Tag Archives: wearables

Unboxing Google Glass

After a second try, I finally got into the Google Glass Explorer program. I tried last year but waited too long to apply (about 36 hours after the application process opened). This time, I moved faster.

As not a lot of people have the opportunity to get to use Glass (I am lucky, my employer is paying for me to explore its use for M2M and IoT), I thought I would share my initial experiences getting—and unboxing—Glass to help those considering entering the program later.

The First Step: Registering for the Explorer Program

Registering for and buying Glass is a bit different, so I thought I would start here. It turns out you will need to link Glass to a Gmail account. As such, I strongly recommend using a Gmail account when you apply to the program. I think Google should add these instructions in the registration process, perhaps if it detects your email is not one that they manage at Gmail or Google Apps.

Application Approval

GlassProgramSmallMy application got approved about 10 days later, via email. The email contained a sixteen-digit alpha purchase code that was very obviously place. It also contains a 16-digit numeric unique ID in much smaller font in the email footer. Keep track of this, as you will need to enter it if you call the Glass Help Center.

I made the mistake of using a corporate email account (one not based on Google Apps). This created a bit of a problem for me, one that required a call to the Glass Help Center to resolve. I can say that the Glass Help Center staff are quite friendly and responsive. Working with them is more akin to a call with a Professional Services team than a call to a typical call center or corporate IT help desk.

Purchasing Glass

It turns out that you can only buy Glass with Google Wallet. As such, your experience will be much easier if you 1) apply with a Gmail account and 2) have a Google Wallet for this account set up in advance. If so, you need only click on the Get Glass URL and proceed. You will be prompted to confirm which Gmail account you want to use, then re-authenticate to Wallet to make your purchase. The entire process should take less than five clicks and one password to complete.

I did it a bit backwards. As the Glass Help Center let me know I would need to have Wallet setup, I was able to log into my Gmail, register for Wallet and add a Payment Method before re-starting my purchase. Once I go my purchase reference code reset, I was able to go through this process pretty quickly (it would have been less fun to stop, setup Wallet, then re-start).

I chose to purchase basic Glass (I picked the Shale color). I did have the option of a few Hipster-like frames that could support prescription lenses. However, I do not wear glasses so I went for the minimalist—and least expensive—options. I did get the free–detachable–Active Shades (essentially Terminator-style sunglass shade). Get these. They are incredibly useful if you are looking at the viewer screen in bright sunlight (a rarity in Boston).

activeshades

Shipping and Delivery

The time from purchase to delivery was amazingly fast: I purchased around 11am, got an email notice that Google was handing off my purchase to UPS around five hours later, and received the package in Boston the next morning by 10am. This next-day shipping was included in the $1,500 price.

What arrives will be a four-pound box about 2x the width and 1.5x the length of a shoebox. Coincidentally, my Glass came on the same day as my new Nexus 7. However as the Nexus was uncharged, I used my iPhone to take all of the following photos:

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Unboxing Glass

I waited until the end of the workday to open the box (I admit the engineer in me wanted to start right away).

Upon opening the UPS box and packing I was presented with a white box with a San Serif Glass logo and XE on the side. The packaging was very similar to what you would see with a high-end product (akin to Lytro and first iPad, but a bit nicer). The back of the box is black (so is the inner cover):

box

The Archive Shades are in their own box (and could be shipped separated based on my initial email receipt). They come in their own “Glass” branded felt sleeve:

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Opening the Glass box reveals a translucent paper screen cover (mysterious?!):

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This cover easily comes off, revealing the Glass with the only written instructions for use that comes in the packaging:

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Lifting this off reveals an interesting felt pouch with an armored base—yes, an armored felt pouch. As the ticket explains, this is intended to protect your Glass when you pack it away (the armored shell makes the pouch 1.75” deep:

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Underneath this pouch is a black card with your ear bud:

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And underneath this is your USB 3.0 cable with detachable electric plug. The cord appears to be 36” long:

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Also included are some replacement nose pads and a funny FAQ. One example:

Q: Can I use Glass while operating a jackhammer?
A: Use caution.

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Charging Glass

When I plugged Glass into charge, it automatically booted up without me pressing the ON button. This can also take up to 30 seconds at times. However, it charges rather quickly (about the same speed that a smartphone charges, much faster than a tablet does).

Setting Up Glass

IMG_1875You will need either an Android or iOS phone or tablet to setup Glass as you will need to install the MyGlass App (iTunes version, Google Play version). I chose to use my iPhone as I did not want to walk around with an Android Tablet in my hand and Google Glass on my face. However, I may pair the phone to my Tablet as well as I experiment with Glass a bit more.

I definitely recommend you turn BlueTooth and your Personal HotSpot on BEFORE launching the MyGlass App and starting the pairing process. As I learned first-hand, it will save you the mess of aborting the process, turning these on (I keep them off to save power), and re-starting the process. I would recommend Google improve the App to detect these settings and notify you to exit and turn them before continuing to device pairing (unfortunately, iOS now forbids apps from turning these settings on for you—a now-needed security precaution in today’s world).

