As of the beginning of June AMIS has acquired a Google Glass to try out and develop business apps. As this device is not available in Europe yet we needed to lean upon our US contacts to acquire this device. This gives us a chance to gain knowledge and practical experience of this device.
Google Glass is part of our innovation program to develop new products and services. We use the Google Glass Explorer edition which is released in May 2014 for the general public (at least in the US) with software version XE18.11. Last two weeks we tried out the possibilities of Glass as an end user and as a developer. We are focusing on the application of Google Glass for business applications and linking the information provided by Oracle systems with the possibilities of an interactive personal device. Articles related to Glass have been gathered in this Google Glass Experience Flipboard magazine and my first practical experiences are listed in this article. Hope you like them.
Experiences as a Google Glass user
Google Glass is still very new and the next step in personal devices. This is both positive and negative. The downside is the limited functionality and number of apps that are available. You can almost compare this with a new smartphone with the call app as the only option. The other apps you have to build yourself or install from the Glassware store. Other apps you have to install via Eclipse and the Glass Development Kit. The positive side of Glass being the next generation is that all basics work immediately. Connecting to a Bluetooth device, or wireless network, access to your social media accounts and email (Gmail of course) is extremely easy. The quality of the camera is stunning in both video and photographs. Voice commands work very well (even with my Dutch accent) and it is easy to operate even in spaces with a lot of noise, such as driving.
The device is especially helpful in situations when you need to use both your hands and you need additional information. Since I am no brain surgeon (as most use cases for Glass state) my practical experiences are limited to driving and reading a recipe while cooking. Unfortunately, the battery only lasts for about 3 hours and a lot less when you are recording video or scanning. The processor is easily overheated while recording video or scanning, then the processor switches to a lower gear with a slower response as a result. And of course something about the design. Despite the efforts of Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin to have photo models wear Google Glass the device still makes you look dorkey. Unless you are at a Star Trek convention of course. Hopefully, the next model has a more fashionable design and a less conspicuous camera. Or wait for the Google contact lens with projection. The glass pairs with your cellphone and is used it as a hotspot for mobile internet usage. The MyGlass app works both for iPhone and Android. Oddly the iPhone version has more functionality than the Android version (touch screen is enabled)
Privacy, safety, and localization
Oddly enough Google Glass almost immediately triggers discussion about privacy. Since the Glass user is publicly walking around with a camera mounted on his head, people around you think you are constantly filming and taking pictures. This reaction is rather strange, taking in mind the number of unapproved cellphone videos and pictures that are posted online every day. When you are using Glass in the default modus all your images are automatically backed up to your Google Plus account. They are not publicly visible, however, sometimes this is not the most desired place to post your images (understatement). Safety might also be an issue. For example, while driving. In Europe, it is not allowed to drive a car while holding a smartphone in your hands. With Glass, you are compliant with this rule, but you can imagine the usage is still a distraction since you can play a YouTube video while driving. Finally, the localization is not implemented fully. The language support and recognition is still in English and the device has difficulty understanding spoken Dutch names (like mine), Distances in directions are in metric units but the weather is still in Fahrenheit instead of centigrade. I could not find a way to change this.
Isn’t Glass just a smartphone mounted on a frame?
The short answer is no. Glass is more integrated and more personal, even more personal than your phone. The information in projected directly into your vision so you do not have to take your phone out of your pocket. You receive notifications via an audio signal and displayed via a visual queue to the right top corner with your eye. The ideal usage of information in Glass is highly contextual content; linked to the user, time, location, and activity. To notify the user while working intensively with an intensive task or add extra context to your current location. So applications for travel information, context information with complex machines or medical patient data might be the first apps that come in mind. Also directly sharing information about complex matters or situations with skilled peers as a kind of remote support. A third application is to give visual queues about products in relation to allergies or preferences while scanning them. That’s just some ideas but there are many more. Like these examples.
Some technical considerations
What do I have to know as a developer to build apps with glass?
The basics of app development of Glass are the same as Android. So a fairly experienced Java / Android developer needs to be able to develop apps for the glass. Glass apps are rather thin so most of the development effort is probably focused on the back-end systems.
Does it run with Oracle?
The Oracle database does not run on Glass (not even XP) :-). An important question for AMIS is to see how Google Glass integrates with Oracle Fusion Middleware technology. The current technological strategy of Oracle is aligned with the requirements of Google Glass interfacing via REST services and JSON data format. Integration with OSB or SOA Suite is rather simple. The business logic is still stored in the services layer. This is an ideal combination to push small context-sensitive information to information workers in the field. Examples are medical personnel, damage assessors, technical engineers, and building inspectors.
Is it easy to develop apps with Glass?
Yes and no. The actual development is not very complicated when you know Android / Java development. However, the available features in the Glass Development Kit are more limited compared to the normal Android one. Google frequently releases new versions of the Glass OS so you might find new features every day (or features removed like Google Handout was removed from version XE 17). And since it is still a new product there are some teething problems that will take a lot of debugging time.
Conclusion and General Opinion
Despite these negative impressions, I am sure Glass is going to be a revolution to the industry of personal devices. I am positive about this device. However, the current price of 1500$ is still not within my personal budget. I am also sure the next version device is going to do a lot better and resolve a lot of the issues mentioned like battery, processor, and looks. To envision how serious Glass is going to be I listed the sales projection of Google Glass for the upcoming years. At the moment there are almost 400.000 Glass units sold. To put things in perspective I also have listed the sales numbers of the iPhone.
Google Glass Sales forecast
|Units||800.000||2,5 mln||3,7 mln||10 mln||21 mln|
If this data and development is comparable the market for Google Glass will grow exponentially.