Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Glass FAQ

There are better sources of info about Google Glass, I thought I'd write up my own answers to frequently asked questions, since mine will often differ with others.


What is it?
It’s an early prototype for doing a mind-meld with the cloud. It’s for interacting with the cloud while you are physical active, leaving your hands free, without having to look down at your phone all the time.

I mean, what is it?
It's an Android device with a heads-up display and bone-conduction speakers. Here's the teardown. Here's the wiki page.

I’m excited, how do I get one?
You can’t, and you don’t want to. Both the device itself and the cloud services behind it are in early prototype stage, such that its failures usually outweigh its successes. Unless you are a developer or a “futurist”, you really don’t want one, and Google won’t sell you one.

How much does it cost?
I paid $1500 for mine plus a trip to New York. You have to go to the Google offices in NYC/LA/SF for fitting and indoctrination. At this time, though, you can’t buy one.

How intuitive is it? What’s the learning curve?
I just hand it to people with no explanation. They figure it out instantly. Of course, these people are all nerds – average people may need more help.

How heavy is it?
My perception is that it’s no heavier than the glasses I normally wear.

How comfortable is it?
Almost like any pair of glasses.

Battery life?
As it sits on your face, it’s “off” except for the bluetooth connection to your phone. It’ll last all day in this mode.
If you heavily interact with it, such as constantly sending messages to/from people, it’ll last about 4 hours.
If you stream video to the net, it’ll last for about 40 minutes before the battery gets drained.

What’s the recharge time?
Very fast. They warn you to be careful about using the power adapter for other Android devices, because it may charge them too fast.

Does it connect to my phone or is it a device of its own?
It connects via Bluetooth to your phone in order to act as a normal Bluetooth headset for making phone calls. It'll also get GPS info via Bluetooth if your phone supports that feature. If you've got a "tethering" plan for your phone, then it'll use that for data if WiFi isn't available.
Otherwise, it'll use WiFi for data features. If your phone isn't connected, it can't make phone calls (though, of course, it can make data VoIP calls via such things as Google Hangouts).
Basically, you use it for messaging and stuff while you are out and about doing stuff, but you might wait until you get back to your hotel before uploading any videos that you took, because the data connection on phones costs a bunch of money.

What are the WiFi capabilities?
It’s 802.11n on the 2.4 GHz band.
It’ll automatically connect to open access points. However, it doesn’t handle “captive portals” that make you accept Terms of Service.
To configure WPA2 and passwords, you go to Googlel’s site. It makes a QRcode out of it, which Glass then reads.
It supports WEP because somebody in Glass development is a Grade A moron.

What’s the primary use of Glass?
It’s hard to say, especially since the device is still in development, and so many cool features still don’t work right.
I got it mostly to annoy other people, but that’s just me.

Does it heat up while under heavy load (like taking video)?
Yes, it gets very hot. Luckily, the battery and the circuit are separated from each other, so the heat won’t damage the battery. Also, the hot side is away from your face: so while the outside can get uncomfortable to the touch, the part touching your head barely feels warm.

Do I have to always speak for actions?
No, you can completely control the device with the touch pad as well. The touch pad is on the side of your face.

How is the sound?
The sound uses "bone conduction", so you can cover your ear to block outside noise. However, it's not loud enough and is often hard to hear.

How is the Bluetooth?
Works perfectly as far as I can tell.

Is it jailbroken yet?
A developer has released a jailbreak. However, that was for version 4 of the software, and the current version is 6, so I don't know if the Explorer Edition can be jailbroken.

The Heads up Display (HUD)

How big is the HUD?
It’s not distracting when you aren’t looking at it, invisible, fading from view.
It’s huge when you are looking at it, taking up most of your field of view.
This is perception, not objective measures.


Why would anybody think Google Glass is a good idea?
They said the same thing about the iPhone … and the Newton.
The Newton is the best comparison. This was Apple’s failed hand-held computer from the 1990s. It was before it’s time – it was the iPhone hand-held computer that changed the world. In much the same way, Glass is before it’s time, but there’s good reason to suspect that the effort Google puts into Glass now will result in cool related products in the future.

Do you feel like a tool for wearing them?
I aspire to be a tool.

