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20 Things You Can’t Do with Glass (but you really can)

If you’re going to pony up the cash for Google Glass, you have to love being an early adopter.  I’m not talking about just getting a product through Kickstarter, I mean love getting betas of software and helping developers make it better.  I mean being someone who will deliberately crash your own device a few dozen times to try to pin down where a bug could be.  You’ve got to be the kind of person who can take all the flaws in a system and come to peace with them, because you know that someday they’ll be fixed.  And you’ve got to LOVE all that.

The reason I bring that up, is because right now the apps available for Google Glass are really limited.  As of the time I typed this blog post, there are 32 apps.  That’s it.  Top to bottom. And really, that’s pushing it a bit.  I mean, Strava Bike and Strava Run are listed seperately.  One of the apps is  a Stopwatch.  One just allows you to upload videos to YouTube (finally).  Others are far more complex, and pretty darn impressive (Word Lens is in the lead for the ‘coolest app’ award), but the point is… your selection is limited.

Unless you’re willing to sideload.

Then it all changes.  And in my mind, that’s where the real excitement is for Google Glass right now. Sideloading refers to taking an app and loading it directly to Glass via USB.  These are apps that are not complete.  Most are not ready to be submitted to the app store and some, due to conflicts with Google’s policies, never will.  You have to put your ‘geek pants’ on to do it too, by installing the Android SDK and then adding/removing apps through the command line (instructions here).  It’s not always intuitive and it’s kind of a pain.  Some of the apps you’ll load will work flawlessly, and others will crash your Glass.  But if you’re willing to take a walk on the wild side, there’s some pretty incredible stuff available.

Some of these apps are being developed by big companies, and others are just individuals with a crazy idea.  I love that one day I’ll see a post on G+ saying, “Hey, do you think anybody would be interested in an app that does this?”  and the next day someone has created a prototype to download.  Sometimes things are literally moving that quickly.  So if you want to see where the cutting edge apps are for the cutting edge device…  read on.

Here are 20 things that you can’t do with Google Glass (but you really can).

1) Ok Glass, make this run a bit more interesting.
raceyourselfRace Yourself is an augmented reality excercise app for Glass.  Major gamification elements.  Would you run faster if zombies were approaching behind you?  Or a boulder was catching up to you, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Or perhaps you just want some company for your daily run, like you’d have if you were running in an actual race.  The app will load virtual runners for you to run along with… or to try to beat.  Race Yourself  offers all of this and more.  Personally, I just love the idea of seeing a ‘ghost’ of myself running a familiar route, paced to my personal best.  Can you imagine how great that would be for maintaining pace, and trying to push yourself to break your own record?  Not available for download yet, but there website is well worth exploring.  It has a interesting interactive demo built into it, earning you points by racing against yourself in a click-based race.  Want to earn more points.  Read the fine print at the bottom of the page.  Not yet available, signup to be notified

2) Ok Glass, let’s go Duck Hunting.
la-fi-tn-duck-hunt-google-glass-20131216-001I wasn’t such a fan of Spellista, one of the first authorized Glass games.   But there’s a few sideloaded games that I’ve enjoyed goofing around on.  Technically, the game is called Glass Hunt, but the moment you load it up, you’re taken back to an age when blasting virtual ducks with an orange plastic gun was the height of video game technology.  It’s missing the iconic giggling dog, but the game itself is pretty true to the original.  The only difference is that you aim by moving your head around.  I don’t think I could play this one while waiting in line at the bank without looking like I’m having a seizure, but it is entertaining.  And most definitely a sign of things to come.  How do you create compelling gaming experiences without any physical controls?  This is an interesting first step.  Available now via sideload

