Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Here's Looking at Google

When I was a kid, wearing glasses wasn't cool.  In fact, anyone seen wearing glasses was automatically labelled 'four eyes', which was unfortunate given that I'm short sighted.  And come to think of it, I wasn't that cool to start with either. Now it seems that wearing glasses is going to be the coolest thing going.

Google have announced the API specification and target pricing for the much awaited Google Glass they are planning to launch next year, perhaps towards the end of this year.  For those who like to cut to the chase, expect to have to find around $1500 or the UK Sterling equivalent for early adopters.  What does that get you?

Well, Google Glass is a wearable computer - there's been a lot of talk about this subject this year already and I've written the odd speculative blog post about smart watches.  The specification for the Google Glass is a 16 GB computer with about 12 GB available to use.  It'll also connect to the Google Cloud to allow files to be stored off the glasses.  It uses WiFi and Bluetooth - I'm not aware of a 3G or 4G option yet, but you may be able to transfer files to your Nexus if you need to make a bit of space on the fly, I guess.  And of course, the lack of a cellular option doesn't limit them from acting as your mobile phone as you can Bluetooth the call from your phone to the Google Glass.

In practise it is a spectacle frame that Google say will accommodate prescription lenses, with a monitor lens that acts like a Head Up Display (HUD) in the right hand eye-piece, just off to the side.  Pretty much in your peripheral vision most of the time unless you choose to look directly at it.  Some reports say the HUD is like having a 25 inch monitor at normal viewing distances and the Google resolution is claimed to be High Definition.

It also has voice activation and, judging by the Google videos out there on the web, gesture response.  As well as pushing information to you, you can capture information by taking photographs or videos of events in front of you, hence the reasonable amount of storage and the Cloud upload capability although given the rate devices like the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad eat up storage I suspect users will need to be disciplined when using these devices.

In use you can photograph or video items you see in front of you, upload them to social networks or email them by dictating the name of the person you want to send the picture to.  Or, faced with an object you don't recognise, you can Google it - don't even think of asking about Binging - and of course simple translations are notionally available.  At least the promo adverts show simple one or two word phrases being translated, but if you've followed my blog earlier this week you'll know I think there's a way to go with on-line translation.  However, come the day it is a practical reality, this is probably a good way to use it.  In time, perhaps this will become the universal translator of the Star Trek series.

Sound is conveyed through bone transducer speakers, that is vibrations along the arms of the glasses that resonate the bone just above your ears.  I've no idea how effective that is from an aural perspective, but it would be unusual if Google provide High Definition video and not something of a similar standard for sound.

Other uses that Google are pitching are using their built in Sat Nav - no more looking down from the screen to see where you're being directed to.  And of course, the nagging voice will be in your head and not annoying your passengers.  Hopefully you can argue back with the Sat Nav when it starts to send you down a farm track - if you've taken the time to look at Digital Life Form you'll understand why I'm quite keen on that concept - but I guess only time will tell.

Another use could be watching instructional videos while learning a new skill; trainers should be sitting up around the world right now thinking of ways to harness this possibility   Perhaps Computer Based Training might actually become a realistic option (I'm still waiting to see a really effective CBT solution that betters human instruction, however I'm biased and a bit old school).  If on-line training isn't your bag, how about watching a film on Netflix while rustling up the evening meal, or maybe just looking up the recipe while making the meal?  In work you could watch that film while pretending to square the company accounts?  So nothing new there.

Google reckon that you'll get a day's use out of one battery charge, but qualify that with a caution that video usage will probably reduce the effective usage time.  I assume that users will be using these devices quite intensively in that day frame - hopefully Google have made the same assumption.  They may look cool, but if the battery is dead, I'd probably revert to my own glasses.

I'm not sure that I'll be an early adopter of the Google Glass product, especially at the introductory lead-in price, but I can see that it has a place.  In fact it could be a game changer.  Only time will tell if it is as slick and usable as the promotional videos suggest - my hunch is that it probably isn't quite as good all the time - it's a computer, for goodness sake, which is another reason to avoid being the early adopter - but in the medium term I think this could become a normal way for folk to access their portable computing needs and should be way cooler than dragging an iPad around.

And who would have thought a couple of years ago that wearing glasses might be considered cooler than carrying an iPad?


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