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Google Glass First Impressions Part 2: Software and User Interface

     In part 1 (which you can read here if you missed it) of the my first impressions, I discussed mostly hardware.  In part 2, I will talk about the software, user interface/experience and Glassware apps.  I decided a third and maybe a fourth part might be smart to keep things a little shorter.  I plan on writing about the experience of using Glass in public and the implications of Glass in Education.  With that said, let's get to it!

Hardware/Software Combos


     I left a couple of pieces of hardware out in part 1, mostly because I think that the rely a little more on software and because it was already too long.  I'm going to start with connectivity and the Wifi interface.  This is one area where I wish the user had a little more control. In order to connect to a Wifi network initially, you have to use the MyGlass app or the web interface.  It works flawlessly with your standard Wifi connection.  You open the app or web page, select or add the name of the network, put in the password if it requires one (which you should do at home too) and that 's that.  Glass will remember that network pretty well and connect automatically when it comes in range.

     However, if a network requires you to accept the terms on a webpage before getting full access, you are out of luck.  Unfortunately, these types of networks are becoming much more common and we need a way to connect to them. Connecting at Starbucks and the library may be out of the question, but you might be safer as those can be danger zones for your data.  I am talking more about work networks.  At my school knew user have to accept the terms the first time they sign on, and then after that you don't have to accept ever again.  With Glass, I still cannot connect to that network.  

     Luckily, we have an alternative network that actually works better with Google.  That brought on several more issues.  It took my tech admin about half an hour to get it up and running where it would actually connect for use with data.  Since then, each day I have been back, I have had to connect to the other network and back again to get it to work properly. It works sometimes and just drops the connection.  This is really unfortunate as it cripples the functionality of Glass.  Yes, I could try to tether to my phones data connection, but the cell signal is horrible, and I cannot connect to data most of the time. I hope the Glass Team can solve some of these issues.  


     Along with Wifi the other way to connect to Glass is through the Bluetooth connection.  This has worked pretty well.  Once in awhile, I have  reset my phone or turn Bluetooth on and off to get things connected correctly.  This is likely an issues with my Verizon Galaxy Nexus and not Glass.  Glass's handoff from Wifi to Bluetooth isn't always perfect eithe, but I am hoping the updates in Android 4.3, later in 5.0, with Bluetooth LE, and with Glass everything will get smoothed out.  

     One thing that I am very happy about is that while in my car, my phone is able to connect both to my car for phone/music and to Glass for everything else including Nav!  I really hope this never changes because it's awesome.  I have a really hard time hearing calls while I'm in the car on Glass and being able to connect to both my car and Glass is amazing.  Thank you for that!! 

     With Bluetooth, you are able to share your phone's data connection, receive/send text messages and phone calls, and use your phones GPS for navigation.  With the latest update to XE7 software, dealing with sms, email, phone calls, and other information has really improved as you are able to use your voice to deal with them rather than having to tap first.  I really like that!  

     One issue with sharing the data connection for some people is that you have to be able to have tethering enabled.  This is where I have a major beef; not with Google or the Glass team, but with carriers.  To share data that I already pay for with Verizon I would have to pay an extra $30 per month that is ridiculous.  Carriers you need to figure this out.  We pay for that data, and should be allowed to use it however we need it.  Luckily, Glass doesn't use much data I used a little over 500mb in my first month, and almost all of that was from Glass upgrading from one software version to another.  If Glass would only update on Wifi, I would have not used much data at all.  So I'm supposed to pay Verizon $30 for less than a gig of data use per month???  This is why I'm really intrigued by T-Mobile and may be switching in the future.  They get it.  Once the network is built out, T-Mobile may be getting many new customers.  Sorry, Rant Over!


     As I stated above, the Bluetooth connection works well.  One of the best features of Glass is Navigation.  You can currently get walking and driving directions, and I hope that the amazing public transportation navigation from Google Maps is added it too. Basically, you can ask Glass for directions by voice which works pretty well or use Maps app on your phone and send the Navigation to Glass from there.  

     Both work well.  My only issue is that is sometimes takes my Galaxy Nexus a few minutes to connect to GPS and that can cause issues when you need directions right away.  However, even in that case Glass uses sensors to try to figure out where you are and does a pretty good job of keeping you on route! That is truly something incredible to see a device do! Directions in Navigation pop-up only when you need them which saves battery and is far less distracting, especially while driving.  I have used Nav several times, and I love it.  One cool part of Nav is when you move your head and the directions change with the movement.  Awesome!

