Heads Up on Displays: Exploring Google Glass Globally
By Ultan O'Broin-Oracle on Dec 21, 2013
As a global Google Glass Explorer, I was drawn to the HuffPo's "Google Glass: Qué Guay!" article about reactions to Google Glass in Spain. I wondered about that Urban Dictionary entry (not safe for résumés) too, as I haven’t experienced such feedback. We have Explorers in Oracle, I thought it would be interesting to hear from some about what reactions they’d encountered the around the world.
London pictured through Google Glass (pic: Ultan O'Broin)
I’m indebted to co-workers Anthony Lai (@anthonyslai), Marta Rauch (@martarauch) and Noel Portugal (@noelportugal) for sharing their experiences. Not scientific in any way, this is 'after-the-fact' guerilla-style Glass user experience (UX) ethnography, is purely qualitative, and for fun, as we move towards the creation of Heads-Up Display (HUD) UX guidance.
Out and About with Glass
Noel Portugal demos Oracle CRM app on Glass (pic: Ultan O'Broin)
Most people do a quick stare but are hesitant to ask about Glass. Questions came from everyone, from taxi drivers to airport gate staff. They always include, "How much do they cost?" When showing someone how Glass works, others always gathered around to catch our conversation.
Again, people were hesitant to ask. On the London train I immediately felt the gaze of passengers and overheard some guys saying, "It’s Google Glass!” Finally, one approached and I demoed Glass.
In Mexico, and the UK, I was asked if Glass was going to "take off”. My response was classic UX - “it depends” - especially, if the price comes down. If Google enhances it further, I see a future with a lot of Glass around me.
Anthony Lai (pic: Misha Vaughan)
San Francisco Bay Area
Most people know about Glass, but not a lot of details. They’re genuinely interested, and this is increasing as more Explorers appear. There’s a small amount of negative reaction to Glass (I had one bad experience), but I’d say this is because others haven’t had personal experience of Glass (yet) and privacy concerns.
In Beijing, people were interested when they saw Glass, but very few knew about its existence. On the street, people would gaze at you for a second, but then look away to avoid embarrassment (a cultural thing). One man in his 60s knew about Glass and asked me if I liked it or not. There was only one other occasion when I was asked on the street.
I had similar experiences in Hong Kong as in Beijing.
Marta Rauch (pic courtesy: Marta Rauch)
Everyone who tried on Glass thought it amazing. The most common response was “Cool!”, asking when and where they could get their own, and of course, how much it cost. The current high price is an issue for many.At live events and conferences, the audience wants to try Glass and to be photographed wearing it. People are impressed by the Glassware apps available already (including the Oracle apps). They like the features and enjoy exploring by themselves. Typically, they’ll try a Google search and take pictures and videos. Some will even try a “Google Glass-bomb” by asking Glass something they think it won’t be able to answer, but Glass does pretty well with correct responses.
I am also asked when prescription lenses will be available, and if Glass is compatible with iPhones.
At Yosemite National Park, I wore Glass to take videos of the mountains, and tourists and rangers noticed and asked to try it. I also wore Glass to a NASA moon launch at NASA Ames Research Center to get some Glass images of the event. I was so surrounded by inquisitive geeks that I had to take Glass off and get the video with my mobile phone!
Ultan O'Broin (pic: Selfie)
In Dublin stores, staff all wanted to try my Glass. They would first ask what it was and when I offered if they wanted to try, all accepted. Shopping therefore took a while, but everyone was knocked out by the experience. They wanted their own - until they heard about the price. Everyone got the hang of using the Glass gestures, but a few were confused and wondered why Glass needed gestures as well as voice input. Nobody had any privacy concerns. Many were quick to take pictures without asking the subjects (making me very nervous). Again, the prescription lenses questions came up.
Few adults knew the name Glass. They had a vague awareness of its existence, but they’d call it Google Glasses or even The Google Eye. However, kids all knew the correct name, and what Glass could do. I didn’t allow kids to try it, nervous about getting parental consent. I had a hard enough time getting Glass back off my nine-year old to continue “digital native” research, he loved it! College students knew what Glass was, approached me, trying it out with a “wow!” reaction.
I showed Glass in my local computer store and the owner identified a use case for working remotely on a service request (for hands-free location and directions to a site and knowledge lookup). In another store, someone said it would be ideal for hyper local ads about special offers nearby.
Similar experiences in London as Dublin, even in big departmental stores. Sales assistants were ready with questions and eager to try Glass. I breezed into one famous store normally very leery of camera-toting tourists, but without problems. More questions came about prescription lenses, availability, and price.
I wore Glass on the Tube. In the close quarters of a packed train, I overheard passengers whispering “Google Glass”, but nobody asked me anything. I did hear that using Glass must be a cool way to watch music videos when stuck on the Underground!
In Manchester, I didn’t turn a single head.
San Francisco Bay Area
Lots of people identified Glass and asked questions. My favorite approach was “Excuse me, Sir, but I'm from Louisiana, and I have never seen a thing before like that on your head….”.
In San Francisco, on Black Friday, I saw the twinkle of about a dozen Glass displays on Explorers as darkness fell. In a sunglasses store, I was their third Explorer that day. The staff was ready with “no, we don’t make lenses for it!”(They tried on my Glass anyway).
General Tips on Sharing the Glass Goodness
Our Explorers all liked and used the Android-only (at time of writing) MyGlass app’s screencast features for demoing Glass to others. Screen casting saves on passing Glass around to everyone and encourages participation as the crowd gathers. If someone asks about your Glass, then it’s polite and professional to answer, and offer if they’d like to try, when possible. Get their views, and thank them. Check with guardians first if kids approach and ask about trying Glass.
Cultural and Language Dimensions
Analysis of cultural dimensions to information and communications technology usually draws on the work of Geert Hofstede and Edward T Hall. That’s for later, and perhaps we can even construct new models. In addition to the ways our Explorers noticed how people approached around the world, here’s a few other global considerations.
In China and Mexico, we noticed that the Glass English-accented voice could present issues for non-native English speakers when communicating using voice commands. Also, anyone speaking in softer tones, Chinese women for example, may not be heard that easily by Glass. Ambient or background noise doesn’t help.
When demoing, Explorers were also asked whether you could change the Glass UI language to Spanish or another language (not right now).
The voice-to-text audio seemed to mangle non-English names (in Irish for example), but impressively, Glass learned how to get them right after repeated attempts. Acronyms could also confuse Glass initially, especially domain-specific ones (Saying UX first being shown as “You X”, but then pronounced correctly).
Keep an Eye on the Enterprise
The word is out about Glass. HUDs will take off in a bigger way in 2014, and although Glass is the most well-known HUD in the U.S., and becoming so in Europe, there are others out there. Consumer expectations will influence the enterprise UX of HUDs longer term, but enterprise use cases have been identified that make sense to build now.
More Glass Explorers are coming, so expect more interest and use cases (Pic: Ultan O'Broin)
Enterprise UX is all about context and stakeholders, so exploring reactions of more than just end users is valuable. Although this was a “fun” exercise, our Explorers’ insights will help inform methodologies for more scientific UX research and practical guidance to enable enterprise users to work more efficiently with HUDs.
So, Oracle customers and partners, stay tuned to the VOX blog and Twitter (@usableapps) for UX information and outreach about the HUD trend. You can participate in the building of wearable solutions to make businesses more productive.
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