Category Archives: Google Glass

The UK’s First Official Google Glass Hackathon – Ok Glass, Where is the Space Station?

Last weekend (19th-20th July) was the UK’s first official Google Glass Hackathon, and it was a fantastic event – just a few short weeks after Glass became officially available in the UK.  Places were very limited for those without Glass (to ensure there were enough spare pairs floating around), but since I have Glass I was able to go without going through a very competitive lottery.

So, what was talked about, what happened, and what did we build?  Let’s get started.

The Hackathon was organised by Hoi Lam, the Wearables Developer Advocate for Google UK, and a few Googlers came across from the US, including Timothy Jordan, who is a Developer Advocate for Google, focussing on Glass.

Timothy Jordan introduces everyone to developing for Glass #throughglass

Timothy Jordan introduces everyone to developing for Glass #throughglass

After breakfast, the first event was an introduction to the event by Hoi, with some overview of what Glass was (at a non-trivial level) for the Android developers in attendance who hadn’t experienced it before.

Then we moved onto a Design Sprint – just classic stuff really, here’s a use case, design an app that would help this user, that’s Glass specific – not a cell phone app.  Although it was simple, it was a useful exercise in moving some developers away from this idea of a smart phone app with lots of buttons and tons of information.

Finally, it was the main part of the hackathon – the hacking!  People split into groups of between 2 and 8 to produce whatever app they wanted to, with the occasional guidance of a Glass engineer.  I teamed up with two Android developers who were also working in the city, Alessio Fabiani and Antonio Matarrese, and we started brainstorming.

Alessio, Antonio and I - the three creators of 'Ok Glass, Where is the Space Station'

Alessio, Antonio and I – the three creators of ‘Ok Glass, Where is the Space Station’

One idea that came out was a Google Authenticator app for Glass, so that, for users with two-step authentication enabled for their Google Accounts, instead of having to get their phone out when they needed a code, they could just say “Ok Glass, Give me a 2-step code” and Glass would show/read to you the 6-digit code necessary to login to your account.  However, we’ll either leave this until next time or for someone else to make, as we decided to make an application that is especially well suited to the Glass platform – an app to help you find the International Space Station.

There were lots of opportunities for some fun as well, like with this unfortunately labelled bin.

There were lots of opportunities for some fun as well, like with this unfortunately labelled bin.

All a user would have to do is wake up Glass, and say “Ok Glass, Where is the Space Station” – Glass then tells you how long it will be until the Space Station is next visible to you (i.e. it will be visible in the horizon of your current position), using location data from both NASA and the GPS in your phone, tethered to Glass.  We then showed four arrows, at the top, left, bottom and right sides of the screen, pointing in the direction of the Space Station, with annotations indicating at what angle in each positive direction you would have to move your head to be looking straight at the Space Station (calculated using the positions of both you and the ISS, and the accelerometer/tilt sensor and compass built into Glass).

This is an example of a really great app for the Glass platform, since because the device is worn on your head it can measure the angle you are currently looking at and direct you as to exactly how to adjust your head position, as opposed to a phone app which can tell you the positions relative to magnetic north and ‘flat’, and then you have to align your head using some other method (e.g. a compass and knowledge of what ‘flat’ is).  Check out the video below of the app working.

Although the code is hackathon level (poor, badly documented, little-if-any code style), and we got a bit confused with the maths for calculating elevation angles, it all seems to work well.  Take a look at the code on GitHub here, try putting it on your Glass and let me know your feedback.  We’re hoping to get it on the MyGlass app store eventually.

Although we didn’t win, we did very well – we had about 18 ‘votes’ (stickers) on our card, compared to the winners who had twenty-something.  We were commended on creating a piece of undeniably useful piece of Glassware, which was a great use-case of the Glass platform.

All in all, a great event – a big Thank You to the Glass Team who organised this – bring on the next Glass Hackathon!

The Glass Hackathon Organising Team

The Glass Hackathon Organising Team

Summer 2014 – Morgan Stanley and Google Glass

Some may be wondering what I am up to this summer.  Am I just beaching it back home in Cornwall, enjoying the sun, or travelling?  None of the above unfortunately – instead I’m doing an Internship at Morgan Stanley, again working on a large-scale backend engineering project (but this time in Java).

This does mean I’m in London all summer (10 weeks) – something I never thought I’d do!  But like last summer, I’m taking every opportunity that comes my way (whether it’s trying bouldering, kayaking through London, exploring ridiculously busy markets and trying cultures that I didn’t even know existed), and it’s certainly been an enlightening experience so far.  For one thing, I now appreciate Zürich so much more than before – the city and citizens are so much more happy and cheerful, happy to help and smiley, and they have more respect for their city – London is full of not necessarily selfish people, but people who never seem to think of people other than those they know – people who, for example, see it as their right to have a door held open for them.

