Saturday, July 27, 2013

Where do I go next?

There are days I’m practically running from one conference room to another. I can envision this conversation: 

“OK, Glass. Remind me, where is my next meeting?” 

“The main conference room, 3rd floor.”

“Who will be there?” 

“Jason Oliver, Heather Garcia, Al Singh, Mary Brownwood, and Lewis Kim.” 

“What department is Jason in?” 

“He is the network operations manager.” 

Sure, I could juggle my iPhone as I hurry along, look up my calendar entry to find the location, click through to see who else is on the meeting invitation, and then search the people directory to find out who Jason is. Siri isn't quite up to this task yet, though she knows your location already and learns about you over time to better answer questions.

For Glass, the pieces are falling in place now for this kind of conversational search, especially the search capability to build on a previous question.

Without conversational search, the way the questions thread together, I would need to restate elements in each subsequent question:
“Where is my 3 o’clock meeting?”
“Who is attending my 3 o’clock meeting?”
“Where does Jason Oliver work?

My simple scenario illustrates how your device can understand what you are talking about—not just what you are saying—to connect facts. It might work for me if I used Google Calendar. I don’t. My day is logged in my employer’s enterprise system. It’s out of the reach of the “knowledge graph” that connects data for questions and follow-up questions for Google.

There are still some quirks, so while it is fun to test it out now, at some point you’ll find you have to revert to the old-fashioned way of search—keyboard input and reading the screen. 

Still, I can already use voice search and hear or see results returned. If you go to Google using Chrome on your desktop or have the Google search app on your phone, just click on the microphone icon to ask a question. Try something simple: Is it going to rain? I bet you’ll smile at the spoken and visual answer, especially considering you didn’t ask a precise question but a conversational question.  

I face another obstacle—my name. I have yet to ask anything that includes my name and have Google return a correct result. As you are asking Google a question, you see the letters and words onscreen as it hears you. My question seems simple: Who is Sheri Rosen? But Google hears: cherry rose, sherry resins, Jerry Rosen, Sharon Reisman, shee RI rose, Sherri Rose in, and if I’m lucky, Sherry Rosen. But there are a lot of Sherry Rosens out there, and not one of them is me. It’s only worse when I try to spell a word or name, because Google tries to prefill and guess what it thinks I really meant and always gets it wrong. I must have tried this self-search a couple of dozen times, on Glass, smartphone and desktop, even expanding the question with a descriptive hint, like “in Texas” or “employee communication,” and never once gotten a correct return. I suppose I need someone to start a Wikipedia entry on me.  

Nonetheless, in the spirit of gazing further, I’m hopeful we will soon get past obstacles like spoken name recognition and walled gardens. Actively participating in the discussion now will help shape the future as we envision it. In my mind, it’s a short leap from voice search to when-I-ask-for-it information and education for a company’s employees.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Glass under the X-ray

The first time I heard of two Goggle Glass wearers randomly crossing paths was in a busy airport (aside from Google offices, of course). I guess that means there is some sort of critical mass in airports. When I first started wearing Glass, I wondered if airport security would be a problem.

I'd made a point to ask several Glass wearers if they had any trouble getting through airport security. Everyone said no. After some experience, I concur. It’s not a problem getting through security, yet it does put the wearer in position to explain exactly what Glass is.

I confidently moved to the X-ray cylinder the first time I wore Glass for a flight. The TSA agent monitoring the queue asked what I was wearing as he looked straight at my eyebrow.  "It's Google Glass,” I said.

"Is it a computer?" he asked. I had to stop and think about that for a second. For me at that moment it wasn't much more than a camera. I was having trouble getting connections set up for other functionality.  "Yes, sort of, but its not working now, because..." I was pretty sure he didn't want to hear about tethering and personal hotspots, which at that point I hadn’t mastered. Before I could finish my thought, he said, "It's going to have to go back through the line. All electronics are scanned." OK. Easy enough. I'm still sort of wondering. Is Glass a computer? I get the concept of wearable computing, but at this point, one could make the argument that this a gadget rather than a computer.  

