Net-wide Exclusive: Hands On With Google Glasses

The internet has been abuzz with vague discomfort and amusement this month with the following trailer for Project Glass, Google’s fascinating pie in the sky which we’ll all be wearing along with our hoverboards and our self-drying jackets in a few years’ time.

The film goes out of its way to make present elements of Google – albeit with a few embellishments – look as futuristic as possible. That said, it should be possible to mock-up how the Project Glass experience will work (or not work) with everything in place except the glasses themselves.

And the glasses won’t work anyway. They’re made of string.

1) REMINDERS

WHAT HAPPENS: Our hipster hero gets up in the morning, and immediately a little alert pops up on his glasses to remind him who he’s meeting today.
DOES IT WORK? Yes. So far so normal. The only slightly worrying thing is that our protagonist – we’re going to call him Mister Cuntflaps for the sake of putting a human face on what a staggering pile of shambling human detritus he is – seems to have slept in his Google Glasses. Not really surprising, though; he’s probably had them grafted to his head.

2) WEATHER

WHAT HAPPENS: Mister Cuntflaps looks up at the sky, and his glasses kick the weather app in. Nifty.
DOES IT WORK? I opened my Android phone, said “How is the weather?” and instantly it came up with the temperature, the forecast down to the hour, and the current humidity level as a percentage. While there’s no reason you couldn’t write a shortcut into Android to launch the app every time someone looks at the sky, there’s every reason in the world you shouldn’t. People look at the sky all the time. Typing this, I just looked at the sky while I thought of what to write next. If you’re going to make a ridiculous gesture shortcut like this, I suggest that Google use face recognition software and program it to administer a vicious electric shock to Mister Cuntflaps every time someone rolls their eyes at him. This will happen a lot if he’s the kind of person who will walk around wearing something which looks like Google Glasses.

3) VOICE MESSAGING

WHAT HAPPENS: Mister Cuntflaps is eating his breakfast bagel, and a message comes in from his friend asking if he wants to meet up. He says yes, and the glasses send a reply.
DOES IT WORK? Out comes the voice recognition software again. I decide to use my Dad as a guinea pig for this experiment. I have not told him about this yet.

I start by saying to the phone “Text Dad. Hello.” “Message could not be sent,” says the phone. “Text Dad. Hi.” “Message could not be sent.” “Text Dad. Test.” “Message could not be sent.”

This continues for several minutes until Dad angrily texts me to ask why I’m filling his phone with junk messages. Apparently the messages had been sent, and Google (ha!) helpfully informs me that this is a common issue with Android.

This is where Android really comes into its own as a platform. Being open source, if Android comes with something then the odds are that someone else has written a better version. I download Vlingo Personal Assistant from the Play store and this not only fixes the error message, it expands upon the phone’s functionality. I say “Email Dad. Subject test email. Message hello.” Perfect. “Call Dad.” He’s getting really cross now. Brilliant. “Update Facebook: Bouncy looks like Mike from Spaced.” Smooth. I giggle like a moron.

So far, so good.

4) TRAVEL ALERTS

WHAT HAPPENS: Mister Cuntflaps is preparing to descend the stairs to the metro station, when the glasses pop up an alert telling him that the train has been cancelled.
DOES IT WORK? Well, yes. Travel alert apps are pretty old news by this stage of the game. What’s slightly off with this part of the film is that the app only tells him once he arrives at the station. Maybe this would work if you’re in the city and there’s a station every couple of streets, but I live in Greater Tossing in the middle of the English countryside and the nearest station is half an hour away. If my travel alert app waited until I got there to tell me I’d had a wasted journey, I’d be pretty peeved.

Conclusion? It’s possible that he’s simply using the worst travel alert app in the world, but I prefer to think that by this point of the commercial even the glasses have started to despise Mister Cuntflaps, to the point where they lure him to a giant flight of stairs so that they can pop up a giant alert, blocking his vision just as he puts his foot on the top step.

5) OUTDOOR NAVIGATION

WHAT HAPPENS: Its first attempt on his life having failed, Glass tells Mister Cuntflaps to cross several streets while popping alerts up in his face. It’s at this point that Google Maps shows us that he was clearly going to take a train to travel two blocks. I’m really rooting for the glasses by this point.
DOES IT WORK? I decide to test Google’s navigation functionality by seeing if it can handle the simplest pathfinding task in my daily routine – getting a packet of fags from the Spar three minutes’ walk from my house.

I say “Navigate to Spar,” and start walking. Nothing.

When I’m halfway there, it gives me a list of all health spas in my area. I try again, this time “Navigate to Spar, Greater Tossing.”

Three quarters of the way there, Google gives me a list of things I might possibly have said. Here’s where the wheels start to come off Project Glass’s wagon – any Google search requires you to choose from a list of results which might pertain to your query. Some level of user input is required; Glass as it is depicted in the film requires everything to work perfectly, first time.

Speaking of working perfectly first time, Android is now trying to direct me to the Spar in the next town over, because MY SPAR IS NOT REGISTERED AS A PLACE ON GOOGLE MAPS.  This is where we come to the second big flaw in the Googletopian vision of the future – it assumes EVERYONE is using the same service.

6) MONSIEUR GAYNO

WHAT HAPPENS: On his travels, Mister Cuntflaps sees a poster for… what? Is it a gig? A recital? Performance art? Whichever, he says “Remind me to get tickets for Monsieur Gayno.”
DOES IT WORK? If by that you mean “Did it make me do a little bit of sick in my mouth, but I managed to swallow it,” then yes. It works.

