Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Preliminary Impressions of Google Glass

For background, read my first post on augmented reality captioning.

I picked up my Google Glass last Thursday. It's certainly an impressive bit of hardware, and I'm very excited about the possibilities for captioning, but of course it's still a prototype device; the consumer models won't be released until after a year of additional quality testing and user feedback. The first pair they gave me had an unresponsive touchpad, and the second pair (the one I have now) seems to have some kind of optical defect that results in a lot of light scattering and glare, which I didn't notice with the first pair. I think I'm going to have to go back to Google to see if they can either repair the problem or give me another pair. The light scattering is just obnoxious, though. It doesn't actually prevent me from using the device. The voice recognition is about as good as one would expect (which is to say, borderline okay when one speaks slowly and deliberately, but pretty terrible with casual speech); no surprises there. It comes with a nice clear plastic lens insert, which will be good to protect the user's eyes in potentially messy situations. It's more lightweight than I expected, and the interface is pleasantly intuitive.

But the really exciting thing is that it seems to be caption-ready pretty much out of the box. I just started a hangout with myself, using my personal Gmail account on Glass and my professional Gmail account on my computer. My computer got video from Glass's camera (which was pointing over the top of my computer monitor, into my apartment's foyer), and Glass got video from my laptop's camera, which showed my own face wearing the admittedly dorky-looking Glass. I muted my laptop's microphone to test the sound quality of Glass's microphone and was impressed with its clarity, though of course we'll have to see how that alters depending on background noise and how far away the people we're captioning stand from the person wearing Glass. Best of all, though, when I typed into the hangout's chat window, the text came up instantly on Glass, with perfect clarity. So even though I haven't actually tested it with my steno machine yet, I think that as long as I use Plover or Eclipse with the Keyboard Macro setting turned on, I'll be able to send captions to Glass without having to commission any additional software. The Wi-Fi in the place I'll be using it is fairly reliable, but if it isn't I can always use my 4G hotspot as a backup. And if the microphone proves to be as good as it seems to be at first glance, I'll be able to caption remotely instead of having to stand next to my client, cramming myself into tiny spaces and generally making a nuisance of myself. The only downside is that I'll have to press "Enter" on my steno machine (which I've mapped to R-R, because it uses the two strongest fingers of the hands) after everything I write. But that won't be so terrible. I actually had to do that when I captioned a webinar two weeks ago, using Plover with the closed captioning feature built into InstantPresenter.com. It's a little tricky to get into the rhythm of pressing Enter each time, but it's certainly not a dealbreaker. More concerning is that Glass's display is designed to be above and to the right of a typical user's line of sight, forcing the user to glance upwards whenever they want to read anything on it, which might result in some eyestrain after constant use. I also haven't tested the battery life yet, though I'm hoping that Glass's battery will be able to withstand at least an hour or two of constant video chat. It's all very promising. Now I just have to get that optical defect sorted out, and then start testing it out with clients!

Our accessible cyberpunk future is so close, I can practically taste it.

11 comments:

  1. Mirabai - this is a deaf person's dream - I hadn't thought of this use for Google Glass, but it would be awesome! If you can make this work I'd hire you as my captioner in a second!

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  2. Hi, Katie! If you're ever in the New York City area, drop me a line and I'll meet with you to show what realtime captions on Glass look like in action. (':

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  4. Great news, Mirabai!!! Love it! Am wondering, tho, why you'd have to press "Enter" on your steno machine. I've used Hangouts and put captions on with Eclipse's Accucap Keyboard Macro Realtime Output and don't press "Enter." My paragraph settings act as a page break and the line advances nicely. Plus, I use {N} for a period (just like broadcast captioning) which also pushes the text up. (Eclipse Version 4.3.0.6)
    Good Luck,
    Jennifer

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  5. I haven't yet tried Hangouts with the Streamtext Captioning option, for a few reasons:

    One is that I believe the Captioning plugin for Hangouts is browser-based, and I'd be surprised if it worked on Glass. Worth testing, of course, but I'd be surprised. Secondly, I don't really see a need to pay money to Streamtext, if I can send the captions directly to Glass. It just introduces another point of fallibility. Thirdly, I tried captioning with the Streamtext Hangout plugin once and it worked fine, but a second time it failed. I think I'm going to wait until its reliability is proven before building it into my workflow.

    In terms of whether I can get Eclipse to advance the captions automatically by just typing into the chat window, I might redefine my period as {N} and then play around with it a bit just to see, but I'm still inclined to use Plover (and press Enter each time) instead, since it means I don't have to deal with the Keyboard Macro's 1.5-second buffer lag, which always drives me nuts. I'll also have to see how much text Glass can display at a time. If there's a long sentence, I might have to press Enter partway through, so that my client doesn't have to manually scroll through it just to read the whole thing.

    Thanks for the advice, though! I'll definitely keep it in mind. (':

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  6. Hi Again - I never use Streamtext in Hangouts. And I don't use the chatbox in Hangouts right-hand side).

    Have you tried using "Hangout Captions" where instead of using the Streamtext option as the provider, you select "Basic (Keyboard)" and use Eclipse's Keyboard Macro to enter text?

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  7. I haven't, no. When I tested it, I only used the right-hand chatbox. I'll have to see if Glass supports it. Certainly worth giving it a try. Thanks!

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  8. Another possible choice is to use the Screenshare option on Hangouts ... so you'd "share" captions on your screen (Screenshare could display your captions). No "Entry" problem. And you could use Plover :) Just a thought. :)

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  9. Ooh, I'll have to try that. Apparently Screenshare is supported in Glass, which is a nice surprise. I wonder how it compares with the default video sending option in terms of bandwidth and stability.

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  10. Hold your horses! I've got a shot of me wearing 'em and a shot of the UI in a captioning situation all lined up. Now I just have to run the battery down so I can demonstrate the obnoxious low battery alert, and then I'll post the whole kaboodle.

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