SXSW 2013: My Louis C.K. Moment At the Google Glass Demo


Some people are never happy.

On March 11, Timothy Jordan, Senior Developer Advocate gave a live Google Glass demo and showed off some features of the supporting Mirror API at a SXSW 2013 session in Austin.  Impressed?  I was, but overall, as they say in the comedy business, ‘tough crowd.’

I’ll get back to that later.  For now, here’s the scoop on the demo and the API.

Jordan started the demo by saying, “OK Glass, how do you say ‘thank you’ in Japanese.  We, the audience, were able to see what Jordan was seeing through Glass, and Glass typed out Jordan’s question in real time so he could stop the question or look for errors.  Before you could blink, a black card filled the screen with the text ‘ARIGATO.’  Yes, folks, this is Star Trek stuff.  Of course, you can perform a lot of this with your phone right now, but this is hands free.  This is ‘I’m driving, getting map directions and not crashing my car’ stuff.  In a phrase, this is wicked cool.

Jordan then went on to look at the crowd, command Glass to ‘take a picture,’ and then, again, all by his voice, save or share the photo.  All actions are displayed on the same black action ‘cards’ which the user can scroll through to track activity.

Partner demos followed, showing prospective developers in the audience what was possible.  Here’s the recap of those demos:

1. NY Times – The experience is simple, focusing on  just an image and a headline for each story.   However there is a ‘read aloud’ feature where story is read to Timothy using text to speech functionality.  User can also adjust how the frequency of stories being delivered to Glass.

2. Gmail – Again, the content of the mail displayed on simple black cards, and, if available, a photo of the sender is shown.  As Timothy replied to the mail, a text view of what he was saying was shown so he can make corrections or delete.

3. Skitch – Timothy selected an image on Glass on the Skitch app and the image was automatically sent to his Android tablet.

4. Path – Timothy selected a photo that he posted on Path and taps his glasses to add an emoticon and share with others.

Jordan also offered a bunch of tips to keep in mind when developing for Glass.

1.  Don’t take other platform experiences and try to fit them for Glass…this is a new platform.  For example, reading an entire story on Glass won’t work.  Instead, show a headline or photo.  Experiences should be fast and easy to execute on the go.

2. Get out of the way – Your experience should be only be there when the user wants it and gone in an instant. If a user is doing something, don’t interrupt them.  Experiences should be retrievable if the user wants to go back to it.

3.  Keep it timely – The user needs real time information and that is all that should be provided. A user can always scroll back through cards to see if they missed something.

4. Avoid the unexpected – User experience is key here. Content should only do as the user expects, so don’t get fancy here. For example, don’t spam a user with notes about new features if someone signed up for your photo sharing service.

I’ll admit that these were simple demos, but the technology was none the less incredible.  Of course developers and media folk wanted to see more, but the demo was held to give us a taste and to inspire us into thinking about what we will do with the technology.

However, a funny (or not so funny thing) happened about 40 minutes into the demo.  Someone got up and left.  Then another attendee scampered out the door.  And another.  It wasn’t a mass exodus by any means, but it was surprising to see people leaving before the end of the presentation, especially considering that the wait for the event was lengthy, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house and there were tons of people sitting on the floor.  Obviously, there was a very high expectation level of seeing something that Google may not have been able to deliver quite yet.

After the demo ended, a woman behind me cracked, “that was stupid.”  Her buddy mumbled, “the display is so limiting.”  All I could think of was Louis CK’s tirade on ungrateful folk who don’t realize how wonderful things are.

Tough crowd, indeed.

As Louis said,"everything is amazing and nobody is happy."

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Randy Abramson

Randy Abramson

Randy Abramson is the Director of Product Management and Operations for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow him on Twitter: @randyabramson.

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