Google Glass Success Depends on Niche Apps

BURLINGAME, Calif. — Prototyping applications will be key to the success of Google Glass and other wearable glasses, speakers at Wearables DevCon said today. The conference, being held March 5-7 near San Francisco, is designed for wearable makers, software developers, and app creators trying to pick up practical technical knowledge.

It turns out that prototyping sometimes is as simple as imagining the device on your head before coding.

“No one really knows the right way to create apps or what the user experience should be,” Michael DiGiovanni, lead mobile developer at Isobar, told wearable developers during his class on creating products for Google Glass. “You can put a cool piece of technology out there but don’t know where it fits in.”

His advice: “Before you start having someone code something, throw the idea down on paper, see how it would interact with something on your head, and ask if it’s second nature.”

DiGiovanni stressed that experimenting with functionality and using the proper development tools will help set the stage for widespread wearable glasses acceptance. Because of its form factor and limited processing power, Google Glass and competing solutions will appeal to consumers only if applications fit a niche hobby or activity.

“Most of your interactions should be short and sweet. Glass is terrible for navigating an interface.” It is a lifestyle accessory. “Always answer the question of why someone should pick Glass over a phone or PC. Always go for speed over functionality. Make it seamless and frictionless to share information with your app.”

Developers have two options for creating Glass apps: The Glass Development Kit (GDK) and the Mirror API. DiGiovanni prefers the GDK for its real-time interaction and offline functionality, but he said it has limited voice recognition capabilities and quickly drains battery life. The API is easy to use, consumes less power, and offers platform independence. Still, it has a “pretty slow round trip and requires the Internet.” Its limited hardware connections, with no access to the Glass accelerometer or other sensors, make location data stale and unusable. With the GDK, all sensors are exactly like they are on an Android phone.

“I love Glass. I love how it changes interactions with technology. I don’t know if it will ever really catch on with consumers unless you find a niche,” he said. “Right now, it’s a great notification device, but so is a smartwatch.”

To that end, DiGiovanni encouraged attendees to innovate ahead of a commercial Glass release rumored for the second half of 2014. He expects a faster processor to debut alongside a full release. Jay Lee has reported that the current Explorer Edition runs a dual-core OMAP 4430 SoC with 682 MB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The battery lasts for a full day of typical use.

“We’re also seeing a lot of compelling use cases for eye tracking, where, through extra hardware, you can track where the eye is looking and moving,” DiGiovanni said. In the consumer release, “Google might change the [CCD] sensor that’s inside to include tracking, which would be absolutely awesome.”

Hardware upgrades and applications aside, he said the best way to get involved with Google Glass is to delve into the community. “Be active members of the Glass community. Join Google+, meetups, and hang out with other explorers. If you want to make a product but aren’t an explorer yet, the best thing to do is hang out with those people.”

— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times

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