Designing for Google Glass

April 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

During SXSW I was able to attend Timothy Jordan’s talk on designing and developing for Google Glass. I’m somewhere in here – a photo taken directly from Jordan’s Glass:

SXSW Crowd for Google Glass

Two things struck me from the videos that I’ve seen from Google’s promotional videos:

1) The 100% hands off view is not totally accurate, as you’re touching, taping and swiping the side of the Glass often, and 2) the “augmented view” is also not 100% what has been imagined from the movies or other early phone based, or game based augmented reality experiences.

It’s still a great piece of technology, and a precursor to future versions that will only improve. For reference, here’s the first taste we had of Glass:

Project Glass: One day… (20 million views)

Aptly and correctly named “One Day…” this is a vision video, used to sell the idea, get people excited, and explore what the possibilities are.

It then went to this:

How It Feels [through Glass] (19 million views)

Which is widely more accurate, but you can see how it’s changed from an augment reality with your view combined with digital information, to more of a digital assistant like experience. Someone to check quick, short bursts of information and to capture and share your day.

I was not able to try on Google Glass, there were around 5+ people with them to the fully packed, standing room only crowd – but the way I feel like it was described it’s more like a small screen you look up to in the corner of your eye, not something that is overlaid over your vision.

And when Sergey was on the Gavin Newsom Show, you got a close up look, and you can start to see some of the interactions (touching and swiping)

I think many people’s lust for this device could diminish with it’s current price to feature ratio. Looking at Quora – it’s interesting to see what questions arise over the UI and how it will work in real life:

From: What does the actual Google Glass interface look like and how do you control it?

“Right now, there’s a small trackpad on the right side of the glasses, and swiping forward and backward flips between photos in the photos app. The interface is probably not anywhere close to finished, so it very well won’t be in the final release.”

From: What do Google Glass users actually see?

“The screen was fairly small so that I could only see 4-5 items of the list on the screen at a time. Moving my head up and down also caused the list to scroll in a vertical fashion.”

And a recent fastcodesign.com post puts it like this:

“Truth be told, Glass may seem a bit less ambitious, once you break down its UI architecture. But often, restraint takes as much ambition as anything else. Glass needs to aspire to be usable, first and foremost. And that’s exactly what it’s going for.”

And speaking of UI – here’s the most recent video from SXSW:

Building New Experiences with Glass (300k views)

Seeing the above design/developer talk at SXSW – I feel like I finally grasp this first iteration of Glass, and how we’ll be designing for it in the near term.

Sitting in the audience a couple things struck me:

  • The experiences are very short – with only one or two commands, and nothing more than a headlines worth of content displayed.
  • The “timeline” view reminded me a bit of the Windows 8 interface, where you pan side-to-side.
  • The “page curl” metaphor for digging into content was interesting, and intuitive
  • The experience is very much branded in the Glass UI. Even something like Path that is heavily designed, has very little styling from the originating app.
  • I questioned the “hands-fee” functionality, as I know how well (or not well) things like Google Now or Siri work in a loud, crowded environment. As I mentioned before, lots of tapping and swiping.

Let’s take a look at some of the details from the talk:

It’s all about the timeline – which makes sense, in a Glanceable UI situation, now and the recent past is what matters:

timeline

You can then pull functionality out of specific cards (notice the notched corner), and get more around that event or app:

nyt

Here’s a close up of a card:

message

Notice the design of the cards are all branded with the Google Glass UI look and feel. Even something as visually rich and branded as the Path app, takes second to the Glass UI:

path

Here’s the same type of screen in the Path app:

path-ios

Here’s a good example of a Google Now card – but within the Google Glass UI:

jfk

And here’s the card in Google Now:

And here’s a quick flow for sending a message:

message-full

I think Google is positioned well for this world of Glanceable UI where short burst of information will rule much of wearable tech – watches, overlays, glasses, you name it – we need concise, relevant, and timely information available to us – and we’re getting close to that future.