stands now, my smartphone has to sit on the charger for half the day, and it looks like these glasses are no different. The only battery powered tech I own that's worth a crap is my eInk Kindle Touch. EVERYTHING else should last a month on one charge. I'm not kidding. Make this happen. You can have all the money I have if you give me a month long cell phone battery. Otherwise, keep your garbage outta my face.


    The average $15 "dumb" phone will last a week or more on one charge, just FYI.
  • -1 Hide
    morpheas768 , May 15, 2013 10:08 PM
    So, even when you're walking on a street where there's no street camera's on, you'll still wont feel safe because of Glass creepers everywhere.

    As if our privacy wasnt intruded enough every day.

    Yes, I am a hater. You can flame me, I dont care. Google Glass needs to die.
  • -1 Hide
    Gulli , May 16, 2013 6:32 AM
    Not convinced: talking to your glasses and flipping your head backwards to shift through files is ridiculous and annoying. Better wait until something like a neural interface is available.

    P.S. This thing needs a guarantee against ads (especially popups, which couls kill you if you are walking on a busy street). Even then I think of the poor souls who get recorded on video against their will with no way to know if your glass is on.
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