All explorers eventually become settlers

wagon train oklahomaIt was officially announced today that the Google Glass Explorer program is shutting down as Google moves the project out of its X-labs phase and into, reportedly, a consumer division. News reports indicate it’s moving into the same division as the Nest thermostat group.

Seeing Glass move on from ultra beta to something more consumer focused is exciting, albeit a little disconcerting since it seems the current hardware that Explorers are wearing won’t be receiving any new software updates. Plus, it has been reported that Google is moving to a different chip and, possibly, a sleeker design.

I don’t mind that Google is shifting gears away from the Glass Explorer program. I do think they could have handled the public relations on the announcement better though. They could have, for example, sent the announcement directly to Explorers instead of letting many of us read about it in the news. (I did receive an email from Google Glass, but it arrived several hours after the news broke publicly.) I actually first caught wind of the report when a writer contacted me for my thoughts on the Explorer program shutting down. I and many other Explorers shared our thoughts with him and you can read that report here.

resourceFrom day one, the public relations, marketing and government lobbying aspects of the Glass program have been questionable at best. I’m sure Google learned a ton about the technology behind Glass and have many ideas on how to improve it. I can only hope that they have learned as much about the humanity behind Glass, as well.

One of the questions I was asked for the report linked above was what I thought Google needed to do next to get the program into full consumer production mode. What I said was that they have to do three things to make this successful beyond a beta product. Those three things include a lower price, a less-intrusive design and a smaller battery that provides more time on a single charge. That’s a lot to ask for from any new technology so it wouldn’t surprise me if this takes a while to develop. It seems to me that they probably captured all they could from the Explorer program and are ready to move into the next phase, which is a good sign in many ways. Wearables are going to become commonplace someday, and we Explorers will look back and laugh at how we chose to walk around with the brick-style cell phones of wearable tech.

Ari B. Adler with GlassThe Explorer Edition of Glass provided me with some amazing opportunities in the 13 months I have owned it. I have met people from many places and walks of life, some online and some in real life. I have been featured in news articles, resurrected my blog, and been drawn out of my introverted shell at public gatherings because of Glass.

I lost track a long time ago of the number of times people have stopped me to ask about Glass and the number of people who got excited when I explained what it can do. And seeing someone’s reaction when they try on Glass and experience firsthand what it’s capable of is always a treat.

Yes, it’s still clunky and it screams “nerd,” but it is the first step to the future of wearables and those first steps are always fraught with complications. It is unfortunate that negative media attention became a sure thing to raise click rates. There has been a lot of misinformation and downright hyperbole extolled by the media that should not have happened.

All-in-all though, I’d say being an Explorer has been great and I hope the device lasts me a good long while yet. It would be really difficult to get used to not having easy texting, turn-by-turn navigation and hands-free photos and videos available the way they are with Glass.

So, sorry, Steve Jobs, but as the Google Glass Explorer program comes to a close, I’m reminded of one Apple’s most inspiring quotes:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.

And, I would add, the ones who don’t need a little “i” in front of a device to think it might stand a chance at changing the world.

It has been a fun ride being one of those crazy explorers. But eventually every explorer becomes a settler. Well, at least until the next great gadget comes along that we simply must try no matter how much of a crazy misfit it makes us appear to be.

androidify Ari

Google Glass shortcoming: Not all heads are created equal

SNP_233490CC72CA4D5E0DE3E119EE660F64BB9E_3284798_en_v0My wife, Jessi, and I got together with a group of friends last night to celebrate some accomplishments and a birthday and just have fun hanging out. It’s the first time we’ve gotten together at our house since I became a Google Glass Explorer, so the environment lent itself well to most everyone passing Glass around to try them out.

Overall, the reaction was quite positive, with one of the best comments being, “Those are a lot cooler than I expected.” I think most people would realize that there is a tremendous amount of potential within this new tech if they just gave it a chance.

