COCG Google Glass Impressions

At COCG, we’re lucky enough to be located in Raleigh, NC — right in the midst of a thriving tech and startup scene.  Thanks to organizations for entrepreneurs and startups like The American Underground, Google chose Durham, NC as the first stop on what will be a nationwide tour of their new product, Glass.

Visitors of this tour get the opportunity to try out Glass firsthand.  For the uninitiated, Glass looks to be one of the first major steps into the world of “wearable computing.”  It’s a simple glasses frame, made of titanium for flexibility and durability.  However, the main draw is the screen — a small crystal that hovers just barely in the top of the wearer’s field of vision.  This screen is capable of linking to your phone, allowing you to take pictures, record video, get directions, perform Google searches and much more, all without looking down at some other mobile device.  It’s a heads-up-display designed for everyday use.

Ever since Glass was announced, there has been lots of buzz around it.  How much will it cost?  What’s the functionality like?  How do pictures work?  What’s it feel like?  Lucky for us, we got the answers to a couple of these questions in Durham last Saturday when 3 of us RSVP’d for the event and tried out Glass.  Below are our impressions!


We first got a physical presentation of Glass which really showed off it’s durability.  Our group’s presenter took a pair of Glass in her hands to bend and twist it just about to her heart’s content.  It’s extremely flexible and durable which I think will help in it’s every day appeal.  Nothing is worse than buying a brand new phone for hundreds of dollars, just to drop it and have the battery fly out or other tragedies.  So, if nothing else, you’ll at least have durability if you buy Glass.  

During the demonstration and tryout, one of the first features showcased was performing a Google search.  This was very disappointing because I didn’t see a single search complete it’s task.  This was not Glass’ fault though, it was the poor bandwidth or connectivity of the wifi in Bay 7.  This is a warning to all future venues for the Glass tour, provide a ridiculous amount of wifi connectivity.  Multiple dedicated lines, whatever it takes, it’ll help the experience that much more.  Get in touch with the event coordinator too, I’m sure the Glass team was at least a little bit embarrassed about this and want to fix it.

Other features of Glass worked great!  Record a video & take a picture were the two main items that were locally hosted on Glass and didn’t require internet connectivity; and they worked quite well!  Glass is very responsive to your voice.  The little mic is built in to the frames and seems to do a great job of filtering out background noise.

Hearing sound is about as natural as hearing a real life conversation.  I actually didn’t realize I was hearing Glass audio when I did.  It uses bone conduction to produce the audio which I find brilliant.  No ear buds or little speakers required.  

Overall, I get the impression that Glass is going to be the next great medium for building great apps.  There’s already a huge interest in health care with doctors being able to pull up patient stats on command.  Check out this video by Philips.

Just viewing this video makes you think of the possibilities when you create apps that will integrate Glass with everyday objects and information.  Tourism is another application where Glass will thrive, providing tour guide maps and information on command mid tour.  For the initial release, I think that glass will be more of a commercial device for business, but the retail possibilities are endless as well.


My instant impression of Glass centered around how lightweight it was.  It was lighter than the sunglasses I wore to drive to the event.  I was super excited, so I didn’t dwell too much on that — I put them on and immediately swiped the side to turn them on, then took a picture by saying “OK Glass, take a picture.”  I never personally got on the “voice command” bandwagon… I prefer to control my technology with buttons, or a remote.  Nevertheless, I was surprised at how responsive Glass was to my voice, even in a very crowded and loud area.

Next, I tried taking a video.  “OK Glass, record a video!”  It worked perfectly, and when I played it back, I discovered what I found to be the most remarkable feature of Glass: the sound.  Glass has no speakers.  It plays back sound by vibrating against the bone behind your ear to make your hear things, a technique called bone conduction.  Even taking my fingers and plugging my ears, I could hear the sounds of the video clear as ever.

After that, we tried a few more features, one called a “Photosphere.”  Upon activation, the Glass screen put us in a room with the Google employees who developed it.  Looking around in 360 degrees let us turn the photo.  It was a really neat point-of-view idea that I could see having awesome implications for navigation and tourism applications!

I think the success of Glass is going to boil down to two points: the price, and the apps.  The explorer version of Glass (sort of like Beta access) was going for $1,500… way too much for the general consumer.  If they can get it down to a sweet spot, and developers start putting together useful apps, I can see it taking off.

As far as ads go, I don’t think Google will even consider advertising on it.  The screen was small, and I think including ads would dissuade people from purchasing, especially considering most I’ve spoken with are on the fence as it is.  My guess on the best bet for monetizing it, at the moment, would be apps.  Having a HUD could offer many practical applications, from navigation/directions to translation to other information.  Imagine touring a museum or historic area with an app that recognizes what you’re looking at and feeds you info about it.  Admittedly a pretty tame example, but I’m sure some creative app developers will come up with some cool ideas!