On Tuesday night, the Google Glass team held one of its speaker series events at its Glass Basecamp in New York.
A handful of Explorers from around the city gathered in the Chelsea Market Building to watch Dr. Ned Sahin show how Glass can be used to help children with autism.
But just as interesting as Sahin’s demonstration were the individual discussions Explorers had with one another throughout the evening.
Most attendees had been living with Glass for at least six months, some for more or less than that. I’ve had my own fair share of time with Google’s wearable display, but it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to play with it. Since Google updates Glass every month, the software I became familiar with is surely out of date by now.
After taking the time to talk a few Explorers, here are some things I learned about Glass and how people are using it.
Everyone uses Glass differently. That may sound a little cliche, but think of it this way. Are the apps on your phone’s home screen the same as those on your coworker’s home screen? Probably not. It’s the same idea with Glass. I spoke with people that love using Glass to dictate texts without having to withdraw their phone, and others that use it more for recording videos.
Glass can be used to help children with special needs. Most of the news stories about Glass and medicine focus on how doctors are using it for surgery, but Glass is proving to be very useful for children too. Sahin’s Glassware (apps for Google Glass), showed how the headset can be used to track where an autistic child is looking. A face tracking feature in Sahin’s software also helps autistic children focus on faces. This can help parents and doctors understand what types of things capture the attention of an autistic child. It’s not meant for diagnosing children, however. Sahin compared the Glass app to a fitness tracker. Your doctor wouldn’t use data from your FitBit to diagnose you, but the device does help you keep track of your habits and activity. I also overheard a teacher in the audience express interest in getting Glass into her school to help children with special needs.
It’s still very much a product for early adopters. Nearly all of the Explorers I spoke with were somehow affiliated with the tech industry or were using it for work purposes. One designer I spoke with said when his friends ask him what’s on his face, he just refers to Glass as a Bluetooth accessory for his phone since it’s easier to explain. It’s also important to remember that the version of Glass out there today is still a beta product and it should be treated as such.
You need to use it routinely to really get the hang of it. Yes, there is a slight learning curve with Glass. One person I talked to said it took her a day to really get used to how it works when she first got Glass. She had to use it on a daily basis for it to really fit into her regular routine. Now, she says she tends to instinctively look up when checking the time even when she’s not wearing Glass.
Battery life is still a problem for a lot of Explorers.During his presentation, Dr. Sahin asked the audience how many Explorers felt limited by Glass’ battery life. Most of the crowd raised their hand. Like any other tech product, Glass’ battery life varies depending on how you use it. So, for example, taking video frequently will burn out the battery quicker than if you only used it for checking notifications. In my own experience, Glass lasted for about five hours with mixed usage.
People are interested in what else is out there too. Almost all of the Explorers I spoke with asked me about other wearable displays that may be capable of doing more than Glass can. One Explorer, for example, asked me about the Meta’s 3-D glasses, which can act independently of your phone and is essentially a full-blown computer on your face. Another Explorer asked me if I had seen any wearable displays that cover both eyes instead of just one.