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Review: Google GLΛSS

Posted: December 20, 2013 5:00 pm EDT Updated: December 17, 2014 5:00 pm EDT Review: Google GLΛSS

By virtue of just being present and looking hopeful, the About Us crew got to have a bash on Google GLΛSS at Auckland’s September #smcakl. Professor Mark Billinghurst from the University of Canterbury’s HITlabNZ gave us his whistle stop tour of Google GLΛSS. He also brought with him the mystique of Google’s top secret lab, Google[x], where he’d recently been on sabbatical joining Sergey Brin and GLΛSS developers to evolve the augmented reality and user experience of the Google goggles.

So what does Google GLΛSS do? 
Google GLΛSS is part of the growing family of OHMD ubiquitous computing devices (like smartphones and tablets) aimed to create and augment reality and give a seamless, integrated life experience for the wearer. GLΛSS is activated by voice commands as well as a touch pad located on the right hand side of the small projector lens and responds to swipe commands. The projector lens is where everything happens. It produces an image from the computer that hovers at the top right of a wearer’s peripheral vision. The user commands GLΛSS to take a photo or a video, provide directions to a nearby location, translate a language, send messages or acts as a second pair of eyes so the wearer can share what they are seeing with other people.

What we reckon
We loved the experience of having a computer integrated as part of the moment without having to hold up or glance down at a second screen, especially as we were in company. It was less intrusive to take a photo than pull out the phone, and taking video was a lot simpler – in fact, almost too easy. We can see the advantage of not having to hold up a camera to record all the action and can’t wait to see what vloggers and innovative film makers can do with this technology.

Belinda Nash Google Glass

It was Dr Billinghurst’s gadget so we couldn’t really email or post the photos we took via voice command to Facebook or Twitter and add our witty captions, but the options were intuitively provided to walk us through. Similarly, we could have asked enquiring, shall we say, Google-esque questions out-loud to get facts and information about our environment. This probably won’t solve dinner table debates, given you have to shout out your questions, but it could be a great go-to for useful info like “How long will it take me to drive from Matamata to Taupo?”. The language translation tool is a nice little add-on too. In fact, there is loads you could do, like get an instant check on the temperature if you’re inside heading out, on-the-go directions or see if your flight is leaving on time. We reckon it would take less than an hour to get familiar with the of wizardry and a couple of days to figure out all the use possibilities.

Dr Billinghurst sees all sorts of applications for GLΛSS, from showing your mechanic what’s going on under your car bonnet to police taking on-the-scene video. We see application for instructors training their students, a builder showing a client onsite build updates, sharing a conference keynote address live at the time with colleagues, through to showing your family and mates the view of where you are on holiday (we really like this one).

Steve Adams Google Glass

We liked the question asked of Dr Billinghurst about whether GLΛSS takes selfies (“No, not unless you use a mirror” … “So analogue” came the heckle behind us), and what do people see when you video call them? (“Not you but they can see what you’re seeing”). We were divided on the style factor of the Google GLΛSS. To be fair, RayBans have lifted the hipster spec-wearing possibilities (and are talking with Google about a design partnership) but it’s hard to imagine New Zealand’s main streets being inundated with the fashion-forward GLΛSS-wearing masses. And with Google GLΛSS projected to cost around NZD 1500 a pop, probably unlikely in the first wave anyway.

Here’s the specs for those of you wanting to know what the GLΛSS delivers. It’s made to be durable and light weight and comes in an array of colours and a hard-wearing carry case. There are a whole crew of GLΛSS Explorers all over the world so keep your eyes peeled as to what they’re up. We don’t know what the hashtag is yet but we’ll be sure to let you know.

Here‘s an interesting review of Google GLΛSS by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Pierre Theodore, posted on Fast Company. He sees value in GLΛSS but believes there is a while yet to go in its development.

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Photo of Google Glass creator Sergey Brin courtesy of: Google+.