Google Glass – hands on review

lensless GlassAfter writing about Google Glass for what seems years, Friday finally saw me get some on-face action with Google’s high tech specs.

I will start off by saying that, unfortunately due to the nature of the device, I won’t be able to show you exactly what I saw when I was wearing Glass. What I can do though is tell what I had a play with, how it operated, how good the apps were and, more importantly, what they are like for someone who actually has to wear spectacles.

Google Glass

Chances are that you’ve at least already seen Google Glass and, well, it’s a pair of specs with some bits added. To be honest, I was fairly amazed at how quickly I ignored the fact that there were people milling around the area with little heads-up-displays (HUD) and spy cameras fitted to their face-wear.

The spectacle designs come in a variety of shapes designed for different faces.

There were full-framed versions as well as the half-framed which I tended to opt for as these had to rest on top of my own glasses.

The clump of coloured, matte finished polycarbonate bodywork which houses all the clever bits of Glass, as well as the camera and its little adjustable arm for the display, is fairly unobtrusive and appears to be well put together.

Glass internals

Operating Glass

After a brief quick start run through the various swipe commands that we will be using (the right arm of Glass houses a touch pad so swiping forwards and back will flick through menus, swiping down with two fingers will put Glass to sleep and tapping the frame will wake it up) we were unleashed to explore different stations where we could try out specific apps.

My first stop was with Google’s translation software, with several boards around the showroom hosting a range of signs in different languages – there’s an app which can translate this stuff right in front of your eyes, but first I had to access it.

As instructed by the helpful helper lady, I tapped the side panel to wake Glass up, the little screen in the top right of my vision displayed the time in white luminescent text, with a keyphrase written underneath…”Ok Glass”. I then commanded Glass to “translate this”.

Glass testingUsing Word Lens the translation appears in your little HUD but exactly how the sign or magazine looks in real life, only in English. Yup, even the fonts remain the same.

Google’s rep explained that currently this only works for larger text, it hasn’t been honed for anything as small as a restaurant menu, for example, but that stuff is in the works for the future.

Wondering over to a station where loud music was blasting out and a rather bouncy Google helper was grooving around to ‘Hey Ya’ was apparently the place to test out the music recognition app (think Shazaam). Now I’ve tested a few of these apps and was prepared to tell Glass to “recognise this” and be shown the track name, artist and possible the album on which it was released. What actually happened was I got the artist and track but also the lyrics scrolling past my eye in real time with the track so that I could, if wanted, karaoke along.

There was also an app that, when you looked up, would tell you which planets, constellations, and galaxies you were seeing. Pretty cool but I had an app like that on my iPhone 4.

What’s the point of Google Glass

Is Glass a novelty? Yes. Could Glass be useful? Well, I think it could be.

Beyond being another piece of consumer tech and something which Google can add to its list of Wearables, there is potential for Glass to have some pretty special applications.

glass bookletI’ve already seen surgeons using Glass to give their students a first-hand view of procedures. There is also the potential for firefighters and other emergency service personnel to be outfitted with Glass so that they can, for example, bring up the floor-plan of a building they’re going into.

Can Glass be worn by a glasses wearer?

After my time with them, and at this point in time, the answer is a resounding no.

I managed to balance the half-frames above my fairly small specs and when I got the little display in my peripheral vision it was fine but, as anyone that actually has to use glasses to see things, the position of your eye wear changes as they slip up and down your nose or as you move around. This then meant that I was forever having to alter my glasses and adjust Glass. It was just a real pain in the… Glass.

Granted, the invite to this event did state that if you need glasses and have contact lenses, to wear them. But I don’t.

Glass rangeThe good news is that apparently there have been a handful of opticians who have been trained to fit prescription lenses in to Glass. By the sounds of things, these are all London-based at the moment.

Google is also teaming up with designers and established eyewear brands left, right, and centre: it makes the hardware and software, while the people who’ve been making glasses and shades for donkey’s years figure out how to fit stylish looking facial gear around it. Google showcased a few fairly slick looking pairs of sun-Glass-es at the this showcase and they did look pretty cool.

I’d like to see the option of just clicking on a Glass attachment to my specs using something like the Magne-Hinge.


While Glass is impressive for its commercial, industrial and service applications, I still remain unconvinced by it as a consumer product, particularly considering the price – £1000 in the UK, $1500 in the US if you want to get on-board now and join Google’s testing army.

Glass stampAlso, after testing Glass out for around 45 minutes, the side panel of Google Glass started to heat up quite a bit – just as your smartphone does when it’s working hard. The hardware is processing a lot of information in a confined space so it’s going to get warm. I for one will be standing by to see whether this causes problems further along, either simply with performance, or through the fact that people may be far less comfortable with processor heat on their face than in their palm.

If the price comes down (a lot) and they’re able to fit even my hefty prescription lenses in to them, then I might give Glass another go but, for now, I’m not joining the queue waving a grand in the air.