Software/User Experience

      This brings us to software.  Glass has a card interface much like Google Now and it works really well.  It's easy to navigate and more importantly, easy to read.  The one caveat here is that Glass does have to be fit for your face and in the right position for it to be crystal clear.  If it's out of place, even a little, things can be hard to read or cut off. 

     The video below explains the user interface far better than I could.  However, you navigate by swiping your finger forward or backward on the touchpad, swipe down to go back or turn the display off,  and touch to select. Things change a little when you are dealing with viewing web pages, but the Glass team did an amazing job of making that work.  You use two fingers by swiping forward or back to zoom in and out, hold two fingers and look around (Yes, by moving your head!) the web page to find what you are looking for and then select links with one tap. Using the sensors in Glass was a really innovative idea!  Congrats on that one Glass Team!

     The timeline of cards is easy to navigate and well thought out. When you wake Glass, you get the time card, and if you scroll toward your ear you get the weather, appointments, and other events that will be happening in the future.  If you scroll away from your ear, you get the events, notifications, and pictures/videos in the order that they happened.  Sometimes it can take some time to find what you are looking for, but you can use a long scroll gesture from your temple to your ear (or vice versa) to bring up a quick scroll view allowing you to go back in time (or forward) much more quickly.

     Once you select a card by tapping on it, you can interact with it depending on what type of card it is. Some have share actions like pictures/videos, some can be read aloud like emails and news articles, and some you to reply to like emails and texts.  You know when a card has more sub cards when first because the top right corner has a white fold.  Overall this works pretty well, especially, with the new voice actions in XE7.  The one issue with the voice actions is that they only work when a card first comes up.  I would be good to allow voice actions anytime.  I do know that some rooted users have allowed voice actions anytime Glass is awake, and I think that could be a good thing.  It would also be cool if I could use the Google search command to search my timeline for things such as the last notification from my wife or all of my Google+ notifications. This would allow me to see what she sent even if I didn't check it right away and quickly text her back via voice when my hands are occupied.  Hopefully, that will come in a future update.



     The overall interface of Glass works really well, but how about the Glassware applications? Thus far,  apps are where Glass is definitely in really early days.  There are only a few official applications that have have been approved for Glass, and while the development community has begun to produce Glass apps, there still are not that many.  This website, Google Glass Apps, has a complete list of all the current Glassware apps if you would like to see what is available.  While there are not too many applications yet, some are pretty cool. There are a few apps that seem pretty interesting to me, but I was able to get into the beta testing groups fast enough.  In fact, there is even a Battleship type game for Glass, but it is currently closed so I missed that one. Another other app I missed it called Genie.  It allows you to take notes, set reminders/alarms, and a few other things. I'm excited about that one, but a Google Keep app and a little more functionality in the voice commands could add much of this as well.  It is exciting to see where Glass application will go and I believe that that lack of applications is one of the major reasons that Glass will be released next year rather than this year.  It will be really important to the success of Glass to have great applications on release.

     I may have missed a few of the developer apps, but I do use some of the the approved ones.  Below is a quick synopsis of what I think of the apps I use now.


     The Google+ app is one of the most important apps for me on Glass.  It is dead simple to share pictures to my timeline, and to make a video call/Hangout with someone.  As a side note, I hope they go back to Hangout as the term for making a video call, I thought it was easier to get what you wanted with voice commands.  I have some other more major issues with Google+ though.  I can add a caption to a picture, and reply to some Google+ notifications. However, I cannot create a new post, which would be really cool to be able to do.  I'm not talking a long post, but more of a quick one where you could attach the picture or pictures afterwards.  I also receive almost none of my Google+ notifications on Glass.  This is kind of disappointing because I have already curated the list of notifications that I feel are important, and I would like to see those in Glass when they come through.  It would be just fine if the Glass or Google+ team added something in the settings of Google+ to handle which notifications went to Glass.  

     This leads me to one other issue and that is Hangouts.  I know that Google Voice is being rolled into Hangouts so that may be why it doesn't currently work, but if Hangouts is part of Google+, shouldn't I get the messages from Hangouts on Glass?  I had Voice activated on my phone for my apps account, but this caused an issue where Glass would send texts through my school number instead of my personal phone number confusing the receiver quite a bit. I like voice, and once I know that I can port my number to Voice I won't lose it when the transition to Hangouts is complete, I will port it over. Hopefully that will fix the problem.  When Hangouts is fully rolled out, if it will be able to send pictures, texts, video, and audio calling to any phone number, or account that will be game changer because I won't need to have a carrier number anymore.  Right now, I do need to send and recieve pictures and videos with my family and friends; some of whom don't have Hangouts or smartphones.

