The Good and Bad of Glass

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After all of us explored Glass for 48 hours, the class got together and brainstormed about what works with the device and what doesn’t.

For starters, we had varied experiences based on whether we had iPhone or Android phones or used it during the day or night. We also felt that there’s a learning curve to getting comfortable with Glass that we had to overcome. Based on our discussion, we put together this extensive list.

First the good

Glass is a unique wearable with potential to disrupt the future of storytelling.  Here’s what we liked:

Quick Access: During his pitch presentation, one of our peers, said, “The biggest difference between a smartphone and Google Glass for me is that your phone is in your pocket and you’re wearing glass on your head.” With Glass, we can capture moments as they are happening – no more fumbling through pockets to find the smartphone, no more wasted time turning the camera app on. Just say, “Ok Glass,” and “take a picture.”

Hands-free experience: Imagine browsing through a recipe while cooking or talking to another surgeon while operating. A hands free experience opens up a world of possibilities for multitasking.

Less distracting than a regular camcorder: With Glass, after a few minutes, people forget they are being videotaped and start being themselves, said filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty when he visited our class. For journalists, this is a huge opportunity to get people comfortable and open up.

POV (Point of View) story telling: Some stories, no matter how well reported they are, have much better impact if told from a character’s point of view. Glass is arguably one of the best devices we have to do that.

Hardware/software highs: Glass syncs seamlessly with an Android phone and works really well in the Android environment. Some of us using iPhone had a lot more trouble tethering our phones to Glass. The tiny 5 Megapixel camera takes really good quality photos, given the right lighting. It’s also got great speech recognition, intuitive web browsing experience, and lots of sensors like nudge, wink, head recognition, that elevate the hands-free experience.

Now, for the Bad

Though Glass has several advantages, it has a lot of areas that need significant improvement. Since it’s a relatively new device, it still lacks some basic features and needs hardware upgrading.

Battery life/Glass heats up: It’s really hard to consume or shoot video to Glass’s fullest potential with the battery life it has right now. One of our peers tried to record videos at a concert. He recorded 18 minutes before his battery drained out. Chaganty and other glass explorers say they carry external battery packs in their bags all the time. Video consumption on Glass is very limited also because it heats up just after minutes of video recording or shooting. All this limits hands-free multimedia usage on Glass, one of its biggest advantages.

Screen on the right side: It takes a while for everyone to get used to Glass – it’s heavier on one side and needs adjustment if you’re wearing prescribed glasses already. But, it poses an even bigger problem for the few of us whose left eye is dominant or have a longsighted right eye. Since the screen only on the right side, some of us can have very uncomfortable experiences.

Socially distracting: Glass is intimate. So if a message pops up on its window, it’s hard to ignore, unlike in a cellphone. We can turn individual apps off when we don’t want to be distracted and turn them on later, but that’s a cumbersome process. Ideally, there needs to be a way to opt-in and opt-out of Glass.

Wait till we say send: Though Glass’s natural language processing, or NLP, is pretty good, some of us had awkward experiences. Professor Hernandez said something that translated to “my sister’s pee.” Right now, we have to panic and specifically cancel the message before it automatically sends it. But what if it was the other way around? Glass has to wait till we say send before it sends the message?

Organizing content: Outside of the linear cards system, where all content is organized chronologically along one timeline, there’s not an ideal way organize, browse or retrieve content. Glass is meant to go along with phones, tablets and other devices, but still not having any system in place can be uncomfortable. On other hand, its minimalism is what makes it so light. This is a con up for debate.

Shaky videos: With Glass, the wearer is the tripod and human tripods are the worst of the lot. At best, videos are stable for 2-3 seconds per shot. There’s no feature to stabilize video quality.

Lacks context awareness: While wearables sync with the phones, they don’t divide their jobs. If the phone rings, the wearable rings too. If a message pops on one, it pops on the other too. Mostly, a user is using one at a time, so lack of context awareness is distracting.

Camera terrible at night: The camera is terrific during the day, but takes very poor quality pictures in the night.

There are other positives and negatives we discussed as well. The class generated this list:


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On October 6, 2014

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