Google Glass: Yes, it's that bad

Google Glass is an idea whose time hasn't come

I've wanted a Google Glass since Commander Sisko had one on "Star Trek Deep Space 9." I ignored the warning that only the Vorta could wear them without getting a terrible headache. I thought: It's like having your own private wearable big-screen TV! But hey, I was like 14 or 15 when that show started. (I mention this only to make my editor feel old.)

At an illustrious event entitled "Glass Durham," which took place at Bay 7 in the historic American Tobacco campus, I was cured of this childhood fantasy. Or at least, this incarnation of it.

Terminally hip

Google is trying to market something that makes you look like a dork as fashionable. Of course, I am no fashion diva. My wife once said that clothes make a statement about you. When I asked what my clothes say, she replied, "That you like zombies and the beach."

Anyway, I stood in line with a bunch of people who looked like the fools who stand in line for the latest iPhone. The Glass logo suggested an electronic indie rock hipster fair flash mob could break out at any moment. Each youth waited faithfully for a chance to look like a model in some futuristic Aryan dystopia.

Google flew in a few Californians and temp-hired a bunch of recent UNC grads to pretend to have worn Glass for months. A good portion of the demo was "well, this is pre-recorded because we're having Internet problems," which pointed to a major problem with the device: It requires your phone to provide the Internet or reliable Wi-Fi.

When can I actually get one?

I asked a few basic questions about Glass: When will it be available to developers outside of San Francisco, where they hold the event? The marketoid told me that it isn't just San Francisco, it's also New York and Los Angeles as well! No idea when it would be available to other developers.

This presents a potential problem for Google. is a marketing event. You need to distribute more units to more developers than will come to your conference in order to launch with enough applications to prevent the thing from flopping. (Ask HP how WebOS went.)

For consumers, the device will be available "sometime in 2014." So these Glass events are mainly about building demand.

I also asked about battery life. The marketoid said about a day of normal use.

Glass: Like Siri, only more particular

I brought my eldest stepson, Alec to the event. He's 20, attends NC State, and has embarrassed me by buying both a Microsoft Surface and an iPod Touch. We both stood at the demo station beginning every sentence with "OK Glass," tapping our temples repeatedly, and looking schizophrenic -- but not getting it to answer our questions.

Don't get me wrong, I use voice commands on my Android phone all the time. But the command language of the Glass has fewer synonyms (i.e., both "listen to" and "play" work to play music on my phone). Also, the microphone is as likely to pick up the person next to you as it is you.

Annoyingly, the Glass constantly suspends itself or turns itself off. This makes for a frustrating experience, where you tap your temple repeatedly to turn the thing on. The default for basic functions like taking a video is only 10 seconds. The device reportedly has only 16GB, but the marketoid felt that was enough because it uploads to your "private Google+" storage area.

My eye, my eye, my bleeding eye

After less than 15 minutes of this, my eye felt like it would pop out of my head. The resolution was too low, and you can see the screen door on the holographic projection. I tried adjusting the headset multiple ways (much to the chagrin of the marketoid, who believed there is "only one way to wear Glass"), but there was no way to use it in a way that didn't annoy me, hurt my eyes, or make me roll my eyes back in my head.

Google has long been known for waging a "war on old people," and it is possible that my multifocal contacts have something to do with the eyestrain, but the resolution is truly poor. Alec said it gave him a headache as well and he doesn't even wear glasses, except for night vision.

The answer from our energetic young marketoid was "I find the more that I use Glass, the less I use Glass." In other words, yes, you will spend a reported $1,500 to look stupid and avoid yanking your phone out of your pocket to check the time and ask, "What was the score of the Carolina game?" several times while tapping your temple repeatedly.

Cured of Glass envy

Sadly, my dream of being a Vorta lacks not only the ears and pale color, but the headset.

Alec nailed it when he said, "It's a nice idea but terrible execution." Humans were given stereoscopic vision for a reason, resolution is constantly evolving to be better -- and gosh, you have a video camera, Glass, why not do some eye tracking so that I don't have to tap my temple repeatedly? Moreover, if I have to Bluetooth or tether this thing to my phone to connect it to the Internet, you're going to need a bigger battery in both devices.

As hugely successful as this marketing event was, once the glitter wears off, I can't help but feel that Glass will go the way of the Apple Newton.  My advice is to wait for Glass 2 -- or for someone else to make a more functional Vortan device.

This article, "Google Glass: Yes, it's that bad," was originally published at Keep up on the latest developments in application development, and read more of Andrew Oliver's Strategic Developer blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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