As a Google Glass Explorer, you’re not just a pioneer in wearable technology, you have to be a dedicated explorer, someone who is willing to put up with some discomfort as you reach for frontiers others may not visit for years to come.
This was never more clear than the recent kerfuffle that occurred when Google pushed out the first major software update in months and Explorers found themselves with units that ranged from wonky to bricked.
While some people complained it was too much to bear, most Explorers seemed to understand that Google Glass is indeed a beta product — from the hardware to the software to the accessories. Google and its Explorers like me are going to find flaws, problems, and difficulties that must be overcome before this device can go mainstream.
When we recently upgraded from the XE 12 to XE 16 software, Google moved the operating system to the KitKat version of Android. This has a lot of potential for Glass and the apps, called Glassware, that developers are creating. In addition, the software update supposedly addresses some of the shortfalls Glass has experienced so far, especially battery life.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go very smoothly. In some cases, it resulted in constant reboots, features disappearing unexpectedly, increased battery drain, units overheating and shutting down and, in the most extreme circumstances, units becoming expensive paperweights.
Google, while at first a little slow on keeping Explorers informed on what was happening, learned its lesson quickly and tried to correct everything. We went from version 16 to 16.1 to 16.11 and finally 16.2 within about 10 days. Google fixed many things with each iteration, but other problems arose. And they aren’t done just yet. My device upgraded to 16.2 and began rebooting itself every few minutes for a couple of hours. Then, suddenly, it stabilized and it has acted the best it has in weeks. I crossed my fingers and hoped that things are calming down now for a while…and that 16.21 isn’t released to fix problems other people are having and it somehow screws up my Glass instead.
In addition to learning quickly that they needed to talk to their Explorers instead of staying quiet, and then talk with their Explorers in a way that allowed them to listen better, Google made great public relations strides throughout this episode of Glass drama.
From what I’ve heard, they have been quickly replacing the Glass units that were bricked, offering Explorers the chance to change their color if interested, and snag an extra accessory as an apology for the mess and a thank you for being understanding.
I was frustrated at times and had to take a deep breath, reminding myself that I volunteered to pay money to enter a beta program. And I’m certain my problems weren’t as difficult as what many other Explorers were facing. But hopefully everyone’s Glass will be up and running smoothly soon and they can continue exploring something other than Google Plus posts seeking help and advice on how to save their Glass from self-destruction.
Could Google have handled the software rollout and patches better? At the beginning of the problem, yes. But it’s rare to see a company the size of Google adapt so quickly and bring its public relations activities up to speed so rapidly and effectively.
So while there’s no shame in Explorers having some level of frustration for what happened, it seems to me that Google proved “beta” can stand for “Bad Experiences Tactfully Alleviated.”