02nd May2014

Hands-on with Google Glass at Virgin Media HQ

by Phil Wheat

VM-GG-P1

We were kindly invited by the team at Virgin Media to try out Google Glass this week. This was our first time experiencing the much lauded Google wearable first-hand and we were dying to see if the odd looking device could live up to the hype.

First impressions were good. Google Glass is very light and doesn’t feel overly obtrusive when worn. There were several people at our trial and it seemed to fit comfortably for everybody, despite differing proportions. Once you’ve got the thing on, you activate it by tilting your head back. You then say ‘OK, Google’ followed by the command you’d like it to follow. I found the tiny screen in the top right-hand corner of my eye to be less intuitive as it appears on Google’s promotional videos. It’s very small and fairly low resolution, meaning you adopt a slightly glazed expression as you try to focus on the information being displayed to you.

Google has come under quite a lot of flak for Glass recently. Many feel that the device is an expensive and unnecessary toy, with some even claiming that it’s an intrusive device, questioning Google’s privacy policies. Google may have inadvertently sparked some of this suspicion in the way they originally marketed the device. In early promotional material, Glass appeared to be always on, with the end user constantly tapping into it to take pictures of people, look up directions and so on. In reality, this is not how you would use Google Glass. It’s better to view it in the same light as the recent glut of smart-watches. It’s a device that unobtrusively adds to your digital lifestyle, not replacing your smartphone but adding helpful functionality. They’ve tried to combat the notion that it’s only a tool for rich hipster types, with a new video showcasing how it could be used to help the WWF preserve wildlife.

Whilst at the Virgin Media offices, we discussed how a device like Glass could help add value to the television experience at home. In the same way that the rise of tablets has helped enhance the way we watch TV through second-screening, a device like Google Glass could really change how we interact with TV. For example, during the final day of the Premier League season, you could watch one game on your TV, whilst streaming the second game on Glass, letting you keep an eye on both matches at once. Want to flick through your Tivo EPG without disrupting what you’re watching? Ask Glass what’s on other channels. It could even help enhance the dreaded TV ad breaks. If linked up properly, you could be taken directly to a advertisers website via Glass whilst watching the corresponding advert on TV.

However, the question remains as to whether the notion of wearing a device like Glass will ever be accepted into popular culture. With Tumblrs such as People Who Look Cool Wearing Glass having a sarcastic pop at the way you look when wearing the device, will we ever get to a place where it will be considered normal to have a small camera attached to your eye at all times? This week, Google has filed patents for a screen to be displayed more naturally within a pair of traditional glasses using double glazing. A more natural implementation like this could drive interest in Glass, but for now, it’s best viewed as an expensive prototype.

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