The Google Glass Field Trip app aims to serve as an indispensible guide to London. Sophie Campbell – our expert and a real-life tour guide – puts it to the test.
I should be striking over this. Getting a Blue Badge Tourist Guide to tour the streets of London to test Field Trip, a travel guide app on Google Glass that uses GPS to point out sights of interest, is like getting a turkey to sample Christmas or a cabby to trial Uber.
Sophie Campbell pictured wearing Google Glass. The picture was taken by another one of the devices
Glass is still in development – they call this the ‘Explorer Programme’ – but even so early adopters are happily shelling out £1,000 to buy it in open beta, essentially paying to test the product for Google.
I had high hopes for Field Trip; we were now in Trafalgar Square so I thought it might suggest a route (‘On your left is St Martin in the Fields,’ etc) or use GPS to tell me what to look at.
Instead menus brought up visual ‘cards’ – essentially guidebook content – telling me the history of the square, the architecture of the National Gallery, a ‘Cool Thing’ in the form of the teeniest police station in England, all fine. Every so often something popped up on its own, including a warning about looking where you were going. Good point.
Sophie attempts to capture the atmosphere of Covent Garden using the Google Glass camera
The problem was lack of curation. Entries authored by different content suppliers (History Press, Landscape Lover and Atlas Obscura, to name three) meant variations in tone. Some dated back to 2011. One referred to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral ‘last week.’
It did show me a handy restaurant and nice reliefs on the Canadian Pacific Railway building, which it rightly said was now an expensive block of flats. But it’s patchy: I didn’t feel I was in safe hands, or any hands at all, really. That said, I was a novice, I really know London and I hadn’t had time to tailor the feed to my needs, so perhaps I’m being unfair.
I think Glass will catch on: it’s not intrusive, if you don’t mind wearing glasses, it saves fiddling with your phone and it’s great for golf or running. Travel-wise, I’m not so sure. Content depends on suppliers and updates. Google doesn’t do repairs or insurance, so travel has to be sedate. Glass looks nickable and is subject to the same signal limitations and usage costs as mobiles. People may think you are secretly photographing or filming when you’re not.
Still, it’s coming. While I don’t feel unduly threatened by Field Trip, which was bit of a turkey itself, I’m sure it will improve. And right now we turkeys have to stick together.
The Field Trip app gets to work in California
Google Glass costs £1,000 online or from Google’s London Basecamp in King’s Cross, where you can buy and book a demonstration.