Because of the various shapes and sizes of the people in our group, it also was a good opportunity to see how Glass’ one-size-fits-most approach is going to work (or not) if Google goes mainstream with them. The Glass team did a good job creating a device that is quite bendable and adjustable. Most anyone can find a way to tweak the nose pads and frame to fit their head. And the hinged feature of the viewscreen means you can adjust it so the entire screen is within your field of vision. I never thought about it, but several of us in our group discovered that we see things at very different angles based on our individual facial structures. I must have the viewscreen tipped in nearly 100 percent, while Jessi tips it out a lot further and another friend of ours had it resting somewhere between.

Of course, the viewscreen is only on the right side, and I’ve had people ask about a left-eyed Glass being available since the vision is negatively affected in their right eye for some reason and they would find Glass easier to use if it could be over their left eye. I don’t know if Google intends on making right-eye and left-eye versions, but I can definitely see that as a major marketing issue at some point.

One of the biggest Google Glass shortcomings I’ve discovered has to do with sound, because not all heads are created equal. We’ve known this to be true for some time, particularly when my wife was trying them out and wanted to learn more about using them. She’s supportive of my being an Explorer, although she has remarked that I talk to myself a lot more than I used to. Unfortunately, because my wife is petite, she is unable to hear things the way she’s supposed to through the Bone Conduction Transducer built into Glass.

When she puts Glass on her head, which is very small, the Bone Conduction Transducer (a.k.a., the speaker) ends up behind her skull. She said that what she hears sounds like it’s coming out of a speaker being held behind her head. Granted, she could use the earbud, but I think one of the cool things about Glass is the ability to listen through the BCT — it is certainly a bonus for someone like me who has reduced hearing in one ear. When I listen to music through Glass, the music is throughout my head and I don’t have the usual sensation of it being louder on the right like I do when using earbuds.

I’m not sure that there’s much of an answer to this unless Google is going to start making multiple sizes of frames to help people adjust to Glass — not just from side to side but from front to back. You can tweak Glass now to fit just about any width of head. But for folks like Jessi, they need to consider a shorter temple on the right. That may be difficult given the size of the battery pack required right now, but hopefully they’re working on a way to make that section of Glass smaller for all of us, and especially the smaller folks who want to enjoy this tech, too.

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The large block behind my ear is the Glass battery and toward the front of that block is the Bone Conduction Transducer, a.k.a. the speaker. It rests comfortably against my skull, allowing me to hear sounds from Glass well without the need for the optional earbud.

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Here, you can see how much further back the battery block sits on Jessi’s head, which is why the BCT isn’t touching her skull and sounds from Glass are very different for her.

Mobile phones are doomed

OK, I admit it. That headline is all about link bait, but what tech journal or blog isn’t based on that most of the time these days? I jest, because I hate that kind of writing.

As a Google Glass Explorer, however, I have to endure my share of “they are doomed” types of blog posts, news articles and comments on social media networks.

The fact that the devices are only available to very early adopters (“Explorers”) should key everyone in that these aren’t yet ready for mainstream use. There is no surprise there, since a lot of new technology goes through the prototype, developer, alpha and beta stages before people can get their hands on it.

One of the biggest problems for Google Glass is that society has become so accustomed to instant gratification that allowing a concept to develop naturally is seen as a failure.

m_40052_1Too often, I see people wanting to compare Google Glass to modern-day mobile phones. But that is a ridiculous notion. When mobile phones first came out, they were bulky, expensive to buy and use, and seen initially as status symbols for elitists. I remember folks not understanding the need to have a phone with you all the time. I was a newspaper reporter in the early 1990s and the paper I worked at had one mobile phone. It was a bag phone that you slung over your shoulder on the way out the door after checking it out from the editor’s desk. These days, reporters are filing stories with audio, pictures and video straight from their mobile phones.

Later, when they became mainstream, mobile phones changed again, turning into computing devices that could allow us to get email on the go — a feature about which I heard people say, “Why would we want that?!” and “Those keyboards are so tiny, no one will ever use them for serious business work.” I do the majority of my work on my mobile phone and tablets these days, so put another chalk mark in the “Wrong!” column for those folks.