3) Ok Glass, let’s do some squats.
lynxfitWhile some have expressed privacy concerns about using Glass in the gym (the camera in particuilar), there’s a huge amount of interest from the fitness industry at large.  One group that clearly has the lead is LynxFit, a fitness companion for Glass.  On the website, you select a workout regime (there are three available right now).  When you launch the app on Glass, you can load up the workout of the day and it’ll take you through it.  Let’s say the first excercise for the day is squats.  First it will show you a video of the proper way to do a squat, and then it’ll have you start doing them.  It clearly took a few lessons from the Wii, assessing your activity based on the accelerometer and gyroscope inside of it.  It’ll count off your reps as you do them, and then take you on to the next excercise.  I see huge potential for this one, particularly once you can enter in what equipment you have available to you and customize the routines based on that.  They’ve also figured out some way to screencast Glass to the Chromecast.  To my knowledge, they’re the first ones to figure that one out, which is also pretty darn exciting.  Available now via Sideload, register for the beta

4) Ok Glass, keep me awake.
drive safeWhile I do have to travel a lot, I try to avoid driving at night.  If I’m overly tired, I’m definitely at risk for nodding off and engaging in some ‘spontaneous lane changes.’  While some states are pushing to ban the use of Glass in the car, this is one of those apps that I think will help sway things the other way.  Drive Safe for Glass uses the sensors within the device to detect when you’re starting to nod off.  I don’t know if it just uses the gyroscope to detect your head tilting down, or whether the ‘wink’ sensor detects your eyes closing.  But if it thinks your starting to drift off, an audio alert goes off, waking you up.  It also gives you an option to use the GPS to direct you to the nearest rest area.  Would it work?  I hope to never find out.  But if it does, then it could be an incredible app for saving lives.  Available now via sideload

5) Ok Glass, are those pants orange or salmon?
23852-images-colorcardSnap a photo.  Share it with Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap.  Get a message back breaking down all the primary colors you see into coded color swatches.  That’s it.  Ridiculously simpe.  And while it certainly isn’t something that I would use on a regular basis, I think it’s a great example of the niche style apps that are the future of the device.  It’s not that you couldn’t do it via a smartphone, but there are times when it’s inconvenient to do so.  I’d imagine we’re just a few steps away from being able to see color code tags in real time, layered onto your display as you take a walk.  Would everybody want to do that?  Of course not.  But I know a few designers that would love it.  Available now, no sideload needed 

6) Ok Glass, where did I put my keys?
1084342_10201872757198563_1293465517_o1-300x169We all lose things.  This app helps you find them.  Whenever you put something down that you are prone to losing, just say “Ok Glass, remember where I put my marbles.”  The Where Did I Put app will take a picture of your marbles and store it in a database.  Later, when you need your marbles again, you can either say “Ok Glass, where did I put my marbles?” or pull up a list of all the objects currently logged.   The location data is even logged along with the item and the photo, but isn’t being used at this point in the beta.  Our son just had a birthday, and we put out the annual birthday banner.  Now we’re taking it down and stashing it away for a full year.  I immediately thought how handy this would be to find it a year from now.  It’s definitely rough around the edges, but a fantastic idea.  Beta available now via sideload. 

7) Ok Glass, keep the beat steady.
metronome4All this app does is create a steady click.  But that’s all it really needs to do!  Glass Metronome let’s you identify what Beats Per Minute you need, and it’ll tap out a steady 4/4.  What’s interesting about this app though, is since Glass has a bone conduction speaker, you should be able to hear it clearly without using any headphones.  Even if the rest of the band is jamming along with you!  It’s currently limited to 4/4, but I’d imagine other meters will be coming.  Available now via sideload.

8) Ok Glass, find me a burger.
burgersEventually, Yelp will have an official app.  But until then, Glass Eats is filling the void.  Select the type of food that you’re looking for, and Glass Eats will serve up five nearby resturants to choose from.  While it will display the rating if it from Yelp, right now you can’t get any more information about the eateries.  However, you can tap through to call them directly, or get directions.  It’s not as fancy as some augmented reality smartphone apps, but it’s a good start.  Available now, no sideload needed.

