on the run with google glass

I picked up my Explorer Edition of Google Glass this week, had a good time in New York and at the Google offices. There is much to write, rant and rave about this beta product, but for this post I’ll focus mainly on how it held up while running. This is a running blog after all.

sharps ridge knoxville tennessee with google glass
looking down from Sharp’s Ridge towards Knoxville

I took an early morning run out to a local city park. There’s a good mix on this run of roads and trails. I ran and walked for 10 miles and had the device on my head for about 2 hours.

how glass feels on my head

Glass is very lightweight, just slightly heavier than a normal pair of glasses. They stayed fixed and comfortable on my head the whole time. No bounce, no slippage. I was a little worried about obstruction of view from the device. Running on the trails you have to be diligent about roots and rocks at your feet as well as branches hitting your face. But the touchpad sitting at the right temple is set slightly higher than your field of vision, so your periphery is not obstructed.

I didn’t run hard enough to break a good sweat, so didn’t push the device to its limits. I’ll be testing Glass out on much longer runs and hikes in the coming months, so there’s bound to be something that will get annoying.

Overall though I was pleasantly surprised, I was expecting to be bothered by it, but for the most part I barely even noticed it was on my face.

early morning knoxville run with google glass
early morning jog across a sleepy intersection near downtown Knoxville

functionality

The hands free is great. The voice commands work fine, although I found myself just clicking the shutter button on the top of glass more often. To use your voice, you have to first turn it on by tilting the head, then giving the command “ok glass” “take a picture” I found just hitting the button was faster. I didn’t test much else other than the image capture, and did not get any notifications pushed to me while out.

Battery life was fine in the 2 hours of use. I took 20 videos and 30 images during the run.

sharps ridge knoxville with google glass
climbing up to Sharp’s ridge
image capture

Since the last Glass software update, the image quality has jumped up a notch. It’s actually almost amazing how much dynamic range they are getting out of such a small camera. They are doing some sort of fast capture bracketing and processing of the images, so there is a slight lag in time, but very minimal considering how good the photos look.

Having said that it still performs probably on par with the best cell phone cameras, so its not SLR or GoPro quality. Capturing while running often gave me blurry shots, and it also had issues with early dawn, low light conditions. I made a short post yesterday comparing the image quality to a Lumix GF-1.

Framing was near impossible on Glass. This is something that comes up often. On this run I figured out what is going on. The camera is positioned looking out from the wearers field of view, not the glass part itself. So the mistake I was doing, and I think most people are, is tilting the head down and trying to use the glass part as a view finder. This means I had a lot of shots that were pointing down too much. After fixing this mistake I started to make better shots.

Also, the verdict is mostly positive, this is a convenient sharing device. I’m pretty amazed at the overall quality of the shots even with these small complaints.

video capture

As expected there’s some jumpiness in
the videos. I have a pretty good gliding motion while running, not much
bounce, but it’s still kind of noticeable. There’s no way around this at the moment other than to use image stabilizing post processing. These processed videos tend to me jarring or “uncomfortable” in other ways. They sort of have a seasick or alien feel to them.

Oddly enough I think the trail videos look better even though there’s more movement. This probably is just a trick on the brain. The road videos are more jarring because you expect the landmarks and horizon lines to be fixed. But on the trail, at least this one in the woods, there’s little spatial reference, so its easier to accept the movements. At least that’s my theory.

Overall as expected on the quality. I may slow down to a walk whenever I want to capture video from here on out.

glassware?

There are currently no Apps or Glassware specifically for running, but that will change. It would be obvious to have some basic stats like heart rate and pace pushed to the device from a Garmin or Polar. So for the moment it’s nothing more than a capture and sharing tool. The photos are good enough to where I’ll be using Glass on future runs and races. Can’t wait to capture the atmosphere of a 50K run in the fall. I’m also wondering about using it on a local 10K this coming weekend.