I’m writing this after 2 months of using Google Glass. As a mobile usability and UX guy, I’ve been talking a lot about wearables lately and how they will be transforming the mobile industry as they collect contextual data from the body and around the body (the environment and surroundings of the wearer). These data streams will go through the mobile smartphone which will then of course, sends the data wherever, sometimes with our knowledge and unfortunately often times without via those ‘accept these terms’ agreements that we click and approve without batting an eye. I’ll be giving at talk at Mobile Dev-Test about wearables in April 2015 so come pay me a visit and tell me your latest ‘wearable’ story or wearable application that you really love (or hate).

Luckily, I was able to obtain a Google Glass from one of our clients who is currently developing healthcare software and will/may be using Google Glass as part of their product. If I had spent $1500 as a consumer, I would be very disappointed. Based on my initial usage, here are my thoughts:

Google Glass for us ordinary consumers is a no-go. No one needs a $1500 device just for fun. A $100 wearable such as Jawbone or Shine, yes, but $1500? No way. Glass can do what an Android phone can do but makes it more convenient. You can talk to it, don’t have to take it out of your pocket, can take pictures and make movies while it’s on your face. I’m thinking that perhaps you gain 20-30% efficiency in being able to do those things faster (all in task start up times). So that’s the main plus, which is a problem. There don’t seem to be any apps that you can really do well or only with the Glass, or perhaps apps that I really want that can only be done with Glass (yet). Perhaps we need Steve Jobs to tell us what Google Glass applications we want but don’t even know we want! But right now, I just can’t justify the cost. Google Glass for us ordinary consumers is a no-go.

Until there are some cool apps for consumers, then I would not spend the money to gain a small edge in start up time for ordinary tasks that can be done with other devices.

From the UX point of view, it’s cumbersome and looks cool for only a few minutes. You may think people think you’re cool but after wearing for a while, and getting a few looks. Those that know what it is, think, “I wonder if this guy is recording me or taking pictures of me”. And then, it just plain gets in the way most of the time. You would think it would be “usable”, but for me it just wasn’t. I’d say it’s the modern day equivalent of the “cell phone” that we carried around back in the early 90’s with a huge battery pack. And back to cost, who wants to wear a $1500 device around, risking losing it?

Which brings me to the next issue, power. It charges up like a mobile phone would; takes several hours. And the display shows how much power you have in terms of % just like a mobile phone, but unfortunately it runs down rather quickly. I’d say you can get one day if you’re lucky, of moderate use out of it.

Let’s talk about the network. You can connect your Glass to Wi-Fi, and you can connect your Glass to your mobile phone, via Wi-Fi hotspot. The problem with this is that if you don’t have a hotspot (mobile plan) on your phone, then you have to pay extra for it via your mobile carrier. But perhaps if you can afford $1500 for Glass, you don’t worry about this!

So the reason that Google wants you always connected via either hotspot or Wi-Fi? Because they want all your data! Whenever and wherever you are, they are recording it and analyzing it. It’s in the small print. Additionally, when you decide you want to share your pictures or movies, it pops up your Google+ circles. You can select individuals but it’s a little cumbersome. The idea is to get your data out there on the web. You can always choose not to of course, but it seems coercing to me.

I’ve just talked about Glass from a consumer point of view. I love gadgets and tracking devices. But usually they don’t cost this much. Perhaps if the price comes down some, and if there are more useful apps that give more either a greater productivity boost, or an app that gives me capability above and beyond what a smartphone can already do, then I’ll be a believer.

From a business point of view though, there are many applications that could justify the cost. Glass can do what an Android phone can do but makes it more convenient in that it is on your face versus in your pocket. It is basically an information recorder and sharer (photos, videos and surrounding context). That being said, it will serve excellently in the medical domain or in any field where you have a person in the field that needs to conveniently record and share information and communicate simultaneously to get feedback. This could be a repairman under your car, a technician fixing a sophisticated piece of equipment that doesn’t have all the expertise but could be guided, emergency rescue teams, police, etc. Even so, with the cost and usability issues, I’d say it will have to wait for Glass 2.0 with a smaller less cumbersome version at lower cost.

For the time being, for me, it’s a gadget.

About the Author

Philip Lew As CEO, Mr. Lew guides XBOSoft (http://www.xbosoft.com/) in its overall strategy and operations. Previously, Mr. Lew worked at a large IT services provider as Chief Operating Officer.
Previously, Mr. Lew founded Pulse Technologies, Inc., a leader in contact center systems integration in Chantilly, VA. As the company’s President, Mr. Lew managed the overall growth of the company. In 1996, Pulse Technologies and its proprietary call center data warehousing software called soEZ were sold to EIS International (a public company listed on NASDAQ), a nationwide leader in contact center management systems.

Mr. Lew is an Adjunct Professor at Alaska Pacific University and Project Management College teaching graduate courses in software engineering, software quality assurance, IT project management, and IT Governance. Mr. Lew is a certified PMP.
He has presented at numerous conferences on contact center technology and web application usability, user experience, and quality evaluation. He has been published in Project Management Technology, Network World, Telecommunications Magazine, Call Center Magazine, TeleProfessional, and DataPro Research Reports. He received his B.S. and Master of Engineering degrees in Operations Research from Cornell University and his Ph.D. from Beihang University where his research area focused on software usability and quality evaluation. His research is currently focused on measuring user experience.