1 year later…

My one-year anniversary status post about being a Google Glass Explorer is available here on Google Plus.

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My best of #throughglass in 2014

Google Glass recently asked its Glass Explorers to share their favorite #throughglass pictures from 2014 so they could share what everyone has been up to.

I had a tough time narrowing down some of the great shots afforded to me because I was wearing Glass this past year, and I don’t think I could choose just one. So, here were the three choices I submitted:

A shot taken on St. John, USVI, during a family vacation. It symbolizes a favorite memory and a window onto the world that Glass provides all of its users.

A shot taken on St. John, USVI, during a family vacation. It symbolizes a favorite memory and a window onto the world that Glass provides all of its users.

A shot of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which demonstrates Glass' ability to capture a spur-of-the moment picture with its wide-angle lens and great clarity, plus the ability to create a vignette with information about what is in the photo. I use that all the time to help document places where pictures are taken, as a sort of "place stamp."

A shot of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which demonstrates Glass’ ability to capture a spur-of-the moment picture with its wide-angle lens and great clarity, plus the ability to create a vignette with information about what is in the photo. I use that all the time to help document places where pictures are taken, as a sort of “place stamp.”

A shot of my wife, Jessi, atop a frozen Grand Haven Lighthouse in Grand Haven, Michigan last winter. Due to the extreme cold and the very slippery conditions, this is a picture I probably would not have attempted with a camera or even a mobile phone. It is a great example of Glass' hands-free capabilities for documenting a moment in time.

A shot of my wife, Jessi, atop a frozen Grand Haven Lighthouse in Grand Haven, Michigan last winter. Due to the extreme cold and the very slippery conditions, this is a picture I probably would not have attempted with a camera or even a mobile phone. It is a great example of Glass’ hands-free capabilities for documenting a moment in time.

I’m doing the 2-gig jig with Glass

 

After having my Google Glass replaced due to the fatal foil flaw, I was excited to learn that I had not just a new piece of hardware, but the new hardware. The latest version of Glass is shipping with 2 gigs of memory on board instead of the 1 gig found on the original second-generation units. (Google has yet to call the 2GB versions the “third generation,” but some Glass Explorers have dubbed it that.)

Tim the Toolman TaylorExplorers have gone through update after update on the software side as Google has tried to fix problems caused by moving Glass to the KitKat operating system. I believe they have now found the solution: give it more power!

As with any computing device, if you dump an operating system and more programs on it that will do more that doesn’t mean your computer can do more. KitKat clearly chews up most of the memory available on the 1GB Glass and any sort of multitasking with apps kills it.

Instead of constant crashes, freezes and random reboots while trying to multitask with 1GB, the new 2GB version running the latest software (XE 18.3) resulted in my recent post to Google+:

I did a short bike ride tonight while listening to some music on +Google Glass and a undertook a mission on Zombies, Run! (It’s still entertaining, even on a bike, because you still have to sprint periodically to stay ahead of the brain eaters!) Anyway, it performed very well and operated smoothly.

I listened to some music for about 10 minutes while getting ready. I even took a picture of a backyard visitor while listening to music and there was no lag in the picture being taken and no stuttering of the music being played.

Once on the bike, I listened to the first mission of Zombies, Run! for about 30 minutes or so, then listened to music again for about 10 minutes. (News and email alerts kept flowing in, too, but I didn’t open them.)

Upon arriving home, I sent and received a few text messages and made a four-minute phone call using Glass as my headset.

All of that chewed up 35% of my battery.

The new 2GB model running XE18.3 is what I always imagined Glass should be like.

There are also subtle design differences with the new unit, with some as mundane as where they put the design and build text, which is now located under the battery housing. The attachment screws are black instead of silver now, too.

Google Glass

The nose pads are different now, as well, with the ability to swivel more, much like you often see on regular eyeglass frames.

Google Glass nose pads

The “optics pod,” or what people who aren’t Google Glass Guides would call “the screen,” seems different, too, but I can’t put my finger on it. It’s almost like it’s brighter, and sometimes that means I’m getting more of a ghosting/glare effect on what I’m viewing than I did on the first unit.

The only unfortunate thing for me so far is that I cannot get the Notification Glance option to work on this new unit. It was super easy to calibrate on my old Glass, and I found it to be a far superior method to checking what the notification ding means compared to bobbing my head to do what some of my coworkers have dubbed, “Ari’s Glass twitch.”

I need to mess around with it some more, but if that’s the only negative thing about upgrading, I won’t complain.

I’ll just keep doing the 2-gig jig and multitasking on Glass like there’s no tomorrow.

 

Elaine Benes dancing

Foiled by a design flaw

Google Glass has a fatal design flaw that is resulting in a growing number of complaints and replacements — and now I’ve become the victim, as well.

The end of the optics prism is covered in a silver foil that blocks the light from entering at the end of the prism, which would distort the view at best and make it impossible to see at worst. Trouble happens when the foil bubbles up and sometimes seems to peel away from Glass.

IMG_20140626_133832218 (1)In my case, the foil developed bubbles, which has resulted in a distorted view inside the Glass prism, rendering it almost unusable.

The most unfortunate thing for me — beyond the device becoming a $1,5000 novelty item — is the timing. I was traveling with my family  on vacation and the foil bubbled on the next to last night of our trip. While I had not been using it much due to the nature of our daytime activities, which included a lot of snorkeling, I was planning on breaking out Glass to use during our travels home. I also have another trip planned for this coming week where I was hoping to use Glass and its travel aids.

Upon returning home, I contacted Google Glass to report the issue and determine the next steps. I’m on Day 3 of working with Google to get through the process of getting it replaced. I wasn’t happy that the Glass Guide initially said, “I can’t guarantee you a replacement will be made, but we definitely will look into this.” That’s not what an unhappy customer with a device still under warranty that is suffering from a fatal design flaw wants to hear! Still, I’m reserving judgment until final disposition.

The people involved have been friendly and the process is rather straightforward so far. I had to speak to a Glass Guide about my problem and they emailed me a questionnaire for me to respond to via email and asked for three clear pictures showing the Glass from different angles.  The only glitch in that process so far has been that the Guide told me I’d receive an email from him within 30 minutes. After 2 hours, I called back to make sure they didn’t have my email address wrong. Another Guide opened the file and said she’d take care of getting me an email right away. About 45 minutes later I had an email from the original Guide with my questionnaire.

The delay perturbed me, but mainly because the original Guide was not up front with me about timing. If it’s busy at Glass HQ and it’s going to take a few hours to send me something, then say so. Don’t promise 30 minutes and then leave me hanging.

So, now it’s Saturday and I don’t expect I’ll hear anything until Monday, but perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve heard Glass Explorers who get warranty replacements have mixed results — with some getting a replacement sent first and the defective unit returned afterward, and others having to return the bad unit first, which delays the process. Can I live without Glass for a couple of weeks? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. I’ll cover why in an upcoming blog post.

For now, I’ll just become another person with my head down, looking at my mobile phone instead of my surroundings. It’s less Star Trek, but more distracting.

Virtual_device01

 

 

BETA can mean Bad Experiences Tactfully Alleviated

exploring-the-amazon-with-google-mapsAs 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.

resourceWhen 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.

Glass reply

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.”