9) Ok Glass, can you find me a better bargain?
pricethisYou’re in a store.  You see something you want to buy.  You want to know if you’re getting a good deal or not.  Sound familiar?  This app will let you scan the barcode and let you know how it’s being priced online (new and used).  There are a couple of Glass apps that do this, but what I like about Price This is that it also shows a larger image of the item, as well as a full description of it.  It didn’t work on every bar code I tried, but I’d rate it at about 75%.  Some of the accuracy, I’m sure, is going to come down to lighting, reflection, and the shape of the package.  After all, this isn’t a laser.  It’s a camera that’s not designed for macro.  But at the same time, it does work and in a pinch could come in really handy.  Available now via sideload

10) Ok Glass, take me back to 2010.
20131101_155831_326_x-1024x576Augmented reality apps are going to be absolutely critical to the success of Glass in the long term.  A lot of companies are working on it, including Daqri, but AR For Glass has the best roundup of current iterations that you can load up right now.  Both Vuforia and NyARToolkit will allow you to download markers and align them to 3D models, even with some limited interaction.  But the one that I think is the most interesting is CityViewAR.   Christchuch in New Zealand was a city rocked by several large earthquakes which devestated the downtown area.  They’ve developed full scale 3D models of the way the city USED to look, and using CityViewAR on Glass, you can walk around and see it in real time.  Instead of keying in on codes or visual triggers, it uses GPS, compass and gyroscope to determine what to show you.  It’s location based AR that is simply brilliant.  Sort of like a Google Earth layer… for the real world.  Obviously this one will only work in Christchurch, so I haven’t had a chance to try it first hand, but check out the video for more detail.  All three available now via sideload.

11) Ok Glass, why did the frog cross the road?
googleglassfroggerAnother game for you.  This one is just a little different though.  I’m assuming that most of you remember Frogger, right?  This is a faithful recration of the classic arcade game with one small difference… you hop.  With GlassFrogger, you see the game itself in the Glass display, and when you want your frog to leap forward, you leap!  In a sense, this kinda falls into that Wii/Kinnect category, in that your body is the controller.  But when you add in the fact that the display is attached to your head, future games could actually work in 3D elements, like looking behind you to see if another frog is catching up to you. As it is, it’s crazy basic.  You just leap forward, not even side to side yet.  But once again, it’s about breaking ground and seeing where the potential is.    Available now, no sideload needed.

12) Ok Glass, teach me to play Louie Louie.
myapp_screenshotThe hands free nature of Glass makes it perfect for musicians.  Which is why I think Chords for Glass is so interesting.  Just name the chord that you’d like to play, and it will display the proper guitar fingerings, as well as play the chord itself in your ear.  Right now, it will only load up about 7 or 8 chords, and to be honest, it’s a little slow.  But what a brilliant idea!  Projecting out a bit, imagine being able to load up a song, have it grab sheet music from the net, and display the chords while you play along.  Hands free, screen right where you need it.  Available now via sideload.  

13) Ok Glass, lock it down.
only_pristine_appsThis is another one that I haven’t tried personally yet, but a few days ago I didn’t even think that this would be possible.  If you’re considering using any devices with students, one of the first questions teachers typically ask is, “How do I lock it down?”  For security, for classroom management, to avoid temptation… there are a slew of reasons to want to lock down a device, or limit its functionality somewhat.  The folks at Pristine have figured out a way to load up a modified version of the Glass OS and remove the funcitons they don’t need.  For example, if you’re going to be using Glass for surgery, you probably don’t need things like Directions, Video Calls, and Messaging clogging up the menus.  But in a classroom, there may be times when you want to disable the camera.  Or to remove  the ability to make phone calls.  I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure HOW educators would want to lock it down, but discovering that it’s even possible made me pause in a big way.  This one isn’t easy to do and definitely isn’t for the faint of heart.  But not only are you removing the options from the menu, it removes the voice command that goes along with it.  It’s definitely something educators are going to want to consider if they start using Glass with students beyond the “check it out, this is new and cool!” phase.  Availabe now via sideload.

