Google Glass: mugger bait, pub problem and other lessons learned from two dangerous weeks

I’ve just spent two weeks dandying my way around London with Google Glass perched on my nose. Dubbed “Operation Daft Face”, my intention was to discover whether Google’s stumbled onto the next big thing, and what our lives will be like if it has. Hints: possibly, and, really rather dangerous.

Being mugged isn’t fun

I’ve never considered the area where I live in West London as dangerous, but then I’ve never explored it at 10:30pm with a £1,000 worth of tech strapped to my enormous head. I was testing Google Glass’s turn by turn navigation – by, erm, going for a run and getting lost – when I wandered into a housing estate I probably shouldn’t have.

Three ogres in hoodies took one look at me, one look at Glass, and then decided it would look better on somebody else’s face. A subsequent sprint test ensued, revealing the glasses will cling to your head even when you leg it through a hedge, though the command “Google, help!” doesn’t do any good. All of which makes me wonder what’s going to happen when these things are ubiquitous and we’re all strolling around with our bank accounts pinned to our foreheads.
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You’ll leave them in the pub

Not so much a Google issue as an idiot issue, but there must be others out there who share my wilful disregard for property. Along with keys, phones, credit cards and my dignity, I’m forever losing my glasses, which is exponentially more annoying when they’re made of Larry Page’s billion-dollar tears.

To its credit, Glass quickly became as unobtrusive as my regular glasses, despite looking like a 70s kitchenette, which is why it was abandoned in a pub after three pints. I only realised when a mate asked to play with it and I discovered it wasn’t on my head. At which point, the turn-by-turn navigation feature would have been bloody handy because I couldn’t remember where the pub was and spent 15 minutes sprinting up and down the Thames Embankment in a blind panic. Thanks to the lovely staff of the Dove in Hammersmith for saving my bacon (and bank balance, more importantly.)

Google Glass isn’t very good

It isn’t, it truly isn’t. Forget the fact it’s slow and usurped in every conceivable way by the device it depends on (it’ll get better, so it’s forgivable).

My biggest problem is that it’s not intuitive enough. Some functions require a left and right swipe, others require a verbal command. Some things can only be tapped on, others need to be spoken to. Every time I put on Google Glass it was like walking into room somebody kept moving the furniture around in – except the sitting chair was now a fridge, with a microwave in it.

None of my friends managed five minutes in its company, all of them interfaced to death almost immediately. It wasn’t just them. Finding the settings menu the first time was a pure fluke and one I didn’t repeat for two hours despite prodding, swiping, swearing and swinging my head around like a man watching two flies playing tennis.

One of the reasons Apple succeeded with the iPhone was because it understood how it wanted people to use it, and then built an interface to facilitate that. Google needs to do the same. Google Glass needs to understand what I’m looking at and deliver useful information as I go. I don’t want to be shouting in the street or tapping my head like a lunatic. It should know where I am and the places I’m likely to want to go. Looking up and down should be enough to scroll through the options, a long blink enough to activate them. Apps need to be tailored to the new interface. Glass maybe the future, but at the moment it’s staring into the past.

… but it’s definitely got potential

Google Glass is so frustrating because it could be so good. Forget delivering updates from your phone, or playing YouTube clips. Put the glasses on and you immediately start seeing the future everywhere you go.

Imagine being able to look at the things in your cupboard and have potential recipes spring up, or having the ability to transfer documents and files between devices just by looking at them. Wouldn’t it be cool if it could handle video calls, or if it knew you liked to read on the train so brought up your book when you sat down?

These are the things Google Glass made me dream about, which was far more fun than shouting “Ok, Google” every ten seconds and playing a selection of rubbish games from the dawn of mobiles.

Google Glass isn’t rubbish because it’s too ambitious. It’s rubbish because it isn’t ambitious enough. Dream bigger Google. I’ll be keeping an eye on you.

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