Shooting the newest cars with the newest camera

20140117_193626_813My wife, Jessi, and I were fortunate enough to attend the Charity Preview of the North American International Auto Show the other night. So, of course, I had to put Google Glass to the test.

The buzz around the new cars and trucks was interesting, but more amusing for Jessi were all the direct and indirect comments she overheard people making about me wearing Google Glass. At one point, we both ended up the focus of attention when TV 4 decided to interview me and get a shot of me taking a picture of Jessi. The interview ended up on the cutting room floor, but the video of me taking Jessi’s picture made it on air.

Glass performed admirably all night long. We used it for turn-by-turn navigation from Lansing to Detroit and then I shot pictures and video with it all night long, plus held a Google Hangouts conversation with my daughter while sharing some of the pictures with her. By the time we left, the battery was down to about 18% so I plugged the charging cable in for my turn-by-turn navigation to get out of Detroit and back on the freeway headed home. I probably didn’t have to do that, but I didn’t want to risk taking a wrong turn in Detroit by having Glass suddenly conk out. Considering how much I used it during the show, I was pleased with the battery life, but that is in the context of having a battery that Explorers know doesn’t perform great to begin with.

I used Glass in new ways a few times during the night and was more impressed each time I did.

20140117_191750_932I took a picture of the NAIAS Car of the Year, which is the Chevrolet Corvette. I then uploaded it to Google+ via Glass with a caption that said, “congratulations Chevrolet! #autoshow.” Google automatically adds the #throughglass hashtag, as well. I added the caption by speaking it, which impressed me because the crowded floor of the auto show was noisy, and Glass picked up everything I said all night without a hitch. I do wish two things would be addressed. First, most people speak in complete sentences when adding a caption, so the default should be to capitalize the first word. Second, I couldn’t figure out a way to tag Chevrolet even though I know they have a Google+ page. I deleted the first caption I spoke because when I said “at Chevrolet,” that’s what Glass typed. I don’t suppose it would work to have every use of the word “at” make the @ symbol, but maybe Google could come up with some other shortcut for tagging. (I later opened the Google+ app on my phone and added the @ sign so Chevrolet was tagged.)

As I mentioned earlier, I shared a number of photos with my daughter who was not attending the show, adding captions verbally each time. I sent them to her via Google Hangouts. She was able to see them almost instantly and replied back to me; the replies came in as notifications on my Glass and I was able to read them without getting out my phone. I noted later that the entire conversation, including the pictures, was on the Hangouts app on my phone. That synchronization was handy to use as a reference and to show the conversation to Jessi later.

20140117_211721_815_xI also used the translation technology for the first time. By telling Glass to translate something and then looking at a sign, I was able to read the German phrase Audi was using on its display. Glass provides a literal translation, so I suspect it’s not entirely correct but it gave me a good idea of what Audi was trying to convey. (Instead of “projecting,” I believe Audi means they are “advancing.”) In the picture at right, I created a vignette of the original sign and the Google translation, but when it’s live, you only see the main screen. Looking at a sign written in a foreign language and watching the words magically change to English is, well, magical.

Several other things happened besides the TV interview because I was wearing Glass, too. For one, I had complete strangers strike up a conversation with me — after all, that thing I’m wearing is a natural conversation starter. Being an Explorer is definitely an adjustment for my introverted personality. Most people see me as outgoing and not shy in the least, but I still have difficulty with “small talk” and generally will stay lost within my own thoughts at public events. Glass is forcing me to change that behavior.

The funniest conversation was toward the end when one attendee who had clearly been enjoying the free champagne all night said, “That is so cool! You’re like one of only 4 people in the world with those!” One of the most humorous and yet potentially frustrating conversations was when someone talked to me about the woman in California who received a ticket for wearing Glass while driving. They said, “Did you hear about the lady in Oregon that was arrested for wearing those?” It was humorous in how far from the truth it was, and yet potentially frustrating because I can only imagine how many people form their opinion on something like Google Glass based on thirty-third hand information about a news snippet.

Shooting the newest cars with the newest camera was a lot of fun. I don’t think Jessi believes that I made the Ford Escape’s hatch open by waving my foot underneath the rear bumper, since she couldn’t get it to work.

Overall, most of the technology I saw at the auto show was impressive, although I still wish car manufacturers would spend less time figuring out how to connect our dashboards to Facebook and more on how to provide windshield wipers that won’t freeze up in the winter. Nevertheless, a couple of manufacturers have decided to embrace wearable technology like Google Glass and I’m excited to see what they can come up with. After all, the future driver is right around the corner, and they will probably be wearing a computer.

For more highlight photos and videos from the auto show, visit my Google+ album.

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