Blowing through the Windy City with Glass

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The obligatory skyline shot as you approach a big city, this time shot #throughglass.

My wife, Jessi, and I spent the day in Chicago with our kids yesterday and I put Glass through a number of tests, which it passed with flying colors.

I used the device to navigate from our home in Michigan and it performed quite admirably. At one point, driver error caused us to miss an exit we needed. Glass simply rerouted and took us where we needed to go without a fuss, and without nagging me about missing the exit, as some navigation companions have. That last line is for you married guys. šŸ™‚

During one particularly long stretch where I knew I’d be on the same freeway for quite some time, I plugged Glass in to boost the battery via my truck’s USB port. While I wouldn’t have needed to just to get to Chicago, I knew I’d want to walk around there with Glass and didn’t want to worry about a drained battery — one of Glass’ true weaknesses for now. I tested wearing Glass while it was plugged in and was pleased to find that the cord does not pull down on the device at all and you could actually wear Glass while plugged in to a nearby power source, if you don’t mind the even stranger-than-usual look caused by having a cord coming out of your face.

Once we hit the city, the turn-by-turn directions with verbal notifications and overview map on the display were a blessing as we weaved our way through traffic. I found this to be the most non-distracting form of GPS navigation I’ve ever driven with because I never took my eyes off the road or surrounding vehicles. Upon arriving at our hotel, the valet attendant was the first, and so far the only person, to ask me about Glass. He had not heard of them but when I explained what the “screen camera thing” on my face was, he said it sounded quite amazing. He’s right!

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Approaching Navy Pier, aided by Glass navigation.

After settling in, we headed out to explore a bit, opting to head first to Navy Pier on foot. My wife is really good at navigating places just by getting a feel for her position and what direction she needs to go. But at one point, she wasn’t 100-percent sure, so I tapped Glass and asked for directions to Navy Pier. After switching over to “Walking” directions, we discovered Jessi was right and we proceeded.

I will note another annoying tick that occurs — Glass tends to easily lose its connection with the MyGlass app on the iPhone. So, even though you have the app open and think you’re ready to navigate, asking for directions sometimes lands you the “lost connection; open MyGlass app” screen. Simply waking up the phone and making sure MyGlass is the last app you used does the trick; the connection and subsequent directions are established quickly so it’s only a minor annoyance. Nevertheless, I’m hoping stability with the app is in the next update.

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Winter Wonderfest – a kind of indoor county fair with a Christmas theme currently operating at Navy Pier.

Once we were at Navy Pier, I used Glass to shoot some pictures and tapped into the Glassware that would give me notifications on historical or “interesting” information about things nearby.

I took Glass off and shut down its phone tether when we stopped for dinner, partly to conserve the battery and partly because I still find the device can be distracting when talking to folks around me — although I think my family is getting more used to it.

On a side note, I’ve learned the habit of carrying Glass’ case around with me. I didn’t have it at lunch while on the road and wished I had, to protect it from possible spills while it was sitting on the table. At dinner, it was nestled snuggly in its protective shield.

Walking back to the hotel, we used Glass’ directions and found a short diagonal through a park that we hadn’t used when Jessi was navigating by the stars or magnetic fields or whatever she uses to do that so well. I commented to Jessi later that turn-by-turn walking directions from Google Maps is so seamless and unobtrusive when used via Glass. I never missed any sites nor lost track of my surroundings from a safety perspective, the way I would if I had been staring at my phone screen. One of my daughters asked me if walking around Chicago wearing Glass would make us a bigger target for a mugging, but I told her it would be a lot less likely than for the people with phones in their hands.

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My girls checking out Michigan Avenue – a quick, unobtrusive, hands-free candid, shot #throughglass. (It’s a bit blurry when blown up, but we were all walking at a different pace and I’m not sure my iPhone would have done any better.)

We then headed off to Michigan Avenue to check out Chicago’s amazing shopping strip. A few pictures along the way helped document our time in the city. A couple of Google searches nabbed us some useful trivia information in the American Girl store and helped find reviews for some gloves Jessi was checking out at the Northface store.

The most amusing part of our shopping trip was when we headed into the Apple Store. I find it interesting how your group will automatically separate in that place, each being drawn to the shiny new object of their desire. Independent of each other, Jessi and one of my daughters ended up asking me if it was cool for me to be wearing Google Glass in an Apple Store or if the employees would object. Apparently, they’ve been listening when I’ve talked about the love-hate relationship Apple and Google have for each other given their symbiotic needs. I’m happy to report that other than the few standard second looks from strangers, no Apple employee accosted this Glass Explorer.

Back to the hotel for the night, I plugged Glass in again as my battery had dropped about 50 percent on our walking excursion of Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue. Not horrible given the workout I gave it in 30-degree weather, but not outstanding either.

I was reminded of another problem Glass has with wifi when we were back at the hotel, however. You connect Glass to wireless networks by adding it via the MyGlass app or the Glass website, using either to create a QR code that Glass reads and uses to connect. When it works, it’s fast and flawless. Unfortunately, there’s a major limitation in that there’s no way for Glass to join a network that requires you to click “Accept” for access. The hotel offered free wifi, but I couldn’t use it with Glass because of this limitation. Google is supposedly working on a workaround for this problem and they need to address it as a priority, especially since your pictures on Glass are backed up to Google+ only when the device is plugged in for power and on an active network. (You could share the pictures manually to your Google+ account, but that means chewing up precious data plan allowances if you have a lot to send.) One nice thing about Glass, however, is that you can plug it into your computer via its USB power cord and transfer the files that way. I use a MacBook and Dropbox, which worked together to immediately recognized my Glass and send all the files to my Camera Upload folder. That’s how I was able to take the pictures off of Glass and drop them into this blog post.

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Jessi being Jessi and playing along with me and some kid statues to get a fun picture #throughglass.

So that’s my first experience in a big city with Glass and so far I’m impressed. Oh, and if you’re so inclined to move to the Windy City, Glass alerted me that there’s an unfinished, 6,000 square foot penthouse condo available at the Ritz Carlton for $10 million. Zip me a note and I’ll send you the address…


3 comments on “Blowing through the Windy City with Glass

  1. The lighthouse you reference is one mile north of where most of our time when not in Lansing. Kathy’s father built the “cottage” in ’68 and has been adding on to it ever since. Beautiful place.

    Really enjoying your GG posts…


  2. Pingback: Less-distracted driving via Google Glass | Here Comes Later

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