Google Glass for travel: Foursquare, TripIt, OpenTable and Field Trip (hands-on)
Should you be up for spending $1,500 on smart facewear to go traveling this summer, here's what it's like using the latest Glass software on the go.
Anyone can buy Google Glass right now, as long as they're in the US and have $1,500 (£900, AU$1,600) burning a hole in their wallet. And if you do, what are you going to use it for? Travel, perhaps: the latest Glassware updates focus on going out and doing things all around you. Foursquare, TripIt and OpenTable all have Glassware apps now, as of this morning.
Does this mean Glass is angling to be the perfect travel gadget? According to Google's Timothy Jordan and Soji Ojugbele, who guided me through these apps down at Google's offices in New York, that seems to be the plan.
Foursquare works via simple check-in: you can "invoke" check-in via the Glass voice-command menu, and find a local place that matches where you are. It works like the Foursquare Pebble app, but on your face. OpenTable acts as a shortcut for local reservations, in much the same way.
TripIt shows whatever itinerary you've prepared and makes it easily accessible at a glance. If your hands were full of bags and you needed to see what time your flight was leaving again, this would be a quick way to check.
The most interesting apps I saw were ones that were already available: WordLens, which spot-translates foreign-language signs and turns the signs' words directly into the language you need, is still the most impressive Glassware I've seen.
It's not just because it's helpful, but because it involves augmented reality, something most Glass apps avoid in favor of text-based card notifications. To see the world around you literally transformed through a lens makes Glass feel like a weird instant-translation monocle straight out of a sci-fi novel, and it hints at the future that augmented eyewear could truly bring about.
There's also a small new update for Field Trip, an app CNET already looked at last year. The new tweak allows you to locally explore via voice-command, rather than just pushing notifications randomly to Glass. The update still shows attractions in terms of Glass display-ready cards, but it's a more on-the-fly sort of access. It still isn't the type of truly augmented reality you might be imagining in books like William Gibson's Spook Country, where looking at a landmark instantly pulls up stats about it: Field Trip on Glass works by general location, not by spot-recognizing individual places.
Google's encouraging Glass Explorers to share their travel experiences, and it makes sense: heading into the summer, with Glass being an outdoorsy gadget, this is a renewed push to make it relevant in 2014. But the biggest hurdles remain the $1,500 price of Glass, its limited battery life, and the social challenges Glass has already faced.
Look beyond that, though, and you can see something else: Google is figuring out how to deploy apps in wearable tech, and lots of them at that, with new types of interfaces. That type of effort won't just pay off with Glass, but with Android Wear watches and other software, too. Say what you will about Glass, but it's still a more forward-looking type of wearable experience than most smartwatches, even if it's much harder to wear.