I’ve now shown Google Glass to probably a couple hundred people. If they have an open mind and enough time for me to go through what the device can do, nearly everyone has come away impressed with it.
I can think of maybe five people that didn’t like Glass after I showed them how it works. Most decide that it’s “cool” and want to try it themselves. Some are blown away by it, while others are at least surprised by the capabilities built into a wearable computer.
Glass is a much better device today than it was on May 6th, when I started using it.
But it’s still an alpha version with a lot of room for improvement. That seems to be forgotten regularly in many of the discussions and articles that I see about Glass.
Here’s my current list of 14 things that Google needs to fix, change or add to really improve Google Glass.
1) Battery Life
Glass’ battery life is lousy. If I’m using it regularly during the day, the battery might last 3-4 hours at best. But using the video camera shortens that dramatically. When I shot those two videos at the rock concert, the battery drained by about 20 percent from 7+ minutes of video recording. That means you’d kill the whole battery after about 35-40 minutes of video.
I haven’t tested it in great detail, but it seems like using the excellent navigation app also drains Glass’ battery quicker than other activities.
This is my biggest complaint about Glass, and something that I think should be at the top of Google’s priority list.
2) Better Contact Management
Google has already made a big change affecting how users share content from Glass, and it doesn’t seem like a good change to me.
When I first got Glass, I could list 10 contacts on a special “speed-dial” type of list — these are the people with whom I could use Glass to call, send text messages to, start a hangout with, etc. Then there was a separate master list of “sharing contacts” — this list is where I could send photos and other content, as I showed in the social sharing Glass Diary article a few weeks ago. This list of sharing contacts includes all of my Google+ circles, plus options from other apps like “Facebook public” and “Facebook friends.”
Those lists are now combined into one huge, master set of sharing contacts. And, since I have a couple dozen Google+ circles, I have to scroll through all of them whenever I want to share something.
Google needs to provide better contact management so I can choose what contacts are specifically able to get stuff I’m sharing from Glass.
3) Better Audio
Glass uses a bone-induction speaker that not only tickles your neck and requires some getting used to, but also produces sub-standard audio. It’s a far cry from typical mobile phone quality. There are reports in one of the Glass Explorers forums that you can improve the audio by plugging your ears with earplugs or unattached earbuds — doing so amplifies the bone induction audio. That kind of trick really shouldn’t be needed.
4) Volume Control
The audio is also too quiet. In many cases, you won’t hear Glass at all if there’s any ambient audio around you. Google needs to provide a way to control the volume.
5) Standby/Sleep Control
Another option that users need is the ability to control how quickly Glass goes into sleep/standby mode.
Currently, that happens after about 15 seconds if you’ve tapped the device to wake it up, and after only three seconds if you’ve tilted your head to wake it up. This is usually a Good Thing because that helps preserve the battery. But there are some times when I’d really prefer that Glass not go into standby mode at all, or at least not so quickly. Letting me choose how quickly this happens would be a nice addition.
6) Voice Recognition/Security
Every time I’ve shown Glass to a group of people, someone in the crowd — who’s not actually wearing or using Glass — will start to recite the “OK Glass, (do this)” command. And if Glass happens to be active and on its home screen, that person suddenly has control of the device.
In some situations, that’s not a big deal. But in others it could be. You probably don’t want someone nearby being able to send a text message, make a phone call or even start a Hangout. Or telling Glass to do an X-rated Google search.
Google needs to develop a way to prevent this from happening. Glass shouldn’t be limited to only my voice, because I might want to have my wife, kids or friends try it out. But something like the lock screen on a smartphone might help.
7) Improved Display For Bright Situations
The small cube that you look into to see Glass in action has an opaque display. That’s convenient and borderline necessary so that you can continue to see ahead of you if you’re walking or biking, for example, while interacting with Glass.
But on sunny/clear days, the bright sky makes the Glass display extremely tough to see. Perhaps a way to control the opacity of the display would help make it easier to use Glass against bright skies.
8) More Voice Commands
Glass currently supports seven primary voice commands from its home (“OK Glass”) screen. And there’s no variety available in those commands — i.e., you must say “take a picture,” not “shoot a picture” or anything else.
The lack of variety is fine; we can learn to say commands the way Glass expects us to. But seven isn’t nearly enough commands.
Since I’m always concerned about the (lack of) battery life, I’d love to be able to say “OK Glass, check battery” and have it take me to the battery display card. I’d love to be able to say “Share This Photo” to begin that process. I’d love to tell Glass “Move left” or “Move right” to navigate the cards in my timeline. I’d love to be able to control pretty much everything with my voice, but that’s not possible now.
9) Better Timeline Navigation
Even without voice control, timeline navigation can — and should be — improved. Right now, all you can do is “flick” to scroll rapidly through all the available cards. Cards stay on Glass for seven days (if space is available) in chronological order and there’s nothing you can do aside from scrolling to find an old card. Our founding editor Danny Sullivan — a new Glass owner as of last weekend — discovered this issue quickly and wrote about the challenge of using the timeline.
I’d like to be able to do a voice search to find older cards. “OK Glass, find card CNN” would show me just the cards from the CNN app. Or maybe “OK Glass, find card obama” would show me just the cards that include that keyword, no matter the source.
Another thing that would make navigation easier is…
10) Better Card Management
Glass needs to offer some way to classify and organize cards in the timeline. I’d like to be able to separate the cards by source — all the CNN cards, all the Twitter cards, etc. I’d like to be able save some cards beyond that seven-day limit, too.
11) Customize Outgoing Text Messages
Every text message you send through Glass includes “sent through glass” and there’s currently nothing the user can do about it. I understand Google’s desire to brand that way, but users should still be able to remove that if they want.
12) Share Via Email
There are a lot of social sharing options depending on what apps are connected to Glass. Oddly, there’s not a “Share via Email” option when you take a photo or record a video. Even if the individuals on your sharing list have an email address as part of their contact information, you can’t share that way.
13) Share Via Text (Attach Images To Texts)
There’s also no way to send a photo via text message. Was the iPhone 3 the last device that didn’t support that?
14) Photo Viewfinder
I generally find the camera on Glass to be pretty good, especially for how small it is. Photo quality is about what I expect from a 5 mp camera.
But using it is a challenge because you don’t see exactly what you’re about to photograph. You have a general idea, obviously, because the camera is less than an inch away from your right eye. But it’s easy to take photos that are just a wee bit off from what you wanted to get — things get cut off on either side, or there’s too much space above or below what you’re photographing.
I don’t expect Glass to give me the same level of preciseness as a normal digital camera, but at least give me a basic viewfinder so I can frame photos before taking them. A new voice command would solve this: “OK Glass, frame a photo.”
I’ve read plenty of articles, forum posts and random comments from other Glass Explorers, and there are plenty of feature requests and ideas for improving Glass. Lists like this are based on how each person uses Glass, and my list won’t be the same as most other Glass owners (current or future). It’s based on how I’ve used Glass so far, and how I want to use it in the future.
This may sound really strange considering what you just read above: The more I use Glass, the more I love Glass. I’ll explain what I love about it in a future Glass Diary article. But for now, my growing appreciation for Glass is the main reason why I want so much more from it.
For more of our Google Glass Diary series, read the stories listed below.