Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Google Glass Q & A

Note: updated 19 December 2013 to reflect changes with XE12: you can now wink to take photos.

Q: Are those Google Glasses?
A: For some reason, the plural sounds so much less cool. Unless you're making fun of me, it’s called Glass.

Q: Are those Google Goggles?
A: Goggles are a different Google product.

Q: What do you see right now?
A: Nothing. The display is usually off unless you're interacting with the device. The big activities that keep the display on are walking navigation and recording a video.

Q: Facial recognition blah blah blah?
A: Nope. Technically you could create a facial recognition app, but it certainly doesn't ship with one. I'm not aware of an app for it either. I’m guessing facial recognition apps would eat some serious battery power or bandwidth.

Q: Can the NSA see me?
A: Yes, it seems like the NSA is spying on a lot of people in the world, but probably not through Glass. I don't think I would have much battery life, storage, or data plan left if I were streaming audio or video to the NSA. I’m not sure how easy it is for the NSA to spy on the audio or video I intentionally record. Google is currently working to make NSA spying more difficult.

Q: Can you see through my clothes?
A: No I can’t. Not unless you're wearing a cling-wrap kilt.

Q: What does it look like?
A: When the display is on, it feels a lot like looking at the rear view mirror in a car. It’s not blocking much of your vision, and you glance up to see it. A few people who have tried on my Glass have been confused by the optics of the display because they expected to be focusing at something centimeters from your eye. Both the size of the display and it’s apparent focus distance make it seem like looking at a largish TV at 8 feet or so.

Q: So if you look at something about 6 to 8 feet away, the display on Glass will appear in focus?
A: That’s about right. I think this is a Good Thing because I believe there is a lot less eye strain at that focus distance.

Q: OK Glass, take a picture!
A: Sorry, that trick only works if Glass is active and I’m on the home screen. If that were the case, shouting commands might have worked. Nice try though.

Q: How does it feel? Is it comfortable?
A: I rarely notice Glass when I'm not using it. When I first got it, I tended to get headaches if I wore it for more than a few hours without a break. I’m told that folks who start wearing prescription lenses can experience the same thing if they don't ease into it. Now I'm used to Glass, and it doesn't bother me. I sometimes forget I'm wearing it, or not wearing it.

Q: Is it augmented reality?
A: That depends on the definition of Augmented reality. I think most folks associate AR with informational overlays on live video feeds. In that definition, AR involves looking through a device to see the world. You don’t look through Glass’s display to see the world. Glass feels a little bit more like closed captioning, or Picture-In-Picture for reality. Glass can provide information based on your location and other cues. I regularly use a Glass app called Field Trip, and it provides information about nearby landmarks as I travel.

Q: How long does the battery last?
A: In my experience, the battery life varies a lot depending on your usage. On my normal day, I have battery left when I get home. When I travel, I use it a lot, and I often have to charge it after 4 hours or so.

Q: How much do you wear it?
A: I wear it 80-90% of the time when I’m not home or at the office. Since I'm surrounded by computers and communications devices there, Glass seems redundant. I also don't wear Glass at Crossfit because I’m afraid of shorting it out with gallons of sweat, or smashing a kettlebell into it. I also don't wear it when I'm feeling extra introverted. Glass is a great way to meet strangers.

Q: What is the biggest change it has made in your life?
A: The biggest change is that a lot of strangers walk up and talk to me. The second biggest change is the ability to respond to text messages and email without touching anything. The ability to spontaneously take photos is a close third.

Q: When will it be released, how much will it cost, and will it do X?
A: I have no idea.

Q: Do you work for Google? Did they give it to you?
A: No, I work for Evernote. I paid for Glass out of my own pocket.

Q: Did you have to tweet to get it?
A: No, I'm part of a different group. I attended Google’s developer conference, Google IO 2012. Anyone who attended that conference had an opportunity to sign up to purchase Glass.

Q: I thought it had lenses.
A: That’s not a question. Also, it does have two sets of lenses that snap in: a clear shield, and a polarized sun shield. With the polarized shades, Glass looks like an especially intense pair of sunglasses. Fewer folks notice that it is Google Glass.

Q: How do you charge Glass?
A: Glass has a micro-USB port located a bit in front of your right ear, facing down.

Q: Has Glass gotten you in trouble anywhere.
A: Not really. A bouncer at a club in San Francisco was scandalized when I told him that it could take photos. He implied that photography in a nightclub was a huge breach of etiquette. I offered to wear Glass around my neck, and he was OK with that. Another time, a man walked up to me and said I couldn't wear Glass in a pub. When I asked him who he was, he admitted that he was just a patron and that he was messing with me. We both laughed and chatted about Glass.

Q: Do you wear Glass in the restroom?
A: I remove Glass from my face and wear it backwards around my neck in the restroom. Ever since Nick Bilton’s strange blog post and NYT article about Glass in the restroom, I've tried to avoid accusations of urinal photography. We live in strange times, but it seems like good etiquette.

Q: Oh, does Glass take photos when you wink?
A: As of XE12 (released 17 December 2013), it is possible to configure the second-generation Glass Explorer Editions to take photos when the user winks the right eye. You can read more about the feature in the wink help page. You'll note that they offer etiquette advice, and that it is considered an experimental feature. Not the way they arrive from Google! There is a piece of third-party software that uses the proximity sensor to detect a wink (I think) and trigger a photo. As convenient as this may be, I think it has a high creepy factor. I haven't installed it. I think this misconception around wink photograpny started with Nick Bilton's article. He implies that wink photography is a standard feature of Glass, even though it is a hack. I really wish he had asked someone first before writing about it in the New York Times.

Q: How do I know you aren't taking a photo or recording this now?
A: Out of the box, a photo or video will activate the display, which you can see from both sides of the prism. But I suppose you don't know for sure; I might have hacked Glass, or I might be wearing a wire or a hidden-camera bow tie.

Q: People standing in front of you can see what you're looking at?
A: Yes. The display looks quite small from the other side, but you can see it. If you were really close, you could probably read it. You would probably know if I was using Glass rather than paying attention to you.

Q: Tell me something ironic.
A: Many people with smart phones try to take covert photos of me wearing Glass. 

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