Exploring Google Glass: A non-nerd's guide (and wish list)

Does Glass have any appeal or potential for the average consumer? Possibly...but it won't be easy for Google to get there.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Google Glass is arguably the most buzzworthy gadget du jour, but there are plenty of critics (or naysayers, haters, realists -- pick your party) who are questioning the staying power behind the fancy spectacles.

See also: Exploring Google Glass: A fitting appointment, step-by-step (slideshow)

In order for Glass to establish a market, it's going to need to fill voids and wedge its way into everyday life.

(Not to mention it's going to need to get over a certain image problem. For reference, see the "White Men Wearing Google Glass" Tumblr, which has sparked a firestorm, suggesting that Glass could go the way of the pocket protector if Google isn't careful.)


In response (or maybe in defense of Glass), ZDNet's esteemed editor-in-chief Larry Dignan thought I should give it a go in outlining a "non-nerd's guide" to using Glass -- if such a thing is even possible. CNET's Stephen Shankland quipped to me on Wednesday that is comparable to trying to write about Lamborghinis for non car-enthusiasts.

Nevertheless, I think in the future such a guide is possible...when there are more apps available for Glass. The problem (at least right now) is that there aren't enough things to do with Glass yet to justify a $1,500 price tag.

With the core features already onboard, here's how Google Glass can be put to use by just about anyone:

  • Directions: Why bother looking down at your phone when Glass can offer step-by-step navigation right in front of your eyes? There are fans on both sides of the road when it comes to using Glass while driving. But if you're walking down the street (and remember to look both ways when crossing), Glass directions keep your eyes off the sidewalk and facing forward.
  • Search: Apple's integration of Siri on the iPhone 4S made voice search look less crazy when walking down the street. Using the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, I had far better luck using Google Voice Search technology. The voice recognition system on Glass seems on par as the headset has returned relevant and quick results instantly without an errors over the last few days.
  • Photos: This is the most obvious and most advertised feature on Glass. The video recording feature was basically the star of the outrageous show when Glass was unveiled at Google I/O last year. Much like on smartphones and tablets, photos and videos are instantly uploaded to a user's Google+ account. Wearers can also instantly share this content publicly or with their Circles directly from the Glass interface.
  • News: The New York Times already has an app ready to go, so catching up with basic headlines and snippets from breaking news stories is a helpful function while on-the-go.
  • Email: This one works much like the news reader. Users could potentially send longer emails through narration, but a quick reply (sort of like a vocal text) would probably work best. (A Gmail account is required for setting up Glass, and I highly doubt Google will add support for any other email client soon...if ever.)
  • Path: If you're on Path, then like Google+, you can share content directly to the more private social network. Theoretically, you could then share the same content to other social networks you have linked to Path (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) by making an extra step on the desktop or mobile version. (That is, of course, if you are a Path user.)

For what else I want to see on Glass, read more >>

Photos: James Martin, CNET


Here's my wish list and brainstorm for potential uses with Glass and more wearable tech:

  • Fitness: I'm an avid runner, and I start each day with a long run. There must be some way that Glass can get involved here. The bridge and shell holding Glass together is made of titanium, so it's fairly sturdy and stays on my face without much of a problem. If cheap plastic sunglasses can sit firmly on my face for a 12-mile run, I think Glass shouldn't have a problem either. Wearable tech is also becoming a common accessory for runners and other fitness enthusiasts, indoors and outdoors. This ranges from the iPod shuffle to BodyMedia armbands. Nike has its own popular line of GPS-enabled wristbands and smartphone apps. Taken altogether, an app that tracks distance, calories burned, and more seems like a no-brainer for Glass.
  • Checking in: Not everyone is a big fan of mobile apps that automatically do things for users, such as checking them in at various locations. But if an opt-in feature is available, I'd love to be able to check in on Foursquare and Facebook on Glass. If you can share photos and videos to Google+ and Path, why not get more social networking clients and features involved as soon as possible?
  • Brick-and-mortar commerce: If consumers are going to start wearing Glass (or other future connected frames), it would make a lot of sense to take them shopping. Retailers are already brainstorming ways of tapping into smartphones and tablets through geo-location features and personalized offers to bring in more customers. Connected glasses should be no different. A Pinterest app could be amazing using Glass if users could take a photo of a product and save it to a Pinterest board for future reference. Another potential use case is Amazon's Price Check barcode scanning app. Similar to the smartphone version, Glass wearers could just match up the display with the barcode for instant comparison (and price savings).
  • Twitter: Contrary to the original purpose of this guide, sometimes you just can't reach to your phone to Tweet something hilarious or thought-provoking that you just heard. Admittedly, that's about the nerdiest problem ever. Nevertheless, why not take advantage of the voice recording potential for the video camera and use it for voice recognition purposes? Aside from being able to Tweet without typing, you could take notes (maybe it will get more users onboard with Google Keep -- if not Evernote...) or post status updates. (There's also GlassTweet, an unofficial app for Glass already making waves.)

This is just a rough sketch of what Glass could do if we give it more time. Even with the bare minimum features Glass already sports, there really could be room for a new market of wearable tech for the general public.

If anyone can come up with more innovative ideas for what something like this could do, it's Google.

The question is how long can the consumer world remain patient for the Internet giant to meet these demands and justify the price tag.

Photos: James Martin, CNET

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