Taking Google Glass for a run
- 8 April 2014
- From the section Technology
I've started an experiment - and so far it's had mixed reactions.
"You look a complete idiot," said my teenage son. "Must you wear that thing?" asked my wife. But "Wow that's exciting!" said at least a couple of colleagues.
The "thing" in question is Google Glass, which I'm wearing in a project with two aims. Firstly, I want to assess just how likely it is that this device, which puts smartphone capabilities in a screen in front of your right eye, will become the standard bearer for the nascent wearable tech industry. And secondly, like other news organisations, we are trying to work out whether Google Glass might prove to be a useful new tool in our journalism.
It's the device's video filming capabilities that are of particular interest to me. Some reporters have already used Glass to film in difficult circumstances, such as riots and demonstrations. We're wondering whether it might be possible to live-stream the presenter's eye view during our weekly World Service radio programme Tech Tent. (So far, that's looking tricky, but we will persevere.)
And a colleague who writes for the BBC's disability blog Ouch wants to investigate whether Glass could be used by people with visual impairment. Could you for instance make a video call to a friend with better sight to show them what Glass was seeing?
So far, I'm intrigued by the possibilities that Glass offers, but not convinced that the the user interface is up to scratch. Learning to make my way efficiently through the menus by stroking and tapping the side of the frame has proved tricky. For a while I thought I'd mastered lifting my head to turn the device on, and winking to take a picture - but then both somehow stopped working.
Then I was foolhardy enough to wear Glass for a run early this morning with my dog. Taking pictures was relatively simple, but when a message popped up telling me about a friend's birthday I hit trouble. While trying to dismiss the message, I suddenly found I was calling her in the US - where it was the middle of the night.
As for the look of the device, that obviously leaves something to be desired, but apart from the derision of family and colleagues, I've yet to experience either the curiosity or the outright hostility that some American users have reported when they wear Glass in public places. Perhaps the British are just more tolerant of bizarre public behaviour.
Some people have worried about information overload, but I have not found the device intrusive. Although it sends me tweets, emails and news alerts, I have to choose to look at them. In fact, I'm looking for more, not less, from this gadget, still trying to work out what the "killer app" might be.
Still, it is early days. There is all sorts of software under development for Google Glass - from a recipe app that suggests what you can make from ingredients you see in the supermarket to a translator which will help you understand what's on the menu when you're abroad. I'm going to try out as much as I can and will report back here on my impressions.