Ok – England bashing over (Switzerland – please give me citizenship!).  What have I been up to, and what’s been significant so far?  Obviously Google Glass has been a big piece of my life for the last 9 months, and since I arrived in London before it became publicly available here, I was keen to find out what people’s reaction to it was.  With that in mind, I went to the Tate modern (a famous modern art gallery in London) to enjoy the art and get peoples perspective on it (without actually asking them).  Loads of people recognised it, and I ended up doing a lot of demos, as I had expected.

Glass really came into it’s own at Wimbledon (where a Glass demo helped me get a great ticket for court Number 1 on the penultimate day) – I got some great footage and was kept aware of an ongoing server outage without having to use my phone – so much more natural!  I will add that the Wimbledon staff were not happy with me wearing it in Centre Court, where the dress code is more smart – but that’s fine – it is bright blue after-all.

Another awesome use I’ve had for Glass in the couple of weeks is with advertising/fundraising.  Last week I took part in an event at Morgan Stanley where we fundraised for The Princes Trust, who give disadvantaged or vulnerable young people the practical and financial support to stabilise their lives, undertake training and develop self-esteem, so that they have the skills for work.  We cycled around London for the day, doing the ‘Tour de Londres’, whilst seeking donations from the public.  Whilst out and about, it was important that we kept a steady stream of contributions coming in, and Glass certainly helped out with publishing media and updates of our progress.  For example, when we were cycling along by the Thames, I was able to post videos and photos of our journey so far to encourage donations (I had earlier posted with how-to-donate information and had said I would be posting media throughout the day).

When Glass was announced as being available in the UK for developers, I was interested in what the reaction would be – would there be a sudden influx of Glass into the hands of the public, like there now is in the US, or would it be more subdued?  I was expecting it to be the former, but I have to say I was wrong – apart from at this Hackathon, I have yet to see another Londoner with Glass, after 5 weeks here!  I think I know why though – since the public launch, the vast amount of media coverage in the UK about Glass has diminished to, well, nothing.  I haven’t read anything in the media about Glass since then, and people who see me with it and ask for demos (who have obviously read about it) don’t know they can buy it now.  Perhaps after two years the media got bored of writing about this product that would one day make it to general availability?  Whatever it is, I think Glass needs some advertising in the UK right now.

Google Glass Takes Awesome Quality Videos – is this the end of the GoPro?

I had the opportunity to ride the SkyWire (the largest and fastest Zip Wire in England) at the Eden Project last week, and took Google Glass with me to record my flight.  When I got back, I was so impressed with the footage recorded I created this short movie showing my trip (includes brief footage from an iPhone).

What subsequently struck me was, if the video quality is this good, is there that much space left for the GoPro for the hobbyist?  The video quality and battery life are only fractionally better, and those benefits cost you a device that’s much more bulky and that actually requires a hand to operate!

Venturefest 2014 – Demoing Google Glass

I was lucky enough to be asked to come and demonstrate Google Glass at Venturefest Yorkshire 2014 last week month (time ran away!) (representing myself, a Glass developer).  Venturefest is a free one-day event showcasing the latest technologies and businesses, and it’s very popular with entrepreneurs.

Venturefest ID

Venturefest ID

As Glass hasn’t become publicly available yet, this was an exciting opportunity to demonstrate Glass to some of the UK’s most innovative and creative minds, many of whom haven’t yet had the chance to experiment with any wearable technology in the past.  My goal was to demonstrate it’s potential and to spark an interest or idea that may lead them to start developing for wearable devices – development which just isn’t mainstream in the UK yet.

So, bright and early on the 14th of March, I headed out to the York Racecourse where the event was been held and setup my demo – simply Glass, a power cable to re-charge it at every possible opportunity and a laptop showing videos of Glass been used from the Glass YouTube channel.  From 9AM through 1PM, I was constantly busy – it was definitely a very popular device.  So, what was the feedback?

The first thing I noticed was that nobody seemed to know how to use it!  This is different to the US where someone asks you to try it and with the smallest of hints they’re away and navigating through features.  Perhaps this is down to the additional media coverage it’s had in the US compared to the UK, but I was still surprised at how few people had investigated it in the year it’s been about, bearing in mind it seems to be the future.

The general feedback was that people were extremely impressed with Glass – specifically, a number of people commented on how unobtrusive it was when it was switched off (you can see right through it) and on how incredible Google Now on Glass was – two distinctive questions that it correctly answered were “What’s the capacity of the Riverside Stadium?” and “What is the nickname of the Bank of England?”.

One specific piece of feedback I did keep getting was that “It would be really useful as an Augmented Reality device for my …”, which is an area that, up until now, I haven’t thought hugely about.  It does seem obvious though, as it’s a much more natural device for augmenting your vision than, for example, your phone, which you must constantly hold up in-front of your face.

All in all, I think it went well and that people enjoyed the experience.  Fingers crossed that I managed to persuade a few more people that wearable technology and Google Glass really are a viable future.