“Glass, take a picture!” I said, pressing a button on the side. And there was one of a glorious sunrise around the tombs at Lodhi Gardens. I was on my morning walk in New Delhi’s celebrated green patch that mixes the colonial greens with the 16th century pre-Mughal domes — but the photo came from the 21st century toy that I had just received.
Clicking that red sandstone monument with Google Glass was a perfectly anachronistic celebration of the gizmo stirring imagination across the planet. It does often invite the weirdo tag to geeks such as myself. After all, it looks like a pair of out-of-place sunglasses — not stuff normal people wear on morning walks.
I do want to own that $1,500 (Roughly Rs. 1 lakh) thingie, but since it is not for commercial sale yet, I had to satisfy myself by loaning one from a special friend in the US. Fortunately, it understood my Indian accent quite easily, though I’m told that it does have problems recognising some accents.
It did not take long for the Google Glass to become an integral part of my life. Others may have called me strange as I sported it, but for me, it was wonderment. The picture came right to my eye level. As I stood by the graves of kings and courtiers, Glass was able to fetch for me — from the Internet — historical details of the buried nobles.
The best part has been shooting videos as I ride my bicycle. Shooting videos on a voice command with images that show up from the eye-level is sheer delight.
I took the bicycle back from Lodhi Garden — and was commanding the Glass to show me the way. Not that I cannot ride the 5 km myself, but the joy of a navigation guide sitting around my ears was special. It was so unobtrusive.
But I found myself looking up more than I should have. The eye movement is for Glass the equivalent of the fingers moving on the touchscreen of a smartphone. The prism projects the image on to the eye but there is a small light that makes your eye look up often, deflecting your attention.
Later, in Mumbai, I ditched the dubious tales of the local guide for the knowledgeable Glass to guide me on the history of Gateway of India.
Over the next few days, I read Chinese signs in English with the Word Lens translation app using the Glass –sitting at home, of course.
The sad part was that it could not read Indian street signs in Urdu, and Kannada in Mysore was also a problem — which is a disappointment considering Google’s R&D team sits in Bangalore, just a short car ride away from Mysore. Maybe they will do something about this.
But the Glass is not much to boast of in zones with no Internet access.
And there are even spots in my office where the cellular data service coverage is pretty bad.
Glass pairs up well with both Android phones and the iPhone.
After all, the Glass is in some ways like a hands-free extension of the smartphone. Remember: the Glass cannot access the Internet by itself. It does so through your phone to which it connects via Bluetooth.
Not many can still make out you are wearing the Glass in India, but you are sure to get noticed if it is blue or orange.
Driving with it on is fun (only California has a law against it). But I wouldn’t advise that.
(The author is a technology entrepreneur and freelance journalist.)