Is Google Glass a viable means of delivering news? That was the question set for the Guardian newspaper's software developers to answer as they were approached to become one of the first partners for Google's Glass UK Explorer launch.
Rather than pushing lengthy articles to Glass, the Guardian app instead offers condensed information on key stories. While breaking news notifications can be set to appear as soon as they are pushed out by the Guardian team, the majority of stories are instead grouped together in packets -- a less intrusive experience than a constant flurry of notifications. These news snippets can then be read straight to the Glass wearer, using the Google Glass software's synthesised voice and the hardware's bone conduction technology. Boding well for future Glass developers, the Guardian team was able to put the wearable app together in just two months.
"When you're using it, once you've woken up and are walking to work, going through your timeline makes you feel like you've caught up with the morning's big events," said Robert Rees, Developer Manager. "Part of that's also down to having your email and any apps like Twitter linked to it too. From our point of view, the app gives you the key editorial line from the Guardian on a ten minute walk to work, and that's a big deal."
"Wearables work really well for breaking news alerts," said Lindsey Dew, Software Developer. "You don't even need to check your phone, it's delivered straight to you. It's great for seeing precisely what's happening now, and delivering the exact information you need to know. The challenge we have is how do you also deliver detail, as you are limited by the UI. We've added 'Save for Later' functionality in the Guardian Glassware app, letting people send long-form journalism to their phones."
More pertinent than news delivery, the Guardian team sees Glass's potential sitting with creating breaking news reports. Glass can be a powerful tool for budding amateur reporters looking to add to the growing pool of "citizen journalism".
"The scope for something like 'citizen journalism' with something like Glass is massive," said Dew. "It's a step ahead of mobile phones. That's what Glass is really out to do -- not to distract you, but to enable you to capture the moment."
"Glass makes it very simple," says Rees. "You see something and you can immediately respond."
But as a disruptive technology, only now finally beginning to spread its wings worldwide, it will take time to truly pinpoint Glass's key strengths and weaknesses.
"We're really at the start of where wearables fit in," summarised Rees. "We're still waiting for people to tell us what the wearable devices sector's right role is."