Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Glassy Times

It is exciting times in the wearable smartglass area. This week we've had +Samsung USA announce that they will be coming out this September with their +Google Glass competitor, Galaxy Glass, and +Google Glass just released their new stylish and prescription framed models. According to +Heather Kelly at +CNN, Google is now offering four light weight titanium framed models for $225 each and three new active wear twist-on lenses for $150 each. The ability to customize and twist on different lenses, or even unscrew and change the frame will make them considerably more versatile, stylish and natural. Awesome move. I am looking forward to the coming customizable, wearable, high-tech fashion, +MAKE generation. Still no news however on when Google will be releasing the 3rd generation Google Glasses to the masses at a much lower price.

One of the things that I would definitely modify if I were one of the +Google Glass product managers is the prompt screen. Google should not only include the date in the 3rd Generation model, but something much more rich in data like the homescreen/notifications windows of our smartphones. I would add a small battery icon and the city/GPS location in the bottom corners, and messages, social media notifications and +Google Now Alerts all along the top of the screen. An automatic scrolling through these pages, notifications and apps until selecting might also be nice. When screen projection capabilities develop so that we can increase the screen size and even project it on walls, the data enrichment of the homescreen will become even more relevant.

The new Google "gaze tracking system" will speed-up functionality and completely change the whole UI/UX, though I'll be curious to see if Google actually incorporates it in the next generation model. It will be super cool when we can just focus for a few seconds on whatever we would like to open or further read/learn/interact with, though I am not sure if the technology is there yet, or for that matter, if people are really ready for it. This technology will open up a whole new box of intimacy and openness with our smartdevices, and further erode previous conceptions of the word privacy. When Samsung released the +Samsung Galaxy S IV with it's new eye detection technology, it was a big bang in the press, though I haven't heard much about it since. From the feedback I received it seemed to act erratically and be hard to maneuver/control. However, Glass Explorer +Brandyn White describes in his blog a current Glass hack enabling pupil detection for gaming.

Additionally, from the 3rd Generation +Google Glass prompt screen we should be able to voice command it into any of those icons/apps/notifications. When we initially respond to it by saying "ok glass," the time, (date), and "ok glass" prompt should disappear and it should then open up into a further detailed/rich smartglass home/notification screen. All of the screens from the prompt all the way back to and including the "settings" should be voice command accessible in and/or visible from this homescreen.

As the movie +Her Movie Official Channel indicates, we are at the point of interacting with personal smart-devices so much that we would like not only to personify them, but might even fall in love. Customization and open platforms will be key characteristics to the success of wearables and future products. I look forward to the day when we can not only change the glass prompt or name from "ok glass" to "ok Scarlet" for example, but change our device name at any time in the My Glass application. Additionally, we should be able to reprogram the voice command operating system with key words to perform all the basic Glass functions - picture, video, send, and share. One example of how this would really come in handy is if we were at a birthday party and programmed it to take a picture every time you or someone else said "happy birthday." This would create an awesome birthday album and one could even make a fun game out of it if you could modify the microphone settings to background and/or local sound.

Blinklifier - Beauty Technology

In the future, not only will all our smart-enabled wearable devices and fashionables be connected, but they will be connected to all of our smarthome and smartcity IoT devices. Being able to touch your smartwatch, smartring, smartnecklace etc. to get your glass into prompt mode and/or perform basic commands will be one of the next big wearable trends. +Katia Canepa Vega, Founder of Beauty Technology, is one of the young entrepreneurs thinking of innovative ways to use sensors and technology in a fashionable way. This type of technology along with 3D printers connected to our smartdevices will make life very interesting and get us even closer to the future of instantaneous manifestation, to which we are heading. The currently seen "erosion of privacy" is part of the fundamental process in our evolution as conscious beings to this next stage of existence so that we do not per say manifest "The Marshmallow Man." The smartglass and wearable era will continue to transform the debate of privacy, data and the share movement, and even redefine what it means to be human.

The Marshmallow Man - Ghostbusters

In the 3rd Generation +Google Glass I would also like to see the following apps: +Foursquare +Instagram +LinkedIn  Facebook Messenger (at least), +Pinterest and Tumblr (at least sharing at first ). Additionally, while the +YouTube app makes posting videos to your page really easy, currently we can only play videos while we should also be able to share and send them as well. I will review the current Glass apps in more detail in my next post.