Another time through airport security, I was stopped at the same point, coming out of the X-ray cylinder. This time, my quick response was, “It’s like a fancy Bluetooth headset.” He asked me to take it off, and he took to his team back at the scanner looking at carry-on bags and shoes. He asked if anyone had seen anything like it. One agent spoke up, “Is that Google Glass?” Once the others heard a coworker identify it, they seem less concerned.

The reason I wanted to be part of the Google Glass Explorer program was exactly that: how do you explain Glass to people. In particular, how do you explain this new technology to employees of a company? Sighting of Glass in an airport is still rare, I suspect, but because of the work they are doing, agents could benefit from job-related information to be able to identify it and know what to do when they see it. (And Glass wearers should know to treat Glass like the laptop and put it in a bin for inspection.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A new meaning for "eyewitness news"

Hands-free reporting will be one of the most important innovations in journalism. Wearable computers will let reporters instantly create and share the news through their own eyes, in the opinion of broadcaster and instructor Sarah Hill.

She envisions how Google Glass can evolve as a tool for journalists who currently depend on  computers, phones and broadcast equipment in the field—all intrusive. She foresees Glass replacing the satellite truck, even the notepad and pencil. We’re not quite there yet, though she offers plausible suggestions for further development of Glassware to make it possible.

No need to wait. She's found practical applications already in her job as chief digital storyteller for Veterans United Home Loans. For example, she wore Google Glass at a Memorial Day event so veterans who were too sick to travel got a first-person experience of the sights and sounds. The veterans saw what she saw when they joined a Google Hangout. Typically in a Hangout, the camera on the connected computer or phone is capturing the image of the Hangout participant. All the people hanging out can see each other as part of the conversation. But Glass captures on video what the wearer is seeing, not the wearer's face. It's broadcastinglive from my eye sockets,” as Sarah says.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Let’s get through the privacy discussion

When Chris Barrett, founder of, used his Google Glass to capture an evening of fun, he stumbled on a street fight that led to an arrest. Can he do that? Anonymously?

That was enough of a story for NPR to cover, and it was picked up by ABC. Clearly into the mainstream, beyond social shares and Google Glass chatter.

All the better, I think, to go ahead and get privacy on the table so people can gaze further at ways to use Glass that might improve their lives and access to information.

Interesting to me is that when you watch the video-by-Glass, it appears that at least one person captured part of the scuffle by phone. Is that an invasion of privacy? I grabbed a quick screen shot here—maybe not the best but still illustrative. If you watch the whole video at the NPR site, you'll see the sequence as a woman on the left captures an arrest, the officer being the one in the blue shirt and the offender blocked in this view.

Glass will be compared and contrasted with smartphones, though it may not be a perfect analogy once we get through the privacy discussion.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Immediate notification of critical to work-in-progress

A primary reason I am involved with Google Glass is to explore its use in the workplace.  As an example, how and when would companies communicate with their employees using this technology? I wasn’t expecting such an intense conversation on that exact point at a Fourth of July barbeque.

I only knew three people who would be at the party of many dozens celebrating the holiday there, so this was a good chance to observe reaction to Glass among strangers and let them try it. As I walked into the spacious backyard for the event, the first two people I saw were unknown to me, but one immediately spoke up, “Is that Google Glass?” even before an expected “Hello.” Actually, I was amazed at how many people recognized Glass, and in the convivial atmosphere, they wanted to make it the central topic of conversation.  As the party went on, I heard “Is that Google Glass?” excitedly from almost everyone aged 30 or younger. And from people who work in tech jobs.

One of those first two people I encountered was a man who was not familiar with Glass though the woman standing with him was and had questions for me. As soon as I began explaining to her what it could do, it was clear the man was paying particularly close attention. 

Then we separated as we moved on through the crowd, but he sought me out about 30 minutes later. He was thinking about workers in oil fields or around large machinery who needed notification immediately about some critical aspect of their work-in-progress. Because of the noise, the only truly effective way to relay that kind of message now is to tap the worker on the shoulder—or get in his face.

That’s what he wants Google Glass to do. The fact that a text message can appear in the field of vision seemed to be a solution he needed. He asked me who he could call to order a couple hundred, right after the holiday.  Tomorrow.