It’s been more than a year since Google went public with Glass, its first public venture into the wearable-computing space.
Since then, there’s been plenty of fantastic coverage of life with Google Glass, like Mat Honan’s recent retrospective for Wired.
One thing I’ve noticed in the various pieces about Glass is the difficulty that many writers have expressing what the software — or as Google calls it, “Glassware” — is actually like to use.
Take, for instance, Honan’s description of some of the more exciting third-party apps that have come to Glass so far:
The Strava cycling app, for example, really shows off the promise of Glass by combining location tracking with updates that let you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the handlebars. So too does AllTheCooks, which lets you create and follow recipes without taking your eyes and hands away from sharp knives and hot ovens.
While that does a great job of getting me excited for the possibilities of what Glass can do, it doesn’t really tell you what the experience will look like.
Since I didn’t get an offer from Google to join its $US1,500 “Explorer” program, I haven’t had a chance to use the device in person. So to get an actual idea of what apps will be like when I finally get my hands on one, I went straight to the source: Google’s documentation for developers looking to make apps for the platform.
Here are the big takeaways:
Google wants Glassware to stay relevant to what you’re doing. If you do a Google Search, Glass will try to return answers based on context, like your current location.
For instance, if you have a grocery store you go to all the time, the shopping list you keep in Evernote should automatically come up when you get there.
Google says developers should focus on a “fire-and-forget usage model.” So if you get a message, you see the person’s face and the text (automatically resized to fit the screen based on the length of the text) and respond with natural speech. Glass will send your response when you stop talking.
Just as iOS 7 has a bunch of standard interface elements that look the same across most of the apps you use throughout your day, Glassware is built around the following template to maintain uniformity from app to app.
- The Grey area represents the space that “full-bleed” images can take up on the screen, for apps that want large images behind their text.
- The Redarea represents where an app’s main text is supposed to go. Text in this area will be in Roboto Thin font and automatically resized to fit all necessary text on the screen at once.
- The Blue area is the footer for Glass apps — this is where things like the source of an image or the timestamp for a post will show up.
- The Yellow area at the bottom has a few uses. Scrolling along the Google Glass timeline (the interface for moving between Glass apps), it acts as a slider showing where you are. When doing an action that takes a few seconds, it shows progress *or* how long you have to cancel that action.
- The transparent Purple area is used for showing relevant photos or icons, like showing who’s involved in a group chat or an aeroplane icon indicating that the card is about your flight.
- The small Green boxes in each corner are known as “padding.” Basically, they’re there to make sure developers don’t put text in awkward area near the edges of the screen.
Here’s a few examples of how developers can use and modify that template to make a wide range of apps:
A simple reminder that pulls from your calendar: in the main content area, the app shows the time and a brief description of the events. In the footer area, it shows the location where it will take place.
An example of a card using a full-bleed image: an update from a news site that overlays the headline over the article’s main picture.
Glassware is supposed to be about what’s happening *right now*. Here’s what a notification showing that a friend’s post got a bunch of likes on Facebook would look like:
Rather than showing the addresses involved with a group email, Google suggests using pictures associated with those emails — you’re going to want to update that Google+ picture you set and forgot about three years ago.
As this and the above example show, the different parts of the template don’t have to be the size shown in the main template. Those are maximums; developers can (and probably should) use as little space as they need to express the most essential information.
It’s hard to show the Glass interface with screenshots alone. To that end, Google’s “Getting Started” video does a good job of showing what the previously-mentioned timeline looks like and how you’ll be able to interact with the timeline and individual apps:
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