Incidentally, I said “Monsieur Gayno” to Android three times, and it gave me a different result each time. None of them was Monsieur Gayno. By contrast, I said “Lady Gaga,” and it took me straight to the page where you can buy tickets for her gigs. The technology works, seamlessly. Exactly what were Google trying to prove by not only making a celebrity up for the purposes of the advert, but one with a name which it is impossible for their own blasted voice software to interpret?

The answer, as you will know if you peeked ahead at the solutions written upside down at the back of the website, is “That they are cunts.”

6) INDOOR NAVIGATION

WHAT HAPPENS: Just when you think that your body has become a living conduit for the entire condition of collective human hatred, Mister C confounds your expectations yet again by proving that he is even MORE of a mewing, coddled child-creature who needs a train to travel two fucking streets and can’t get there without his sat-nav telling him which way to go. Walking into a bookshop, he tells Glass to NAVIGATE HIM TO THE MUSIC SECTION. WHAT THE FUCK.

WOULD IT WORK? No! NO! That’s a PREPOSTEROUS idea! How would that even function? You can’t even count on businesses to maintain their Google Maps entries properly, if even at all! So what, citizens of Googletopia are going to index their shop on GPS, meter by meter, pointing out every feature?  BOLLOCKS! And people are going to use it? BOLLOCKS!  And what’s supposed to happen when the music section moves? Do the magic glasses know? NO! BECAUSE IT’S BOLLOCKS!

8) LOCATION SHARING

WHAT HAPPENS: Mister Cuntflaps asks where his cunty mate is, and the glasses tell him – 400 meters away. His mate shows up, every inch a scarf-wrapped horror from the ninth circle of Scott Pilgrim, and they go to check in at a coffee stand.

WOULD IT WORK? Well, check in and location sharing software have been around for quite few years.. Again, though, we are transported to Cloud Goo-Goo land, where everyone is plugged into Google Latitude and is sharing their location down to the meter. All the time. These pricks have plainly had it turned on since they left the house.

Now, I’m not going to get ahead of myself here with the ranting and the hating. I happen to think that Latitude is a fine and useful things. I have my location shared with my family and anyone who needs to know where I am. You can see if someone is at work and deduce that you shouldn’t bother them by calling. You can find someone you’ve lost in a big city or a busy mall. Its applications are genuinely useful, and if it freaks you out too much you can just turn it off.

That’s me, though, and I’m a Fandroid. I decided to conduct a laboratory test, using my coworkers as a sample group. I asked them “Would you ever join Google Latitude?” As one person, they all looked at me blankly. I explained “You sign into it, and other people can see where you are on Google Maps. It shows you walking around the map as a little arrow.”

Once again, as one person, they made a face. The same face for all of them. The face of one who has just realised the person next to them on the Underground is wanking under his clothes.

9) PHOTO SHARING

WHAT HAPPENS: Mister Cuntflaps spies an unbearable display of street-fangled art, and says “Take a picture of this,” and “Share it with my circles.”

WOULD IT WORK? Yes, my phone has both this features. “Take a photo” kicks in the camera function, and as I mentioned earlier Vlingo will update Facebook (and Twitter) for you by voice. What’s strange here is not what’s on display, it’s what’s not on display. I’m talking about augmented reality apps.

Google Goggles, for example, is a neat little app which tries to recognise what you’re looking at through your phone’s camera. It uses text recognition and image recognition to compare overall looks, recognisable logos and actual words and then Googles them. For example, I took a picture of a packet of M&Ms. It brought me up a stock photo of the M&Ms logo and offered to take me to a page where I could buy that very bag by mail order.

Another goodie is Wikitude, which displays people Tweeting around you, historical information, ATMs, AR game points of interest, check-in locations and a million other things as a heads-up display via your phone’s lens. It seems custom-made to show off what Project Glass is meant to be about. That’s the kind of thing that would really blow my socks off in a tech demo, not the ability to use your voice to post to the cybernetic ghost town which is Google+.

10) VIDEO CONFERENCING

WHAT HAPPENS: Our hero climbs to the top of a skyscraper and the glasses drag him off the edge to his messy death, live on Google+. No, wait, that only happened in my mind. He shares a romantic video conference with his girlfriend.

WOULD IT WORK? Interestingly, it probably would. Here’s the thing: Android actually does allow you to use Google Hangout, and the sound and video quality is really good. There’s only two catches. First, the G+ app doesn’t actually know that it has Hangout built-in, so you can’t initiate one. You have to ask someone to start a Hangout, and then join it.

The other problem is that mobile internet is usually not beefy enough to stream live two-way video, so you need a wi-fi internet connection. Good luck getting a signal on the top of that building, Mister C. It’d be much easier on the ground. Hey, you know what the quickest way to get there would be? Do it. Enrich the gene pool.

In conclusion? The “One Day” movie is a staggeringly underwhelming tech demo for stuff that my phone already does, and it skips over a whole bunch of really interesting stuff that Android is capable of which would be genuinely impressive to those who’ve never fiddled with AR apps. Its only real function is to show off this non-existent pair of space glasses, whose only purpose seems to be to get idiots mugged or killed crossing the road.

And hey, I’m OK with that.

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