The 3rd and 4th Generation Google Glasses should be all about geo-locational augmented reality information, apps, and networks. Some new social networks such as Circle and Highlight, and the more established networks like +Foursquare and Twitter will bring interesting locational awareness that we have previously never experienced. Being able to receive notifications about who is around us in our networks and extended networks, and see their face, name, location, and distance will completely change the way we interact and behave. When engaging with the locational people notifications, we should be taken to a feed of their most recent activity on all their main social media accounts. For example, one could easily hack a program to scour all the social media accounts that someone has linked to their Klout, or Google+ pages to draw up a feed of their most recent activity. I would also like to know when a lot of my friends are checking into any local place, be notified if many tweets are going out locally with a common hash/theme/place/etc. 

Another simple thing that I might change on the "ok glass" screen is just indicating prompt mode with lights and color rather than words. For some reason this just seems much more high-tech and by switching between various different color modes you could place it in different command prompts. Additionally, in the ever expanding interconnected global economy, a product that can be easily operable across-borders, with a simple universally understood UI and UX will be essential to mass market success and adoption.

Currently the audio notifications are extremely limited on +Google Glass. I cannot tell the difference between receiving a text, news notification or social media notification. We should likewise be able to customize the sound alert notifications within the My Glass app. Furthermore, when receiving a notification and hearing the chime, you can voice prompt the glass by saying "ok glass." However, when doing so we are only presented with two options: read aloud and reply. While the glass is in read mode you can usually interrupt it by saying "ok glass" again, but the voice detection seems to time out after ten seconds or so. If having Glass read a long news article or something, then one must tap to wake back up into prompt mode to stop it or place another command. Additionally, when Glass is reading something and you stop it in the middle by saying "ok glass," you are only presented with the one and only option again - "read aloud." I do not know why the Google engineers did not program the basic commands of "ok glass, stop" and "ok glass, go back" into the first generation model.

While I have since figured that Glass automatically capitalizes after punctuation ending a sentence, I have not figured out how to capitalize at the beginning of a text message. Additionally, recently when trying to share a pic on Twitter, I was unable to make Glass spell out 702; it kept turning it into 70 2 or 700 2. I'm not sure exactly why for voice recognition of numbers usually works very well. I tried probably about 10x.

I don't know how long it takes to get approved but you can now sign up to be a part of the Google Glass Explorer program on the website.

Stay tuned for more news and info about my #throughglass experience.

Sarah Slocum
Founder, I Love Social Media, Inc.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Glass Me Up Scotty!

First off, all I want to say is love, love, love. Must try. Must get. And must use. +Google Glass is incredible, and no, I am not being paid to say this or employed by Google. Aside from the lack of certain apps that I use on a daily basis like +Foursquare and +LinkedIn, I can do almost everything that I can do with my +Samsung Galaxy S III on Glass - call, text, surf the web, take pictures and videos, read and receive news notifications, Twitter notifications, and share media via text or with Facebook, Twitter and +Google+. I am also looking forward to the day when I can message on Facebook with Glass.

Taken with Google Glass

So it has now been about a week since I first received +Google Glass and originally blogged about my post 24hr experience. Since then, most of the problems or frustrations I was experiencing have either been resolved or I've discovered that my initial perspective was wrong. Most importantly, I've discovered how to go back, extend videos past 10 seconds, and add emoticons and punctuation at the end of a sentence. I still haven't figured out how to capitalize though. Additionally, now when I receive text messages or notifications usually they automatically pop up. However, this still doesn't happen 100% of the time and I'm not sure exactly why.

When initially receiving Glass, I had set up all of the special features except for screen lock - "head wake up," "on-head detection" and "wink for picture." Since then, I have turned off the first two - "head wake up" and "on-head detection" - for both features didn't work properly and/or caused other problems. The "head wake up" only occasionally worked, and the "on head detection" caused a problem with Glass leaving it unresponsive at times and unable to wake up without taking it off and putting it back on again. In the process of problem solving these issues, I discovered that +Google Glass has the most amazing customer support. You can reach someone almost immediately 5am-9pm and receive excellent service. I haven't really had a need to use the screen lock yet, but will test it out soon.