Has anybody objected to you wearing them in their presence?
Not yet, but I haven’t been trying hard enough.


Is it always recording/streaming video?
No. That quickly drains its tiny battery and uses up your phone’s data plan. A person with Glass is no more likely taking video of you than a person with a mobile phone.

How do they get consent from people before streaming video to the cloud?
The issue is the same as with any mobile phone. You don’t need permission in the United States. I don’t know about other country, but in every country I’ve been to, people just upload pics/video to the web from their mobiles.

If someone wearing Glass is at the neighboring urinal, did the entire Internet just see my penis?
Probably not. Video drains the battery extremely fast, so it’s almost never enabled. The problem with Glass is that it doesn’t fit in your pocket while not in use. The only convenient place to put it is on your face. Just because somebody is wearing it doesn’t mean its on.

What mined data is sent to the cloud?
The same as with any Android phone. This is just an Android device with a smaller screen that fits on your head.

How do I disable /usr/sbin/prismd?
It has no additional privacy concerns beyond what your Android phone already has.

How do I tell people wearing Glass not to record me?
Well, they probably aren’t. It drains the battery fast. They are less likely to be recording you than somebody else covertly recording with a mobile phone.

How practical is face recognition?
Not very.
The first problem is that face recognition based on 2D static images is impractical. Practical face recognitions requires 4D – two cameras to get a 3D image plus dynamic video instead of still images. In short, you need a Kinect-type system.
The second problem is compute power and bandwidth. You’ll have to stream the hi-def video up to the cloud and let those servers do the number crunching.
In short, face recognition is far beyond the abilities of the current device, but will probably become a reality in a few years.

Can glass take photosphere or panoramic photos?
No. Presumably, that could be software upgrade, but it's likely that the current hardware doesn't have enough power to do these things well.

Can it autofocus?
That’s not needed. It’s got an infinite depth of field.


Can I install my own Android apps?
No (at least, not without jailbreaking).
Right now, there is a list of 10 approved apps (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) on the MyGlass site and that’s the ONLY thing that can be installed.

Can I browse unfiltered HTML sites?
There is no web browser. The screen is way to small for that. You get only a few lines of text. That’s part of Google’s cloud services, attempting to summarize the main point of something into a few lines.

Is it vulnerable to the “evil maid” attack (somebody secretly adding a backdoor)?
Probably not. First of all, if you take it on a trip, you’ll be wearing it the entire time. Second of all, it’s hostile to anybody adding software, even legitimate software.

Can you run vi on it?
Unless you jailbreak it, you can’t get such apps on the device.
The tiny screen is 640x360 pixels, or 80 columns by 30 lines using the standard 8x12 font.
Voice recognition is pretty good, so you might get it to work. On the other hand, if anybody caught you trying to do ‘vi’ text editing using Glass, you’d probably get shot.


CCD said...

Can glass take photosphere or panoramic photos? How is the bone conduction sound? Any issues with Bluetooth?

Robert Graham said...

I inserted the answers into the doc In short, the answers are:
1. no
2. not loud enough
3. works perfectly

martijn said...

Small addition: Sweden intends to ban pictures/videos taken in "private places" without their permission. This could have serious implications for Google Glass there.

CCD said...

in android 4.x, the Bluetooth volume in the voice dial app was limited to a max of 50 decibels. this made it nearly inaudible when driving or in any noisy place. thank you for the feedback!

i think more and more it is becoming common courtesy to ask before taking pictures or video anywhere you are. the equipment used to be bulky and patently obvious, but not anymore. the media used to be paper, film, and magnetic tape that was kept in a closet or album, but now it is instantly available for public consumption worldwide. i think we forget those aspects as we become desensitized to being under constant surveillance and being able to instantly share media.

CCD said...

do they let you customize the voice activation command yet? ok hal, ok jarvis, ok marvin..... would love to get personalities in computing as described by Douglas Adams.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned battery life as a way to avoid plenty of discussions. To me, that is "just" a technical hurdle that will be reduced over time. It's not so much the prototype capabilities that would interest me so much as mass production capabilities.


Juan Miguel Paredes said...

Can you use this if you wear prescription glasses? How?

Robert Graham said...

Currently, you cannot wear prescription lenses.