hello, my name is
Kevin Schumacher
I live in Seattle and design for technology and experiences
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Some points of view on Google Glass

I attended a presentation with Dan Saffer about Microinteractions at Amazon HQ this week. The microinteraction discussion seamlessly made it's way to the table of other industry folk, where I was stationed, when someone's Google Glass emerged from some rogue backpack.

The reaction at the table immediately became one of curiosity and the designers among us instantly jumped into evaluation mode as we began to compare and contrast the good and bad.

Here's a few of our observations: 

 

Fit and finish

Google glass is lighter than one might think it would be. I always assumed the weight would be a factor as far as comfort and fit. However, the frame was very flexible and surprisingly lightweight.

 Because of it's bendy-ness, it seemed to float on my face while wearing it (Although, admittedly, I wear glasses for work, so this is where I draw my comparison). One of my workmates was worried about this thing scratching your cornea, but the lens actually sits a few inches away from your face and off to the right side enough to not be near your eyeball at all, so no worries there.

The screen information was simple and pretty straightforward

This seems to be where Google is getting it right. By limiting the cards and screen real estate to micro bites of specific, context-oriented information, the level of distraction is minimized.

The ease of which I could read the content and flip through each piece of information (once I grew accustomed to the placement of my fingers) felt really appropriate and well designed. 

 

 photo credit: techradar.com

photo credit: techradar.com

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The screen itself floats in front of you and has the sensation that the little box, just inches from your face, could be grabbed by passers by. Because the screen sits just out of your main view on your right hand side, it's necessary to purposefully look to your right in order to focus on anything the screen is serving up (imagine how you use the side view mirror on your car).

We all decided at the table that this causes the wearer to appear vacant and aloof, as if staring past people and off into the distance, which gives off an uncanny and cold feeling. Everyone seemed to immediately be absorbed into this 'trance-like' state.

It reminded me of this:

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When I used the device navigation on the side, it seemed kludgy, unnatural and hard to manage. I found myself engaged in a lot of guesswork as to how to page through the card interface at the very beginning. Everyone seemed to have this problem as we watched each other flail our hands about our head as if we were swatting at flies.

The consensus at the table was that it could really use some tactile additions to the outside, something like brail for the blind, for some kind of an understanding of where to swipe and/or tap. I think eventually, Google will need to replace the physical swiping and tapping with gestural commands such as what you find with Soft Kinetic, Point Grab, or Kinect for Windows.

Voice commands

This Google Glass had been updated with Voice Commands and Web Browsing which we tried out. The voice functionality had some difficulty in grasping my commands along with crowd noise around me. For example, I told it, "I need a pizza" and Google thought I said "I thinkā€¦" and automatically pulled up the "iThink" website. I didn't try much more of this since we were all in conversation and Google Glass constantly tried to keep up with everyone while showing results over and over, which was distracting and annoying.

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Not good for larger amounts of content and information

 Again, since this was an updated Glass, we tried viewing websites and information with more detailed content. It didn't seem like a good medium for viewing really complex information or anything with heavy graphics, and was cumbersome to navigate. Here's an example of what you have to do here.

Even the websites I viewed were rendered too tiny to be useful. One of the things we all discussed was the idea that content would (yet again) need to be treated in a special way to be effective for this medium. The best use always seemed to be the cards which were designed with Google Glass already in mind