Google Glass – A blind perspective

Over the past few weeks, I have been playing around with Google Glass. It has been a wonderful experience, and I incredibly hopeful for the future opportunitIes that Glass can offer. As soon as I placed Glass on my face, I was reminded of the sensation of wearing glasses. The weight is similar to wearing a pair of prescription glasses. I quickly snapped a photo and was amazed with the simplicity of the hands free use.

Outdoors with Glass I had my first experience of navigation. I was able to issue a voice command and have the directions read aloud through the bone conduction ear piece. It was a nice hands off experience of navigating, while it is visually obvious I am wearing Glass, I felt this usage made me blend into the crowd. I didn’t have to remove a phone from my pocket and clumsily type a location or issue a voice command, I could seamlessly walk down the street and issue commands. This is powerful for the visually impaired. As using a phone with a guide dog or cane is impossible. Gestures often require two hands, so I need to drop the dogs harness, stand still and begin the process of multiple taps and gestures to find the app and input the location. With Glass however, I have hands free operation, I can control Glass while continuing my walk down the street.

After being quite pleased with using Glass to navigate from the Satchi to South Kensington, it was my next use of Glass that was the real, wow moment. My wife and I, had decided to take our eldest son to the Natural History museum. When out and about it usually falls to my wife to take photos, this time however, I had decided to take all the photos using Glass. I was able to follow my son around and not only snap photos of the exhibits, but my son as well. This may sound quite mundane, but for me, this was literally the first time in my life I had been able to easily and seamlessly accomplish this. I could then share the photos with my son and continue the experience. A new piece of technology that creates new ways for me to interact and experience moments with my children is priceless. It was a trulyamazing experience.

For me, the most exciting part is the possible opportunities Glass may afford. Essentially Glass can see and I cannot. I imagine a future where Glass can read a menu to me in a restaurant. A simple glance at the menu and glass recognises the text and begins to read aloud. Or perhaps, opening a book and have it read aloud, reading a book – that is something I have not been able to do in a long time. Object recognition, the ability to identify objects in a specific scene, or recognise my friends and acquaintances, and speak their names in my ear. Essentially, Glass would allow me to more readily operate in social environments, fill in the gaps created by my lack of vision.

While some of these ideas may be a little way off in the future, I remain optimistic. When touch screen phones first arrived the visually impaired could not interact. The doomsayers had predicted we would be left behind in this technological advancement, unable to see the screen how would we operate it? A few years later with the introduction of VoiceOver in the iPhone 3GS saw a revolution. For the first time the visually impaired could interact not only with the phone, but with hundreds of apps and information sources, it was an enormous leap forward thanks to a single feature.

As I sit here, on the first revision of Glass, I am already able to interact with it. While I may not be able to see the screen, voice input and audio feedback enable me to interact. Something that was not possible with the first touch screen smartphones. With Google’s commitment to accessibility, seen across their entire product lines, I am confident as the development of Glass continues the levels of possible interaction by the visually impaired will only increase.

As it stands now, Glass has already enabled me to experience life events in a new and exhilarating way, something I am very thankful for.

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