My Experience Driving with Google Glass

Originally posted to my Glass blog: Glaxplorer.tumblr.com

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You know, it’s pretty remarkable what Glass can do out of the box. Text, call, alert me of breaking news, store my calendar, send me sports scores, take photos and videos, and give me heads-up-display navigation. Honestly, when people have approached me recently asking about Glass, I stumble - "Where do I start?" Glass does so many things, and does them well - I feel like I’ve done the curious individual a disservice if I leave out one of it’s capabilities. One time, I somehow forget to mention that Glass takes pictures! (smacks head)

So, mostly for my own sanity, I want to focus my some of posts around how Glass is used in specific scenarios. This way, over time, I can give people a sense of how versatile and useful Glass is. I already have covered flying with Glass, and now I want to share my experience driving with Glass.<!-- more -->

Using Glass while driving is actually something that I’ve been asked by both friends and family to be careful doing, or to avoid doing at all. I completely understand their concern - how could a having a light beamed into your eye not be distracting? If anything, wouldn’t it be just as distracting as your GPS, and if that’s true, then what’s the point of Glass?

…how could a having a light beamed into your eye not be distracting? If anything, wouldn’t it be just as distracting as your GPS?

Both are very valid questions, and the first time I used Glass while driving, on familiar roads, I wondered some of those same things. At first I thought that Glass was just as distracting as using my phone as a GPS mounted in the center console, because whether I was looking down at my phone or up at Glass, my eyes weren’t on the road. I soon came to understand, though, that I wasn’t using it quite right. (Or as the late, great Steve Jobs would say: ‘You’re holding it wrong.’)

When using Glass navigation, as visualized in the picture I took above (Glass-screen added and emphasized for effect), the display shows where you are on the road, and whispers the next step behind your ear, using the bone conduction speaker (more on that specific feature in a separate post). The display only activates before each step, or when you tap the touchpad to wake it up. Otherwise it is off and out of your line of sight.

Glass is not augmented reality

As Google has emphasized to us Glass Explorers, Glass is meant for "micro-interactions", meaning that you just quickly look up at Glass for a short burst of information, and then go back to what you’re doing. Glass is not augmented reality. It is not meant to be stared at. And it is not meant to replace your smartphone (not yet).

What I discovered, and feel that I taught myself, actually makes you realize that Glass is quite brilliant (not that I didn’t already feel that way). What’s brilliant about it stems from Glass’ intimacy - the delivery of micro-information to you, and only you. On top of that, it gives you two ‘pathways’ to that information - visual and audio. So what I learned, and encourage you to do when you begin using Glass, is this: focus on the voice instructions from Glass first (you’ll hear a beep right before it is spoken). If by chance you didn’t hear it, or need further confirmation on the next step, quickly glance up at the screen to see where you are, where you need to go next, and then back at the road.

Now, those who currently have Glass will argue that the bone conduction speaker can be next to useless on most occasions, especially in a car with the windows down and radio blaring. I don’t disagree. Let’s not forget that Glass is still many months away from the market, and will only get better over time. A volume control is already expected to be released in next month’s over the air update (XE8).

Glass is still many months away from the market, and will only get better over time.

Non-Glass users will argue that what I described above isn’t any different from smartphones on the market today. Again, at a high level, I don’t disagree. The secret sauce here is that intimate experience that Glass offers - having the instructions whispered right into your head (without seeming schizophrenic) is something that you have to experience to fully understand. It is something that allows you to continue to focus on the road, more than you would with a Garmin or smartphone, while still knowing where you need to go next. You’re friends will think you’re a wizard or something, I promise.

Now, while I can’t let everyone try on Glass to experience what it is actually like, I can do my duty as an Explorer and educate as many people as I can. For example, some legislators in West Virginia, Delaware and other states have already attempted to ban Glass while driving. Something tells me they haven’t even seen Glass in person yet, let alone tried driving with it, but I think if they tried Glass, at least for a few minutes, they might have different thoughts about it. If you are a Glass Explorer in West Virginia, Delaware, or any of the other states attempting to ban Glass, I encourage you to meet with your legislators and let them try on your Glass.

If you are a Glass Explorer in West Virginia, Delaware, or any of the other states attempting to ban Glass, I encourage you to meet with your legislators and let them try on your Glass.

Glass is an entirely new product category, and a whole new sensory experience. I can understand those that are trying to preemptively ban it - it’s a scary new world. But it’s also exciting, and if we study how we can use it to our advantage, for things like safety and efficiency, instead of trying to run from it, we may actually find Glass to be one of the most significant pieces of technology of the next decade.