September 1, 2013

Pros and cons of Google Glass

The favorite feature of three early users: The ability to shoot photos and video without using your hands.

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Geeks aren't the only people wearing Google Glass.

click image to enlarge

Sarah Hill, a Google Glass contest winner, tries out the device. “This is like having the Internet in your eye socket,” Hill said. “But it’s less intrusive than I thought it would be. I can totally see how this would still let you still be in the moment with the people around you.”

Photos by The Associated Press

Michael Liedtke
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Reporter Michael Liedtke models Google Glass at a Google base camp in San Francisco.

Additional Photos Below

Among the people testing Google Inc.'s wearable computer are teachers, dentists, doctors, radio disc jockeys, hair stylists, architects, athletes and even a zookeeper.

Some 10,000 people are trying out an early version of Glass, most of them selected as part of a contest.

To get a sense of the advantages and drawbacks of the device, The Associated Press spoke to three Glass owners who have been using the device since late spring: Sarah Hill, a former TV broadcaster and current military veterans advocate; David Levy, a hiking enthusiast and small-business owner; and Deborah Lee, a stay-at-home mom.

Glass is designed to work like a smartphone that's worn like a pair of glasses. Although it looks like a prop from a science fiction movie, the device is capturing imaginations beyond the realm of nerds.

The trio's favorite feature, by far, is the hands-free camera that shoots photos and video through voice commands. (Images can also be captured by pressing a small button along the top of the right frame of Glass.) They also liked being able to connect to the Internet simply by tapping on the right frame of Glass to turn it on and then swiping along the same side to scroll through a menu. That menu allows them to do such things as get directions on Google's map or find a piece of information through Google's search engine. The information is shown on a thumbnail-sized transparent screen attached just above the right eye to stay out of a user's field of vision.

Among the biggest shortcomings they cited was Glass' short battery life, especially if a lot of video is being taken. Although Google says Glass should last for an entire day on a single battery charge for the typical user, Hill said there were times when she ran out of power after 90 minutes to two hours during periods when she was recording a lot of video.

Glass' speaker, which relies on a bone conduction technology, also is inadequate, according to the testers the AP interviewed. They said the speaker, which transmits sound through the skull to allow for ambient noise, can be difficult to hear in any environment other than a quiet room.

"If you are out in the street or anywhere else where there is any noise, it's impossible to hear," Lee said. "That has been challenging because there is no way to adjust it. If you could adjust the sound, I think it would solve a lot of problems."

Hill, 42, a resident of Columbia, Mo., became a Glass evangelist shortly after she picked up the device at Google's New York offices in late May. As the AP watched her get fitted with Glass though a video feed on Google's Hangout chat service, Hill quickly began to rave about her ability to take hands-free pictures and fetch information from the Web simply by asking the device to get it. "This is like having the Internet in your eye socket," Hill said. "But it's less intrusive than I thought it would be. I can totally see how this would still let you still be in the moment with the people around you."

The liberating aspects of Glass came into sharper focus for Hill as she took a cab to the airport for her flight back to Missouri. During the taxi ride, she began a video call on Google Hangout with people living in Austria, the United Kingdom and St. Louis. As the cab was preparing to drop her off at the curb, Hill was about to end the call so she could carry her baggage. Then came her first Glass epiphany.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Google Glass offers video recording, photo and Internet capabilities while worn like a pair of glasses.

  


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