     Anyway, I am not sure why I don't get the Hangouts messages and maybe it's because Hangouts needs to be a Glassware app too.  That would be great as it would add another way to send messages, pictures, and videos to people if I didn't have my phone tethered, and it would make Glass a much more attractive standalone product.  Not everyone has or can afford a tethering plan.  

New York Times

     The New York Times Glass app is pretty cool.  It sends you updates about stories that are happening right now, and that is really cool  I have to admit that I have lost touch with regular news for many reasons, but this is a great way to keep up to date on what is happening.  The NY Times cards appear in your timeline, and you don't get the alert tone for them.  I like that as the one issue I have with NY Times is that there are too many cards in my timeline from them. Hopefully, in the future you can have a little more control about what types of things appear in your timeline and maybe how often.  

CNN Breaking News

     I have to say that I really like this app.  Basically, if there is breaking news, I get an alert and a card.  These often include a text card and video to go along with it. I also get general news updates, but far less often than NY Times.  It works as a Glass app should!  Great job CNN!


     Gmail works pretty well overall.  If you have a really long email to read, you cannot always read the whole thing but that's not the purpose Glass.  You reply using your voice and that works awesome for short replies, but at least you know if you need to take out your phone and type a longer response.  Also, you only get the email that goes to your Primary or Priority Inbox which is great. Otherwise you would get overloaded with messages!  One major issue I have with the software in this app, and in any app where you need to reply, is that the first letter of the reply is not auto capitalized.  This needs to be fixed.  It would also be great if punctuation was auto placed at the end of sentences based on the content.  At least, it would be fantastic if there were an option to turn that on or off.  I really hate when I send things that don't have the first word capitalized, and sometimes I forget the speak the punctuation.   This is especially a problem in emails as they tend to be more formal.  Glass Team, this needs to happen in XE8, please!


     I used to use Evernote fairly often, but have gone to Docs and Keep for what I was doing in Evernote.  I have shared a picture to Evernote, but I think it needs much more functionality. You need to be able to add notes and lists.  I haven't found a way to do that yet.  I'm sure it will get improved, the Evernote team is great!


     Like many of the other apps Twitter is a little hampered. I only receive tweets from HTC and direct messages or mentions which is fine.  It might be nice to add hashtag cards that allow to you use the search or list functions to have a card with all the tweets from that search or list, but didn't alert you to every incoming tweet.  It might also be cool if you could create an alert that allowed you to be notified of new tweets on a specific search if you really wanted it.  You can share pictures to twitter, but there is no really good functionality to post to Twitter.  One advantage that Google+ will have over Twitter once posting is allowed someday is the auto hashtag function built into G+ as it would be hard to make that work when posting otherwise. Glass would be a great way to post tweets or G+ posts so I hope that is built in soon.

Google Now

     Google now is the most important app on Glass. In fact, it is the premier app, and if Now didn't work well with Glass, Glass would not be a very good product at all.  I love Now, I have a ton of information actions available to me anytime. Since the XE7 update, Google searches have become infinitely more useful as you can now view actual web pages!  The Google Now cards are awesome.  The other night Misty and I were eating out at a Greek restaurant and I didn't know what one of the items on the menu was.  I looked it up, got the info I needed along with pictures, and I was set to make a decision on dinner.  It was really sweet.  The parts of Google now that work, work pretty well.  I get calendar and appointment updates,  and traffic and nav cards.  I hope that more cards are added like sports scores, but I hope that you get to control which ones come to Glass and which ones do not.

     The other exceptional part of Google Now is that ability to use voice actions to complete tasks.  With Glass you get some of those like Google search, phone calls, and messaging, but I thinking adding reminders, alarms, and calendar creations are really important too.  These are things we need to do on the fly, and using Glass just seems like the perfect way to do that.  Also, I think being able to add notes and lists to Google Keep and having a Keep app would be outstanding.  Hopefully, these functions are coming soon!

Software Conclusion

     There are a few other approved apps for Glass including Tumblr, Elle, and Path but I do not use those services at this time.  I imagine that the list of great apps will grow very quickly, and I hope that some amazing apps for education begin trickling out soon too.  Overall, Glass's software is in the very early days, but with each release, it gets better and better!  By launch, I think Glass software and Glassware apps will be very cutting edge and slick.  There are some hiccups here and there now, but this is a beta product.  So far I'm really enjoying it!
     In the next update, I will discuss the experience of wearing Glass, whether it's changed how I use tech, the reactions I have had from others, and some of the implications Glass may have in education.  I hope you have enjoyed Part 2 of my first impressions so far!  

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