My headline on this post, while sensationalistic, does have a point. I believe mobile phones are doomed — in the long run. The landline phone is becoming a dinosaur as more and more people abandon them in their homes and stick with just their mobile phones. Eventually, as wearable computing devices like Glass and smart watches evolve, I suspect they will replace mobile phones. Imagine what will happen to the mobile phone industry when developers find a way to supply cell tower, WiFi and Internet connections directly to a watch or glasses instead of via a mobile phone connection. I can envision an era when people might say, “When I was young, we had to carry phones around in our hands. Kids today don’t know how good they have it.”

I have no idea how long it will take, but it will happen. The naysayers who think Google Glass is useless because it doesn’t have enough apps seem to forget that iPhones and Android phones didn’t have hundreds of thousands of apps available their first year. Those developed over time as smart, creative people found new ways to use mobile phones with an app that many others could not have initially imagined but that they now take for granted.

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iPhone 1

In 2007, Apple Computer launched the iPhone, the company’s first ever smartphone. When the device launched, the device did not provide any support for third-party software: Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs believed that web applications served over the internet could provide adequate functionality required for most users. (Wikipedia)

Haters are going to hate. The uniformed and uninitiated will fear that which they do not understand. But none of that should stop explorers (of all kinds, not just Google Glass Explorers) from boldly advancing. If we never had anyone say “There should be an app for that,” we would not find our mobile phones as powerful or useful as they are today.

I hope those people always keep dreaming.

And to the folks who insist on declaring something useless or doomed because it has not had time to develop properly, please accept that there are some extraordinary things going on with or without your support. But your noise is distracting the people who are going to make a difference in this world and they would really appreciate a little quiet from your corner of the Internet.

Oh yeah, and the Internet was never going to amount to anything either, remember?

800px-First_Web_Server

This NeXT workstation (a NeXTcube) was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here as displayed in 2005 at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN (where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web). (Wikipedia)

“Your Chance to Buy Google Glass”

google glass

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but a few months back I found the Google Glass Explorers page where you could sign up for an invitation to purchase Google Glass. I filled everything out and, basically, forgot about it. I never thought I’d be selected because it’s just not what happens for me. I’m never lucky in that sense.

But then on Dec. 2 I received an email totally out of the blue with the subject line, “Your Chance to Buy Google Glass.” Upon opening and comprehending that my chance had actually materialized, I told my wife, who celebrated with me until she heard about the price tag of $1,500.

That’s a big chunk of change for anyone to lay out and the only reason I was able to is because I had some money put away from a very small inheritance that I was keeping for “something, some day.” Well, with the Glass invitation expiring after only seven days, that “some day” was upon me and that “something” was Glass.

I still had to convince my wife that it was a good idea, showing her the device’s potential and how exciting it would be to participate as an early explorer. Also, it doesn’t hurt that she has two expensive hobbies. A little give and take on that kind of thing in a marriage doesn’t hurt, I suppose, especially when you do the research ahead of time and point out how much each of her hobbies has received from our joint bank account over the past couple of years!  🙂

Devious on my part? Perhaps a little, but when she tried to smother me with a couch pillow, she was laughing, and not in an evil way, which was a relief.

The ordering process was extremely easy, particularly since I have a credit card connected to my Google Wallet, and of course Google knows that. I had to choose between one of four colors — charcoal, tangerine, shale, cotton and sky. That would be dark gray, orange, light gray, white and bright blue, for those of you not familiar with marketing-speak colors. I almost went for tangerine, since I figured that if I’m going to stick out by wearing this thing, why not go all out? For reference, it wouldn’t be the first time, since I own a bright orange Volkswagen like the one pictured below.

vw_specials_09

But my wife pointed out it might be a bit too garish and we couldn’t be certain what the “tangerine” shade would actually look like in real life compared to what we were seeing on our computer screen. The white and bright blue were too bright, the charcoal seemed too dark — so that made shale just right.

shale glass

 

So now I’ve spent the first few hours as a Google Glass Explorer just waiting for the darn thing to arrive.

They said it could take a week.

In the meantime, I cleaned up my main blog pages and tidied things up to make this category page that allows people like you to bookmark the link and focus on just the Glass entries from Here Comes Later.

It’s been almost five hours since I received my order confirmation, but who is counting? Sigh. It’s going to be a long week, indeed.