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5 things Google Glass has taught me about beta testing

by Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: July 11, 2013
Google Glass. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman
Google Glass. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman

Trying out Google Glass as one of 8,000 Glass Explorers marks the first time I’ve ever beta-tested a technology product. My “Get App-y” column focuses more on how technology fits into regular people’s lifestyles, so being an early adopter is new for me. Here are some things I’ve learned about the beta-testing process:

1) The product you’re testing is not entirely ready for market, so lower your expectations. You, as a beta tester, have it to provide input for the company to get it ready for market. Google is looking for feedback from Glass Explorers so it can see how the device will be used in the real world. In a strange twist, Explorers are paying for the privilege of doing so — they shelled out $1,500 plus tax to be an early adopter of Glass and buy the device.

So here are some of my thoughts: Google Glass is a beautifully imagined device that works exactly as promised, today. It takes calls, records video and takes photos with voice activation, connects to your smart phone, shares things to social media and performs Google searches, among other things.  However, operating Glass is still a bit clunky; the device is not as useful for my everyday life as I’d like it to be. I’d like to use Glass more like my smart phone, but I still find myself turning to the smart phone because many things are just easier to do on it. Glass doesn’t have many available apps for it; I also am slightly self-conscious using Glass if I am not using it to show off to people. I suspect that will change as more people have it because Glass is comfortable to wear and unobtrusive.

The “timeline cards” that pop into my stream to allow me to use Glass do so chronologically; navigating to the one I want to see/use requires scrolling through each one. An app that releases too many cards into my timeline clutters it.

Google regularly releases updates to improve Glass in this testing period. The most recent one gave us YouTube videos on Glass and better navigation, among other things;  the last one included a better camera.

2) Support and how-to information are hard to come by. I have to scramble to find out how to do things on Glass, but I’ve enjoyed learning from others who have the device and are developing for it. That’s where my best information comes from. The Glass Community that Explorers get connected to once they pick up their device has the most useful information and lots of discussions. Battery life? Contacts? Photos? You name it, people are asking, but as a beta tester, sometimes I’m the first one to ask the question. In addition, I discovered a list of additional available apps from developers all on my own. I also get information by being plugged into several Glass discussion groups on the social media site Google Plus, and Google has helpful “Glass Guides” ready to answer any questions, too. I have to go seeking for the answers, unlike with other products already on the market. Those have enough users who have filled out online support information.

3) People are interested in the product and want to try it. As new technology that’s not out yet, Glass attracts a lot of attention, especially since it’s so visible on your face. People will ask about it, and you’re a lone ambassador most of the time. And as much as I like to share, sometimes I just put it away so it doesn’t dominate conversations. There is a lot going on in the world out there besides Glass, and I like hearing what my friends are doing.

4) Computer types are developing the apps for Glass, and the apps are not quite ready for market either. These developers also have written all the support materials for them, and they haven’t passed through editors who bring their language into the real world. The instructions for installing or using the apps require a bit of familiarity with the tech side of doing things or a willingness to try to problem-solve on my own. I have found myself frustrated at times when trying to understand how to install apps successfully on Glass.  I am constantly amazed at developers’ vision for using new technology, but I think sometimes they forget that the 8,000 of us Explorers who are getting Glass now may not live in a tech developer world where their languages makes sense.

5) As a beta tester, you’re a part of a community shaping a future. This community includes Google fans, excited Glass users, skeptics, regular people, those who will use Glass every day and people who will only get out the device for certain niche situations. All of us have an interest in it. I don’t know where Glass is going, but I am interested to see what it’s like when it’s finally released to the public.

It’s fun to be an early Glass Explorer contributing to the present use of Glass and what it will be in the future.

YOUR TURN

Have you ever beta-tested a product? Tell me here a little bit about the experience and why you did it.

~ Lillie-Beth (lbrinkman@opubco.com)

by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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