Unfortunately I could not take photos through Glass while I was setting it up (not unexpected). You can see videos of the setup process here, on the Glass YouTube Channel. I admit that setting up Glass created the opportunity for me to imitate Fred Armisen’s infamous Glass skit on SNL. I was very glad I could do this in the privacy of my house, doing it in the office would have created more than a few laughs.

Using Glass

I will now spend the next week playing around with Glass to fully understand the UX before I start thinking about how I would designing how an Glass app would work. However, I can say from my first hour of using Glass that it IS a very different experience, one that takes some getting accustomed to. I want to try to remember this experience so I can design applications that will be immediately useable from Day 1. (I did try to see if I could get actions of Glass to trigger IFTTT–alas, there are no Glass triggers yet).

This does not surprise me. I consider Glass on of Clayton Christensen’s classic disruptive innovations. While it is behind in some areas (the camera is not as good as a standard smartphone, usability is still a work in progress), it provides other capabilities nothing else does.

Final Note: Commercial Applicability of Glass

I know many people think Glass is not a commercially viable product. Some cite price point, others appearance, others limited availability. However, I believe that coupling of SDK from the people who brought us the Operating System with fastest adoption in history with a wide range of capabilities (POV-based camera and microphone, hands-free operation and telephony, voice recognition and Internet access) opens the door to some very interesting augment reality-based applications.

I have always thought the most beneficial Glass apps would be those that mapped to real-life activities—but streamlining them by eliminating the need to use your hands to record information and augmenting them by capturing information from your direct POV and combining this with other information. This could be provide enough benefit to justify Glass’ not-insignificant cost in wide range of business situations, from capturing the vision of a contract artisan or craftsperson (my first idea) to a whole new set of ideas I am now exploring.

Glass is a trademark of Google Inc.

Galaxy Gear: Minimum Viable Product or Niche Accessory?

Yesterday, Samsung announced the launch of their new Galaxy Gear “smartwatch.” By now, you can read a multitude of reviews about this device. In general, they praise features like the Gear’s 1.9-megapixel camera (something neither the Pebble or the SONY SmartWatch has) and the 70 native apps that will be available at launch. However, many critique the Gear’s limited compatibility (at launch it will only pair with Galaxy devices running Version 4.3 of Android Jelly Bean). This conflict of better-than-market features with limited market applicability begs an important question: does the Galaxy Gear rise to the threshold of a Minimum Viable Product (“MVP”) or is it only a niche accessory?

Galaxy Gear - 6 colors, but few connectivity options (Samsung)
Galaxy Gear – 6 colors, but few connectivity options (Samsung)

Why Launch Now?

In his post “What Now? Product Release” Peter Levine (of Andreessen Horowitz) defines an MVP as a product that satisfies the 3-5 most compelling customer needs with highest attention to quality.

MVPs are not just for startups; they are essential to the successful launch of any disruptive innovation. The digital music players market illustrates this powerfully. For nearly a decade, many leading (large-cap) tech companies launched digital music players. However, none of these met the threshold of minimum viable product (easy to download music or copy over CDs, easy to play, work with the majority of PCs) until Apple launched combination of the iPod with iTunes (for Mac and Windows). From here, the rest is well-known history. Clearly, a successful MVP can open up a highly valuable product category for a company with the size and smartphone market share of Samsung’s.

By launching the Gear ahead of it major competitors (i.e., “Apple”), Samsung has attempted to seize several first-mover advantages, namely early market leadership and mainstream definition of a new product category. It has also seeded expansion of a series of interconnected portable computing devices and established platform from which it can obtain data on everything from usage patterns to marginal cost.

But is the Galaxy Gear Viable?

However, the Gear’s first-mover advantages are only useful if it is a viable product. The Gear does appear to have the required level of Quality (as any user of Galaxy S3 or Note can tell you). But does it satisfy the most essential consumer needs?

  1. Can it serve as a watch? Yes—both analog or digital
  2. Can it serve it run apps like a smartphone? Yes—apps built on the most widely used OS
  3. Can it keep me connected like my smartphone? Only if you have a compatible Galaxy device (the Galaxy Note 3 pre-sales only begin today; US retail price is approximate $700) AND this device is within 1.5 meters
  4. Can it be bought and used by most people? No. Only a small number of people can buy and use the Gear (unless they want to buy another more expensive device alongside it)
Not Yet
Not Yet

While the Gear technically meets the essential consumer needs, it does so with extreme limitations. The Gear is not the ultra-convenient smartwatch that finally lets me take my smartphone out of my pocket in evening (or lets me stop worrying if I am missing key alerts while I am working out). Instead, in its current form, it is an ultra-niche accessory.

What’s Next?

While the Gear is not MVP, it is only Samsung’s first mainstream foray into connected wearable computing. I—like many others—would love a standalone water-resistant watch that is part connected smartphone, part fitness band, part MP3 player, and looks nice. It would much more convenient to use outside of business hours—especially while our shopping or working out at the gym. Hopefully, we will see this true smartwatch MVP in the Gear II. If not, we will likely see it from somebody else over the next 12 months.