A Cup Of Coffee And Google Glass

Introduction and Experience

I recently had the good fortune to sit down with David Drum, Research Manager at MOREnet and Google Glass Explorer, to get some hands-on time with the high-tech face computer that Google is testing in the wild. Over a cup of joe at a local coffeeshop, David gave me a chance to play with Google Glass for myself.

The first thing I realized upon inspecting Google Glass was that I really should have put in my contacts that morning instead of my usual specs. Google Glass and eyeglasses don’t mix very well. Here’s a vote for Google Glass with pop-in prescription lenses.

Wearable computing is all the rage, and for good reason; pretty much everyone can agree that although our smartphones are immensely powerful, they’re actually rather inconvenient. Using one requires at least one hand, often two, and it’s cumbersome to dig into your pocket, purse, or bag to retrieve them whenever you get a notification. We’re slaves to those dings and boops.

Google Glass is one of the more promising bits of wearable technology out there. Smartwatches are proliferating like rabbits, sure, and other glasses-type tech is in the offing, but Google Glass has the full backing of one of the largest companies in the world and is also the pet project of one of its founders.

And, I can now say with confidence, Google Glass is both an impressive device and it has a long way to go before it’s ready for primetime.

Google Glass

The Experience
David gave me a tour of the specs with such ease, almost as if he’s partially memorized his spiel, that it’s clear I’m not the first person he’s introduced to Glass. It seemed to me that in a way he felt a responsibility as an Explorer to evangelize Glass, or at least to share it with any curious folks that wanted to see the thing for themselves.

He brought with him the whole kit and kaboodle: the Glass specs themselves, two sets of interchangeable lenses (one clear and one dark for the outdoors), the carrying case, and the chic shopping-style bags it all comes in. The extra lenses feature a nifty design wherein they just pop in and out with a delicate yet satisfying snap.

Google Glass with lens inserts

My first thought upon donning Glass is that it’s a bit heavy, or at least unbalanced, and for daily glasses wearers the lack of lightness and iffy balance is a bit of a shock. The display is designed to reside up and away from your eye so that you’re not cyborging it all the time--that is, looking at the real world with one eye and looking at a display with the other--but when you’re wearing Glass, the display is very much in your peripheral vision.

Although Drum said he’s gotten used to the above inconveniences, he also noted that you can give yourself some eye strain, as well as an unpleasant headache if you’re not careful, if you spend too much time looking slightly upwards at the display.

The display itself is surprisingly bright and clear, but I was surprised to see that there was a lot of optical clutter surrounding it. This is due to the prism system: The projection--this is quite clever--is bounced through a prism, off a reflective surface, and back again to give the eye a sense of depth. The extra visual mess around the display might be something Glass users just have to get used to, but I imagine some brilliant young Googler will eventually figure out a way to optimize the setup.

Google Glass HMD

It’s also worth noting that the reflective foil gate on the outer edge of the prism has been known to de-laminate and actually crinkle a bit, like a raisin, in high heat or humidity. Clearly that’s a design flaw that Google will need to sort out. Speaking of heat, I noticed that Glass got rather warm when I was using it; heat dissipation may be another issue that Google needs to address.

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