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Online search engine company Google Inc. has made its wearable computer, the Google Glass, available to 10,000 early adopters called “explorers”, who are working on apps to popularize this work-in-progress-device. The apps being developed include those that aid firefighters locate the nearest exit, doctors broadcast their surgeries, and drivers translate road signs on-the-move. One such “explorer” is Chennai-based doodleblue Innovations Pvt. Ltd, a mobile app design and development firm that is working on developing apps for Google Glass, which is expected to be released this year.
In an interview, doodleblue chief executive officer Atishe Chordia spoke about his experience with Google Glass, and his thoughts on the future of the augmented reality device. Edited excerpts:
Why did you want to develop apps for Google Glass?
Eight years ago, there was no iPhone or an Android (Google’s operating system for mobiles) device. Right now an industry has been launched out of developing apps for the iPhone and Android. Technology grows at an exponential curve, so it was imperative that we stay ahead, and Glass provided one such path. The future belongs to wearable technology.
We are also experimenting with other wearable technologies like the gesture control armband from Thalmic Labs, a Canadian start-up.
What kinds of apps are you working on?
We are developing a facial recognition software, which would take about eight months to get ready after which we will create a software development kit (an application programming interface, or API) to integrate it with Google Glass. It will prove useful for security purposes. We are also working on pattern recognition, which can be used in manufacturing facilities where you can spec out all the information. Additionally, we are also working on navigation, where we are trying to personalize Google Maps. For instance, the app will offer alternatives on the same route to a coffee shop you may be heading to and help pull price comparisons between them. Basically, try to customize the whole navigation experience.
What’s your target audience?
The apps that are being created now among the explorers are directed towards the masses as they want to cash in and make money. Once they can establish their success, it will be easier to take it to commercial use.
How has the experience been so far?
It is not too different from creating apps for a mobile or tablet as it is ultimately software on hardware. But it is noticeably the next jump in technology. The experience is more immediate. However, there is a lot of improvement the product (Google Glass) needs. It is not there yet, and the masses will not purchase it and Google is aware of this. They have got feedback from developers like us and are working towards making it a better experience. It has a coolness factor, but it is not a great product now as it is not user-friendly. That has been the consensus among the developers.
What needs to be done to make Google Glass user-friendly?
Even before talking about software development, the hardware itself needs to be worked upon in terms of building a better RAM (random access memory) and memory system that can support quality software. It is still in a primitive stage. Also, integration is still not smooth. Google Glass talks to Google Plus for social connectivity. But it is still not integrated to other networks like Facebook. It is still Google exclusive.
What would it take for Google Glass to become a mainstream hit?
Assuming their hardware is good enough, it will need great software, which means you need good apps. That’s the way the iPhone and iPad were promoted. Utility apps like navigation will be the right fit for Glass. I don’t think apps like Facebook will work here, because the Glass is a tiny device.
Currently, app developers cannot charge a fee or monetize the app, so how do you hope to monetize?
True, but that is just for now. Advertising is the way Google will monetize on this. In a year from now, we will be at a commercial level with Glass. Right now, for us, it is part of our internal product development, it is a high risk-high reward scenario.
What is the advantage of being a part of the explorers programme?
They have made the developers’ job easy in terms of standardizing the user interface and aesthetics like fonts. You just have to focus on creating a useful app.