14) Ok Glass, take us live
google-glass-robert-scobleOne of the iconic moments in the original Project Glass promo video was the person using Hangout to show his incredible view with a friend.  Of course, the follow up question inevitably is… how do I share that same view with more people?  Live POV broadcasting is definitely going to be a major use of Glass and there are several developers working on making it happen.  Hangouts on Air seems like an obvious choice, but as of right now there’s no way to start a HOA via Glass.  If someone else starts it and invites you, you can join one, but that isn’t exactly ideal.  One would imagine that the option will come with a future release, but until then there are a few other options.  The previously mentioned Pristine is working on EyeSight, specifically for use in the medical field.  But the group that looks to be getting there first is Hang W/.  At CES, they had Robert Scoble and the Monsters of Tech doing live broadcasts via Glass, and they’re currently seeking beta testers in various Glass Explorer communities.  Haven’t been able to try this one yet, but it looks like they’re on the verge of offering a public beta.  Now accepting signups for the beta.

15) Ok Glass, go to the next slide
slide2-yourshowOne of my favorite features in Powerpoint and Keynote is the presenter view, allowing you to see your own notes as well as the upcoming slide(s).  But in order to see those notes, you either have to have a seperate stage monitor, or walk back to your computer screen.  With Glass, the relationship between you and your presentation changes.  There are two apps that are far enough along to be worth checking out, and both have significantly different features.  Glassentation allows you to export your Powerpoint notes to Glass.  It bundles them together as a note card and sends it into your timeline.  Then, as you present, you can see your notes on the Glass display, without ever breaking eye contact with the audience.  YourShow takes a slightly different approach.  You connect Google Drive to your YourShow account, and then select a Google Presentation to present (if you have a Powerpoint you want to use, you have to upload and convert it to Google Presentations first).  It sends a copy of it to Glass.  On your computer, you load up that Google Presentation and go into full screen.  When you load up the card stack in Glass, you see both your notes and the slide itself.  Even better, you actually control the presentation via Glass.  Go to the next slide on Glass, and the computer goes along with you.  The connection with Google Drive gets a bit overwhelmed when you have a few hundred (thousand) docs in there, so give it some time to connect.  They’ve got big plans too, including the ability for Glass to listen to what you’re saying, compare it to the slide notes, and when you get to the end of a slide automagically going on to the next one.  #Geekbumps Glassentation and YourShow are available now, no sideload needed. 

16) Ok Glass, identify that bird
birdsWant to know what birds are in your area?  Birds-glass can fill you in.  Based on your current location, Glass will check to see what birds have been identified nearby and send you a card with their names, pictures, and the number of times they’ve been sighted.  It’s pretty limited right now, but the goal down the road is to allow you to snap a picture of a bird and submit it to the community to be identified.  I think it’s pretty interesting, but have turned off already given that I work in a concrete jungle and it’s winter time.  But I definitely plan to check back in on it when spring rolls around.  Available now, no sideload needed.

17) Ok Glass, turn on the lights
ss3Who doesn’t have dreams of having the ultimate ‘samrt house’?  Being able to just walk in the house, say “Let there be light” and having the house respond accordingly…  Well, we may not be there yet, but Glass may fit into the equation.  Belkin has a home automation line of switches and plugs called WeMo. It already ties in nicely to iOS and Android devices, and someone has figure out how to get Glass in on the game.  WeMoGlass scans your network for WeMo devices, and let’s you perform basic controls via voice.  It’s clunky, it’s limited, but it’s a first iteration.  If you use a different brand of home automation devices, some people have managed to get similar functionality by having text messages trigger IFTTT recipes.  Available now via sideload.

18) Ok Glass, solve for X
myapp_screenshotMost educators are well familiar with WolframAlpha, the premiere knowledge search engine.  GlassCompute gives you instant access to it, which instantly makes it a ‘must install’ for anyone using it in an educational setting.  It’s as simple as you’d imagine it to be.  Just say “Ok Glass, compute…  divisors of 4200″ and it will display the results for you. If there are multiple possible responses, you can just scroll through them.   It’s pretty powerful stuff and a great supplement to the built in Google Search.  Available now via sideload.

