Why I'm Returning Google Glass

A few weeks ago, I got an invite to Google Glass by a friend. I immediately purchased Glass and it was at my house the next day. I really thought I would love it, but after about two weeks of using it, I just really want it gone. Here’s why:

1. Glass Misses the Point of Wearables

The theoretical advantage of wearable technology is the ability to provide functionality that is truly useful while effectively blending into human life and fading into the background. Wearables should enhance the ability for humans to access, retrieve, and store information seamlessly and liberate them from holding a phone or tablet to interact with the vast amount of data and knowledge in the world. A particularly compelling use case for this concept is overlaid augmented reality, where lenses overlay information about navigation, people, places, etc. over a person’s field of vision. The interface should then be smart enough to pull up this information when appropriate with minimal input from the user. A common application of this is video game interfaces. What Glass does is provide a small screen out of the user’s line of vision (uncomfortably so) that interacts very little with the current context, which makes it on par with a smartphone in terms of benefit, but with much more limited functionality.

2. Voice Commands are Limited

Menus, buttons, and navigation-based UI are mostly a temporary measure put in place until software is intelligent and powerful enough to recognize a user’s ultimate intent and perform the appropriate task(s). That being said, Glass applications can implement voice commands that are *almost* on the same level as the navigation model. However, there are two big problems with the voice commands in their current state. First, they are not really enabled unless on the “Ok Glass” screen. Why is this? I want to be able to perform any voice command at any point in the UI hierarchy. I found myself navigating back to the “Ok Glass” screen just so I could give it a voice command. Second, the voice commands a programmed quite statically. I couldn’t just say “Ok Glass, call Meghan,” I had to remember to say “Ok Glass, make a call to Meghan.” These two small issues hamper the general usability of Glass’s Voice UI and decrease the natural attraction toward this mode of input and interaction.

3. It Looks and Feels Silly/Clunky

Google has done a lot to try to make Glass seem chic and cool despite its awkward and clunky appearance. The truth is, Glass is a status symbol in Silicon Valley but anywhere else, it’s a strange-looking blemish one one’s face. When people buy wearables in the coming years, they will be looking for fashion and customization. It’s a different world than phones, which generally reside hidden in a pocket or purse. So why not work with glasses designers? Why not balance the unit by putting the battery on the other side? I would disregard criticisms (1) and (2) if Glass looked good, but without a really compelling set of use cases, I cannot warrant wearing it on my face.

4. The SDK

The reason I was so interested in Glass was to be an early part of the next generation of development. I was a bit young during the big smartphone development boom, so the possibility of a wearables dev boom is really attractive to me. That being said, the SDK really disappointed me. I basically had to develop an Android app with many of the features manually stripped away. This is a huge opportunity for Google to introduce an innovative SDK and so far, that hasn’t happened. With Glass’s simple, sparse, and transparent interface that relies on a few small cards, Google could introduce a super-simple, straightforward, and quick HTML/Javascript SDK. Anyway, I decided that because of Glass’s shortcomings illustrated in criticism (1), any “head start” I could get in the development process wouldn’t be entirely valuable when glasses (hopefully more A.R.) are a successful product. So I’ll wait.

 

Generally, I am really excited about wearables like glasses and watches, but they have to be quite a bit better. In terms of phones/tablet, iOS originally killed Android in terms of usability and design, and over the past few years Google has gotten really good at design. But I feel like Glass could easily be beat by a better-designed product that Apple is working on behind the scenes. I don’t think Google should let that happen.