The "wink for picture" feature is one of the most interesting, for I still haven't really discovered how it works. Usually when it is on and I wink it will respond and react properly and take a picture, though sometimes it just randomly does so as well. Additionally, sometimes when the Glass is sleeping it will wake up and take a picture. However, when I've tried to Q/A this and blink again while apparently in sleep mode, sometimes it will take a picture and sometimes it will not. Today, while I was over at a friends house I had placed the Glass on the coffee table and when I put it back on and went through my history I found a picture of us sitting on the couch. Not sure how that happened since no one was near it at the time to have prompted it to do so.

 Taken by Glass
Another feature that I haven't fully figured out is the screen saver mode vs. full light display. Sometimes it is in battery save mode and sometimes the display is fully lit up. I haven't yet figured out whether this is something that can be manually adjusted or whether it is just based on the battery life. I do not think it is the latter though because sometimes when it initially comes on it will be in full light display then a few seconds later it will revert back to dim mode. 

Though I figured out how to go back, this design is clearly still in beta. The way one is supposed to go back on +Google Glass is by swiping down. However, the down swipe back function is extremely finicky and there is no protrusion or tactile indication of where you are supposed to do so. Not sure why the Google engineers chose that mechanism vs. a button per say. Usually, on average, it takes about 2-3 tries before I actually get it right. This clearly leads to some problems and frustrations for if you are trying to cancel an action like sending or sharing and you do not touch it just right, out goes the media/message.

Since last week I have now accidentally shared two pictures with the wrong people via Google Hangouts. The most recent of which just happened when I was trying to share the picture that Glass took of my friend and I while it was sitting on the coffee table. I accidentally ended up sending it to someone with the same first name and even though I realized this just as I had apparently clicked, I was unable to cancel/void.

The voice recognition on +Google Glass and my +Samsung Galaxy S III is pretty excellent and accurate about 90% of the time. The most problems arise with weird nouns that it does not recognize. However, it is near impossible to use in a noisy restaurant or any loud area. While I was out at dinner this weekend I tried at least 5 times to add a short caption to a picture of my dinner. I ended up just sending it out with no caption. Additionally, using voice recognition vs. type texting requires a slightly different process of thinking and takes getting used to if it's not a feature you commonly use on your phone or with other electronics. Messaging via voice recognition is more of a stream of conscious and live conversation while the act of producing an edited and fully punctuated message is more in line with publishing. The ability to immediately receive text messages and immediately respond via voice recognition though make it worth getting used to and using. 

One app that I recently added to My Glass is +Evernote though I haven't seen it show up in Glass yet. I must not have completed the set-up process. I also still haven't added my +IFTTT account and look forward to playing with that on Glass as well. I recently added the Strava Run app, but additionally have yet to complete the set-up and use it.

I have the second generation Glass with the ear piece and removable lens. At first, I really did not like the ear piece and found it very hard to position in my ear. I have since figured out how to use the yarn to position it in place and find it much more comfy, though at times it still feels a bit big and causes discomfort. While the battery life of Glass can be improved, at least it can be fully charged in less than an hour. I look forward to the day when I can accessorize and bling out Glass with different shaped and colored lenses. This will enable them to not just be extremely functional but also fashionable. The interchangeable lenses design is amazing and yet so simple.

The +Google Glass Revolution and wearable generation are here to stay and once they hit the mass market this year and next, they will take over just as smartphones did. I have already become so comfortable with Glass that I've forgotten to bring my cell when running quick errands around town, forgetting that it is rendered useless except for taking pics and videos without my cell.

Here are a few awesome pictures I've captured of people's reactions to just discovering Google Glass for the first time:

David Bakhtiari, offensive tackle for the

Stay tuned for more #throughglass feedback, experiences and perspectives.

Sarah Slocum
Founder, I Love Social Media, Inc.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seven Innovative Companies at CES 2014

I attended the +Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for this first time this year with +Immersive Dynamics, a stealth new start-up from Atherton, and absolutely loved it. While there, I ended up taking a few videos with my +Samsung Galaxy S III of various different cool companies and products.

One of the first companies that I demoed was +Playworld Systems, a company that creates "innovative commercial playground equipment that brings the joy of play to people of every age." The game consisted of having to run around and tap all of either the blinking red or green lights. It was super fun and a great way to wake up and start my day. The model is called a Neos 360 Accessible  and retails for $28, 665.


