Last year, the Econsultancy blog featured several articles about Google Glass, as did most digital and business blogs, cognisant of the technology’s hold on the public’s imagination.
This year, Glass still has us rapt. CES unveiled some third parties’ intentions for Glass and a wide variety of wearables were debuted, showing the trend is not abating. Elsewhere, most national news outlets’ covered the failed citation against a Californian woman caught driving whilst wearing Glass (there was no evidence the device was switched on).
As the internet has become widely used globally and consumers are now very comfortable using the web for a variety of functions, the idea of connected devices has started to feel less alien, too. The internet of things, particularly the connected home also made more noise at CES this year.
So I thought it was time for a ‘where are we at?’ style post, to look at the latest iterations of third party Google Glass apps, new developments from Google itself and even perhaps to predict when we’ll actually see people using Glass, outside of Silicon Valley.
The early explorers have had nine months
Although the initial prototyping of Google Glass was very fast (consider that the Glass prototype of August 2012, just a few months before release, weighed over three and a half kilograms) things have seemed a little slower since April 2013, to those outside of testing groups.
The Glass prototype of April 2013, the Explorer Edition, was fell upon by third party developers and in the months that followed, many developers produced ideas for apps, utilising Google’s Mirror API for Glass.
By mid 2013 there were visualisations out there, using some nifty video or image editing to produce explainer content that looked impressive but in many cases (e.g. JewGlass and Icebreaker) wasn’t backed up by a complete or usable app.
At this stage, many third parties were just trying to come up with beta editions, the best use cases, and this was entirely understandable as we all sought to get our heads around a reality augmented by Glass.
Initial apps that were fully realised, albeit on a device that was a work in progress, included the New York Times, Facebook, Evernote, Elle, CNN and Path. These apps were available in the app store.
Aside from these big companies, simple app ideas that nevertheless solve problems included NavCook for recipes and yourshow for presenting (though a lot of these weren’t ready yet either).
It was a bit of a land grab, essentially.
Of course, Glass also included the functionality to message, photograph, film and use voice search and maps and these features were the ones that worked best.
Now, Explorer Edition is nine months old and has seen some hardware and software updates, so it’s not surprising that we’re starting to see some nice new apps.
There’s still a lot of speculation, with brilliant ideas for beta apps being released that yet again need a lot of work, e.g. Race Yourself, the Glass app that gamifies exercise, and DriveSafe, the app with an accelerometer that can tell when you’re falling asleep at the wheel.
However, the apps and use cases now being discussed and debuted are very promising. Here’s some of the best:
Captioning on Glass
This is an ongoing project by Thad Starner, Technical Lead on Glass, to produce transcription of spoken word to be displayed on Glass to those hard of hearing.
An iOS app adapted to Glass, users can direct Glass to translate signage into their chosen language.
Wall Street Journal
Read and listen to the journal via Glass
Choose from more than a hundred weather alerts to be know when severe conditions, or otherwise, are forecast.
An RSS feed for Glass, allows you to save to Pocket.
At CES there were a number of announcements about Glass from third parties. Hyundai is going to join Mercedes as a car manufacturing planning to include a Google Glass interface for some new vehicles.
A new model of Glass, now for iOS and Android
Of course, the most important part of development is not what third parties can produce at this stage, but what can Google do to finesse the device further and add functionality and its own apps?
In the last couple of months, some important new apps have been released and importantly, Glass has made it to iOS (your Glass can now sync with an Android or iPhone).
Aside from working with third parties, functions we know and love from the Google ecosystem have made it to Glass. A month ago, Google announced the following:
Upload to YouTube
Swiping to a YouTube share card or announcing ‘share with YouTube’ allows explorers to upload the videos they capture with Glass.
Video calls are already enabled on Glass and now Hangout messages are too. So you can chat via Glass.
Along with Google Now integration, previously announced, and the afore-mentioned standard functions using photos, messages and Maps, the device is starting to come into its own. Surgery has already been relayed using Glass and one can see it becoming the de facto tool for surgeons, engineers and the like to not only film but also interact using voice control.
Privacy and security
One of the burning issues of Glass, what uses will be regulated and legislated against and what won’t?
Currently the states of America have outlawed Glass, when activated, for drivers, and New York is now trying to ban its use altogether.
When it comes to privacy, the much publicised app, Wink, allows users to take photographs with the a simple wink.
Currently, Google isn’t authorising apps that use facial recognition and the functionality that app builders have access to will be restricted where security/privacy concerns persist.
Nevertheless, wink to snap is a functionality that may mean Glass isn’t welcome in many places.
Most reports thus far have talked of 2014 as the year that Glass finally becomes available to the public. We’ll have to wait and see, but there’s likely to be many more developers testing with updated versions of the Explorer Edition right now. Hopefully that means we’re set to see more great apps in the pipeline ahead of launch.
My humble opinion is we won’t see Glass until at least Christmas but that it’s more likely to be 2015.
If the concept is fully realised and the public version is affordable and glitch free, who knows what a slew of apps we’ll see. It will certainly excite marketers, brands and advertisers already heavily involved in the smartphone app market.