19) Ok Glass, let’s make a memory
Google-Glass-CameraYou’re at a party.  You want to get pictures throughout the night, but you also don’t want to deal with constantly shoving a camera in people’s faces.  And while often the best pics are the candid ones, the moment you break out the camera, people stop what they’re doing and pose.  Moment Camera provides an alternative.  When you turn the app on, it starts ‘recording’.  It doesn’t actually record video, but the camera is on continuously.  It uses the sensors within Glass to determine when would be the best time to snap a picture and then starts grabbing.  If the lighting is good, the camera is still, and there’s minimal motion in the frame, it will snap a pic.  And then another and another and another.   It will keep doing this until the evening ends or the battery runs out, the latter being much more likely.  The next time you plug in Glass, it will upload all of your pics to Moment’s servers and you can review the event.  Discard any pics you don’t like and publish the ones you do.  It’s a fascinating concept, however there are definitely some issues.  I’d sure as heck make sure your guests know that you’re doing it.  There are already enough privacy concerns related to Glass, taking pictures of people without their knowledge isn’t going to sit well with many.  I’ve tried this out a few times with very mixed results.  When it works, it’s fantastic.  But you never quite know whether it did until after the event.  Most of my attempts at using it have resulted in it working great for a few minutes, and then just stopping for appearantly no reason.  But as with most, it’s a work in progress and not a final release.  Available now via sideload. 

20) Ok Glass, who am I talking to?
Google_Glass_Facial_RecognitionProbably the biggest controversy around Google Glass is facial recognition.  The idea that Glass could scan a person’s face and then serve up their name and personal information terrifies many privacy advocates.  Personally, as someone that suffers from issues related to visual memory, I see tremendous value in being able to have Glass identify people I’m interacting with and reminding me how I know them.  Google has issued an outright ban on facial recognition apps, but that hasn’t stopped developers from pushing the limits. Silica labs has avoided the issue by creating an app for people that use MeetUp.  Instead of true facial recognition, it simply provides attendees with cards displaying the name, picture, and survey responses of the people who RSVP’d to the event.  Not quite as magical as true facial recognition, but certainly useful for smaller events.  And since everyone attending has ‘opted in’, privacy concerns are minimal.    On the other end of the spectrum, Lambda Labs is set to release an app named FaceRec, which looks to log the faces of people you meet, and cross-check them against a database of pictures that you provide.  It won’t display personal information of strangers, and is only as good as the user makes it.  The app isn’t available yet, but if you want to see how it will work, you can test their Face Recognition API.  The app that’s furthest along currently is NameTag, causing quite a stir by releasing the first beta with real time facial recognition.  NameTag will scan a face, check it against their database of registered users and if it finds a match, serve up their social profile.  Currently, it will only match against their own registered users, so people do need to opt-in for it to serve up information about them.  But plans are in the works to have it also check against public databases such as the National Sex Offender Registry.  How far off is a hack to have it search against Twitter avatars or Facebook itself?  That line is getting pretty thin.  As I said, I’m pretty excited about the possibilities here, but don’t expect facial recognition apps to make their way into the true Glass App store anytime soon.  Meetup App is available now, no sideload needed. NameTag is available for signup, installable via sideload.  FaceRec has not been released.


21) Ok Glass, what homwork is due tomorrow?
IMG_0035Remember how I said there were new apps coming out all the time?  Was just putting the finishing touches on this post when I found this one posted to the Glass Explorers community on Google+.  “A few days ago I started working on my first extensive Glass project, an application that would connect to a database of my homework assignments and feed them to me through Glass. Four days and about 24 hours of development later here it is. My Homework for Glass!”  And that’s what’s so exciting to be in this space.  Everyday there’s something new for Glass that simply couldn’t be done yesterday.


One final note before you get exploring.  Installing all these apps can wind up making things a bit… messy.  Sideloaded apps don’t show up in your MyGlass directory, so normally you would need to uninstall them via the command line.  However, recent developments to ChromeADB allow you to connect to your Glass device, send commands, see what you have installed and even remove applications….  all via your browser.  It’s pretty awesome and well worth exploring.

Haave fun!  And if you think I missed something, leave me a comment and I’ll check it out.