The next company I interviewed was +dualo Instru, a French start-up founded in 2011. The Dualo du-touch is a new high-tech portable musical instrument that makes improvising, reading notes and learning music more easy and accessible. Described on their website as a "controller-synthesizer-sequencer," it comes with more than a 100 different musical instruments, and you can upload your own samples as well. The Dualo du-touch performs looping, has a motion sensor for tempo, pitch and effects modulation, two sliders, and you can record, upload and share your songs, as well as download others. The Dualo du-touch market price is around $1000.

+Kiwi Wearables is an exciting innovative start-up breaking into the wearable field. The Toronto company's mission is "to build wearable technology that helps people live healthier and happier lives." Here, one of the Founders, Zaki Patel, describes how this wearable sensor detects motion (via an accelerometer and gyroscope), temperature and sound, has a microphone for recording, and connects via wifi and Bluetooth. The Kiwi Wearable mobile app is available on both Android and iOS and is described on the website as having five main different applications of use - move, insights, gesture, sound and lock. It can be worn on your wrist, collar or arm (or essentially anywhere) and only weighs 1oz and has a battery life of 5 days. They are currently selling for $99 on +Kickstarter and their website, and will ship at the end of July. Developer kits are also available for $80 and will ship at the end of this month. It will be interesting to see what new types of apps developers create on the open platform next month. 
Lee Hampton gives an overview of the New York start-up Canary, a smart alarm security device. The Canary is equipped with a high-definition camera and sensors - temperature, humidity, air quality, motion, and an accelerometer. Lee describes how it connects via wifi or Ethernet to your home and then alerts you on the mobile app or web when the smart-sensors are triggered. The machine learning algorithms and the computer vision analysis allow it to adapt to you, your home and family, so that it will only notify you when something is fishy. It is retailing for $199 and will ship in July.
Amy Rainbow Winters is a creative innovator from the UK getting into the new wearable fashion field. She describes her companies mission as seeking "to express the emotive and aesthetic capabilities of emerging technologies through illuminated textiles, sensors, colour-changing inks & nanotechnology." Here she demonstrates one of her pieces, and explains how it changes color from green to blue to red based on the individual's amount of activity/motion. She has a wide array of different products from scarfs to dresses to necklaces, all of which have some type of high-tech special effect or feature. You can see and purchase her "fashionables" in her online store.
+displair, described as the "touch screen of the future," will change the way we interact with technology and information. It displays a translucent digital image in the thin air and one can draw, manipulate objects, and project and interact with pictures due to its gesture recognition technology. I can't wait to see these in the market. They will be retailing them to the mass market at around $4-5k.
Modular Robotics, founded in 2008, is a Colorado company part of the +MAKE movement. It allows children to easily learn about robotics and programming with these smart-legos. Just snap them together and discover the capabilities of each piece and create interesting new robots with different functions. Their Cubelet Kits range from $160-$520 and the MOSS builder kits range from $150-$400. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hey Ms. Google!

I received +Google Glass on Friday from a developer and wanted to relay my initial experience using the wearable smart device. All in all it is super awesome, and the first night practically everyone that I encountered while downtown kept saying, "Hey Ms. Google!"

First thing we did to set up the device was link up my Google account and download the My Glass app onto my cell, which took about 15 minutes, and then I was free to start experimenting. I did not and still have not read any directions (for I'd rather ride the horse than read about doing so), so my learning experience has mostly comprised of tapping, swiping and a bit of cursing at my first "Him." I have since captured a plethora of pictures and videos, made a few blunders, and in addition to Gmail linked my +Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr , +YouTube, Hangouts, Google Now, +CNN, +The New York Times, +Wall Street Journal, +Mashable and Weather Alert. I will additionally be linking up +IFTTT. All of these, along with some other apps, all come with my new companion, Mr. Glass.

The first night I had not yet linked up any of the other apps, so I was merely experimenting with the basic UI and capabilities of the device - ie. photos and videos - and for that it was amazing for capturing moments that I would not have been able to or previously thought of catching. +Google Glass's design is so light that you hardly even notice after wearing it for 10 minutes, and the lens does not interfere with your vision. The screen itself is a bit small though and hard to see at times, and the ear piece is slightly irritating and hard to fit just right in your ear. It does have a microphone without the ear piece, but it is hard to hear without it and I'm not sure yet if the volume can be adjusted.

