Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Google Glass (For Now)

I’m a bit sad to say, but also somewhat relieved, that I just dropped off my Glass at the local UPS store to be returned. Why am I saying goodbye to Google Glass after just a few short weeks? Well for one, it will sure be nice to see $1500 redeposited into my bank account. The money isn’t everything though; if I had felt the device merited such a hefty price tag, especially if I saw a window (pardon the pun) for immediate digital media development opportunities, then I would have sucked it up and stuck it out. But as it turned out, I just didn’t see the light through Glass. Yet. Here’s the scoop:

Performance

video through Google Glass

One of the animated GIF videos published through Glass.

The truth is that Glass simply didn’t excel in most of the tasks that I set out to accomplish in the weeks I tested the device. In my last review (A Week with Google Glass), I detailed some of the activities in which I tried out Glass, so I won’t go into detail on those specific tests again. While some things, like cooking, turned out to be very handy to have a web-connected computer on my head and its nearly hands-free access to information, it just didn’t cut the mustard for most of my day-to-day activities.

In many cases, it kinda got in the way. Or at least it slowed me down on a few occasions, especially when trying to access web pages through that tiny screen. For sites that are responsively designed or had mobile-specific versions, it was okay, not great, to read the pages. But if you need to click on a link to go to another page, forget about it. There’s a double-click, then tediously attempt to scroll around to the link, typically a small one-word target amongst other small one-word targets, and try to click it (no, damnit, not that one! Ok almost got it… wait, no! F—!). Basically, trying to surf the web was a big fail.

The small range of apps, called Glassware, that are currently available performed quite a bit better than web surfing, for the most part. Some of them, like the Evernote app, I found to be generally awesome; except for the lack of punctuation that I’ll discuss in a moment.

Lack of Punctuation

(Moment passed.) Ok, this may seem trivial, but it drove me crazy. Call me an old-fashioned dinosaur who lived in a world long, long ago where text messaging didn’t exist, but I like punctuation. As well as Capitalization. I just couldn’t figure out how to put a period at the end of a sentence, or a comma for that matter; and every word was lowercase, unless Google knew it to be a proper noun. Perhaps, being an old guy of not-even-40 years old, I’m just plain clueless with this new world of digital stuff, and missed the memo on how to add punctuation.

Or maybe it just isn’t possible yet. Either way, all of my text messages, emails, Evernotes, and any other dictated text ended up as really long run on sentences I don’t really like run on sentences my teachers maybe beat that one into my head I went to school a long time ago though.

“Nearly” Hands-Free

hands-free learning through Glass

An experiment with Glass hands-free learning, setting up worm bin.

I mentioned that a few paragraphs ago, but I think it’s worth elucidating on this point. One of the advantages of a device like Glass is that I can, in theory, just go about my day normally and when I need something, I give Glass a call. Glass jumps on the case, delivers me the vital info I need, and then I get back to business. Maybe we’re just spoiled by visions of Tony Stark and his charming British computer friend, but Glass didn’t quite match my expectations for hands-free power.

Case in point: “Ok Glass, Listen to… Mumford and Sons. Play. Play. I said Play! WTF? Oh, no more voice activation. I guess I need to click the edge through like 8 more buttons to get the playlist to play.”  Or my experience with the cooking timer: hands covered in raw chicken, “Ok Glass, start timer… Oh. No can do hands-free.”

Digital Media Opportunities

One of the primary reasons I wanted to get Glass was for business opportunities for Helix River. Seems inevitable that we’ll all be wearing these types of devices in the coming years, and that they will play a big role in the worlds of education and delivery of knowledge. For now though, just doesn’t seem quite ready for the kind of stuff we’re working on, like mediaBooks on WordPress and web design. The screen in simply too small to present more than very basic instructions. In itself this isn’t terrible, as it can force us wordy teachers and authors to get to the freaking point. But the fact is that using Glass to get information for things about web design while sitting at a computer, it is far easier to just use the damn computer.

This isn’t to say that I don’t see Helix River diving into the world of Glass for future digital media projects. It will no doubt become a powerful tool for lots of educational endeavors in the next few years. For now, just isn’t ready for what we’re doing.

Public Perception

I put this last, because frankly, I don’t really give a crap what people think of me while wearing my face computer. But I know my wife sure did get pissed off nearly every time I wore it. Even in the house, in my own home office. “Hey, I’m in my space here! I can wear what I want!”

Nonetheless, people look at you like you’re an alien with this thing on your head. While many people (all of them quite young) in my office space (not the home one) thought it looked awesome, many folks out there in the street thought the opposite. If you haven’t already heard the new word of the day, you’ll be hearing lots more about the Glassholes out there, and the reactions they get on the street. Mat Honan’s piece in Wired “I, Glasshole” speaks to this experience. And he has worn the thing for year. Obviously didn’t throw in the towel like this guy.

Conclusion

Fact is, I was extremely torn about saying goodbye to Google Glass. I already miss it. It was fun being a Glass Explorer, if only for 2.5 weeks. I’m just not quite ready to be that constantly connected, to be always looking up and to the right, to talking to a device that never talks back, and to be seen as a wanna-be cyborg who talks to his own head in public.

Mostly though, Glass isn’t quite ready, and won’t be until more developers get their hands on it and release a host of new Glassware apps. I knew that I was entering this as an experiment: for a possible opportunity to create cool new stuff with the coolest new device in town. It is cool, no doubt, and I will miss seeing that glowing little screen above my right eye. At least until the price goes down to say $300, and the kinks are worked out.

Whether you think you’ll wear Glass or not, the fact is, it’s coming. Whether it’s 2014, or two years from now, we’ll all be seeing each other real soon through those glowing little screens.