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Tom Simonite

A View from Tom Simonite

We Still Don’t Know What Google Glass Will Be Like to Use

New video and images from Google still don’t reveal what its wearable display will show the user.

  • February 20, 2013

Google’s new website showing off Glass—eyeglass frames that insert a display into your peripheral vision—goes some way to explain what the company is planning for the gadget, such as directions and voice control. But the company still hasn’t given us a good sense of what the device will really be like to wear, and is even slightly misleading about it.

Still images on this page (scroll down) show the imagery from glass occupying the center of a person’s field of view. That’s impossible, because a Glass device holds its prism just above a person’s right eye. Getting what Glass displays to fill your vision as in the image above would require you to look up and to the right whilst closing your left eye. Google has given that misleading impression before in its first promo video for Glass (see “Google Video Shows its Vision for Smart Glasses”), something that has led many people to mistakenly believe Glass will be able to deliver augmented reality and overlay imagery onto the world.

The way notifications have been overlaid onto the top right corners of this video, apparently shot using Glass devices, looks more representative of what the device could actually show you. But that still can’t tell us more important things, such as how easily Glass’s imagery can be tuned out when your attention is elsewhere, or whether changes on the display such as a new notification will be noticeable enough to catch your attention. It will also be interesting to know how easy it is to get used to swiveling your eyes to the edge of their range to look at what Glass shows, since the more natural way to focus your attention on something in your peripheral vision is to turn your head.

Holding a small scrap of paper with text on it just above your right eye might be a better way than Google’s videos and photos to give you a true feel for those things (and perhaps a way to preview the attention that wearing a Glass device in public may attract). More so than other technologies, actually trying on Google Glass will be critical for anyone hoping to understand what it might be like to use. News that Google is to open its own retail stores, combined with company cofounder Sergey Brin’s avowals that Glass will become commercially available in 2014, suggest that taking the device for a test drive may soon be possible.

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