Google Glass! Or wait, maybe Atari instead…

Friday, February 7th, 2014 by samanthalong88

Unfortunately, my experience with Google Glass was rather short-lived, as its battery was dead.  Even in the 45 minutes I was there, Kyle and I could not get the glasses to re-juice enough to flicker anything more than the low battery light.  Alas, I will have to try them out again post-software upgrade if possible. 

However, to glean from my brief experience with the glasses in class, they did leave me wondering about whether they were a more seamless integration of human/machine than current devices (as they seem to be marketed).  To me, nothing felt seamless about them; I found not just one eye but both eyes desperately trying to make out the tiny screen (and a definite feeling of being cross-eyed and one of my contacts almost popping out resulted).  This extra concentration made me feel even further removed from my surroundings than my phone or iPad would.  Granted, I guess there is always the issue of the learning curve.  But more importantly, maybe I’m approaching Google Glass with the wrong mindset, focusing more on what it’s *not*  (not a smart phone, not a tablet, not a PC) than on what it is or eventually could be, imposing the ways I interact with my current technologies onto how I will interact with the Glass and other future technologies like it.

Especially because of its digital photography/video abilities, I can see a future for Glass where the camera is so in line with the eye that we simply “trust” the device and don’t have to focus on a screen to make sure it’s the shot we want—it’s precisely what we see (“trust,” I know, a scary word).  Perhaps the same goes for voice recognition software too, which would or could do away with all the tapping and swiping and other crazy gestures.   It does seem a long way off, still, and hard to imagine all its uses….but, then again, I thought the same thing about tablets when they came out (bigger smart phones that aren’t phones and aren’t full computers?),  and now I see the benefits of having one in my day-to-day.  The cynic in me knows that we will always find or create uses for our technologies , even if they aren’t truly “useful,” but I’m also not ready to do the grandpa cane-shake either.

Since the glasses would not work during my time at the lab, I decided to introduce myself to the original Atari instead.  As a casual gamer who still has a Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast (and would have a SNES and NES were they not given to other cousins after my grandparents’ passing *sighs*), it was a delight to use one of the original home video game systems.  Kyle and I decided to play the “Football” cartridge.  At first, it seemed that the game (from a modern day perspective) was extremely simplistic, but as we continued to play I saw how certain moves of the joystick caused subtle effects in the gameplay and that there was the possibility for strategy (and you can certainly see how games like Madden have built off this initial setup).  But I struggled with controlling my players, as the controls seemed to be inverted and Kyle ran in touchdown after touchdown.  It suddenly occurred to me, looking down at the controller, that—as a left-hander—I was holding the joystick in my left hand, and had turned its base so the button on it would be on the right side (accessible to my right hand).  This had subsequently caused my players to run in every direction but the one I wanted.  I hadn’t even thought about how the joystick was set up for right-handed use only, and how modern controllers, while not nearly as cruel to left-handers, still value the right hand more than the left (in terms of what the left and right sides of the controller *control*, the amount of things mapped to one side’s usage over another).  It’s such a small thing, but it seems significant when considering just how ideological and market-based “user friendly” really is.  Because right-hand preferred technology still seems to be everywhere…right-side keypads, the mouse defaulting on the right side (I know, you can move it, but still), the electronic pens on the credit card swipes being anchored on the right, so on and so on….lefthanders know all of this all too well.  And then there’s Google Glass.  And it’s clear what side of the glasses you’re supposed to tap and swipe.

PS – For the lefties, http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/the-18-worst-things-for-left-handed-people

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3 comments on “Google Glass! Or wait, maybe Atari instead…

  1. kylebickoff says:

    It was shortly after you left that the glass finally did charge enough to enable it to turn itself on. That’s the beta version though… Will all of our complaints really be solved by the new version? We shall see…

  2. contromal says:

    Google Glass proved one incredibly valuable insight for me – even when the “template” is familiar (it looks pretty similar to my phone), this familiarity says nothing about user “friendliness.” In this way, it seems like Glass is imitating its forebears.

    Just a fun thought, but I imagined that Glass’s usefulness might be in simply controlling how we see the world. For example: it is February and gray out and you feel like seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. Maybe Glass will allow us to add some sunshine, amp up the blue sky, and add a few tulips to the periphery. Maybe not.

  3. Lori Emerson says:

    Samantha, what a fascinating post – there’s a direct line from your points about the fiction (we’re being encouraged to believe as truth) of “seamlessness” in these new wearable devices and the equal fiction of “natural,” “intuitive,” and “user friendly” that’s so obvious in your left-handed struggles with the Atari controller. It’s interesting to see how one of the few times the fiction reveals itself as such is when there’s some unexpected mis-match between the human and the engineer’s imagined user. And in a way, the less the device intrudes on our experiences, the more alarming it will be – I worry about the day Google Glass is so “seamless” we have no way of knowing how it’s impeding on us and determining our access to information.

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