About 5 minutes after downloading the My Glass app and first putting it on I received a call and ran to grab my cell but consequently realized that I could not answer it from there and that Mr. Glass was making noise on the table where I had placed it. Initially I was a bit flustered for I wasn't sure how to answer, then couldn't hear without the ear piece and was alarmed that my cell was not working, but nonetheless figured it out within a few seconds. The first experiences on Glass are quite exciting - first calls, first text messages, first pics and videos, and first Tweets. It is very cool to have instant access to these vital functions of our daily lives.

Unlike many might assume, +Google Glass is not on the majority of the time, but can be instantly accessed by a simple tap of the band which puts you in prompt mode. Additionally, it is pretty easy to detect when it is on because you can see the reflection and light of the screen in the prism. From the prompt mode, one may take a picture, record a video, get directions, message, call, make a video call, or post an update. Though Facebook is also connected, when posting an update from the prompt screen it automatically goes straight to Twitter. Additionally, for some reason all of the photos and videos that I have taken thus far are not uploading into my Google account, so I am not sure what is going on there. In prompt mode you can also scroll through your stream of apps and recent activity. Glass displays in chronological order your text messages, pictures, videos and any updates brought to you by the various different apps that you've connected. You can either read the various updates from the news services or you can have Glass read them to you.

Obviously, since there is no keyboard all of your messages and status updates are done through voice command, for which there is no current editing, formatting or punctuation. This is one of the current considerably dangerous and undeveloped aspects of the UX, for when in the message or post update functions, you speak your message or post and it sends two seconds later without the ability to review, edit or even confirm that you would like to send it. Or if there is the ability to do so, I have not yet figured it out. While the voice detection is quite accurate and your friends and family will hopefully be aware and understanding of any odd messages and lack of punctuation, if posting to the world on Twitter this could lead to some serious problems. Additionally, while some in the presence of Glass might have precautions about privacy, the users are equally more exposed, for any message or post must be read out loud.

While everyone has either been oblivious or quite excited and curious about Glass, the most awkward experience I have currently had is that the first night I accidentally sent a photo via Hangouts to a friend of mine without even realizing it at the time. Luckily it wasn't anything too personal, wasn't sent to someone else, and luckily I didn't post it to Twitter or Facebook, because that could clearly present serious problems.

One interesting aspect of the UI is that I only seem capable of adding and sending media by text to contacts who have a Google+ account. I tried adding one of my girlfriends who is obviously in my cell, but the My Glass app does not recognize her name and won't allow me to add her as a contact. When clicking on media - pictures and videos - you are given three options: send, share and delete. The send function, as I previously mentioned, defaults to Hangouts, while the share function currently gives me the following options: Twitter, Facebook friends, Google+ circles, G+ public, G+ acquaintances, G+ family, G+ friends, G+ I Love Social Media, Facebook only me, Facebook public, G+ PR, and G+ following. And while hashtags might not be necessary for Google+ due to the fact that Google automatically generates them, while in Twitter not having the ability to format and @ or # something is quite irritating and one of the essential functions of Twitter.

Two of the most frustrating things though that I have encountered thus far in my Glass experience are that I cannot seem to figure out how to go back on the device and that the voice command feature does not always work they way I would like it to. The only way that I have been able to work around the go back function is to allow it to reset to the prompt by taking off the glasses or by leaving it alone for a few seconds. Otherwise, for example, I sometimes find myself stuck in the send, share or delete functions and cannot get back.

Another aspect that I don't really like is that the videos taken on Glass seem to currently be limited to only 10 seconds. I'm sure there's a way to reprogram and/or change this, but it isn't clear to me at the moment.

Before using Glass I thought that there would be a constant stream of info appearing in the prism. This isn't the case however. When you get a text message, or if there is a new update you will be notified with a little chime in your ear and you must tap on the Glass and swipe to access. Personally, I would like it to automatically just appear, but I am not sure how arrange that at the moment either.

Stay tuned for more updates on my #throughglass experience.

Happy 2014!

Sarah Slocum
Founder of I Love Social Media, Inc.