Whereable is the Killer Wearable Translation Use Case? Glass, Word Lens and UX

May 21st, 2014 2 Comments

Editor’s note: Here comes a guest post from our old pal and colleague, Ultan O’Broin (@ultan). You can read more of his thoughts and musing at User Experience Assistance and Not Lost in Translation. Enjoy.

Whereable is the Killer Wearable Translation Use Cases? Glass, Word Lens and UX
By Ultan O’Broin

I just can’t escape the Word Lens-AppsLab vortex. I blogged about the Quest Visual Word Lens augmented reality (AR) mobile translation app for Jake (@jkuramot) a while ago. I’m involved in user experience (UX) outreach with Noel (@noelportugal) or Anthony (@anthonyslai) demoing the Google Glass version of Word Lens. Blogged about that, too.

noelGlass

Noel does his translation thang with Word Lens on Google Glass in the UK.

Now, Google have just announced an acquisition of Word Lens. That’s good news for the Glass version. The current version “works” but hardly at the level UX aspires to. The AR translation is impacted by stuff like how often you drink in certain bars in San Francisco the Glass wearer’s head moves, the fonts used in the target image, and so on. Likely this acquisition will mean Google Translate’s overall UX improves, offering an upped experience in terms of optimized UIs on different devices, all pivoting around a cloud-based real-time translation of a wide range of language combinations.

Up to now these mobile translation apps (there’s a ton) seem like a hammer in search of a nail. Finding a consumer nail, let alone an enterprise one, often leaves me scratching at the bottom of the toolbox.  Besides the translation quality, contextual factors are forgotten. Stuff like cost of operation or the device, or the very environment you’re got to work in.

Take Word Lens on Glass. Great for wearables ideation,  the promise of an immersive UX,  the AR potential, and people just love the awesome demos. But would you ever use it for real, right now?

Consider this: I’m a Glass Explorer and a runner. I recently did a 10 miler in Tel Aviv using Strava Run Glassware. Yeah, more of our global experiment to see if normal people would notice or care about Glass being in their faces (they didn’t).

stravaUltan

Strava Dashboard with that Tel Aviv run using Google Glass

It was a great user experience, sure.  But the cost of using my Glass tethered to my EU-registered Samsung Galaxy SIII for data on the move forced me back to reality: nearly 33 EUR (45 USD, today) in roaming charges. Over 3 Euros a mile.

Of course, there’s also the cost of Glass itself. Effectively, with taxes and bits added, it’s 1700 USD (1250 EUR). Not cheap. So, consider adding another real world problem. Running around sweating on your 1700 bucks. Nothing that some handy tape and a plastic bag can’t deal with in a sort of Nerdy 2.0 duct tape eyeglasses repairy way. But, not a UX for the stylish.

glassForRunners

Customizing Google Glass for runners on the go. Cut tape and plastic bag over the bone-conducting part of the device to exclude sweat.

I’ve no idea what Word Lens on Glass would cost to translate a foreign language dinner menu, billboard or sign when away on vacation. But, I’d bet if you’re going to try more serious translation tasks and stay connected during it, then it’ll likely be cheaper and a lot easier to just man up and try and ask someone local. Unless, the app is usable offline … and works outside in the rain.

Time will tell where Google Glass and Word Lens ends up. The message from all this is that in the enterprise, when it comes to gathering user requirements for wearable (and other) tech, it’s about more than just the end user and about taking technology at face value. Context is king.

Oh, we’ve a course on that, too.


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2 Responses to “Whereable is the Killer Wearable Translation Use Case? Glass, Word Lens and UX”

  1. joel garry Says:

    But don’t you need the glass to translate the rapid-fire local language when you ask for directions?

    I suppose it could be worse – you could be paying the Euros while google decides you’ve asked it to delete all the information per court-ordered privacy requirements.

  2. Ultan (Oracle Apps-UX) Says:

    Android conversation mode would be killer through Glass.But then, as I said…. cost

    Blog on the mode: http://theappslab.com/2011/01/14/conversation-mode-for-google-translate-surely-ensign-hoshi-sato-would-be-impressed/

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