Google Glass: It's man versus machine testing the Field Trip app in London

Jul 31, 2014

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.

Tactless, I call it. But at least I got to try Google Glass itself, the groovy specs-based gizmo launched here last month and still novel enough for strangers to be impressed: “Wow, are they…is that Google Glass?” said a passing American as I blundered along in pursuit of a virtual street map floating somewhere above my right eyebrow. “Does it work? Can I try ‘em?”

Sophie Campbell pictured wearing Google Glass. The picture was taken by another one of the devices
Google Glass is a hands-free alternative to the smartphone, a device mounted on a pair of glasses that delivers information via a virtual screen. You activate it by voice (‘OK, Glass!’) or by tapping the right arm of the frame. It works as a satnav, camera, video, translator, currency converter, restaurant finder and news feed. You can see the travel possibilities.
Alongside the American, only one couple noticed I was wearing it: the technology sits discreetly above your eye and the titanium frames, to which you can add prescription lenses, come in four colours. Diane Von Furstenberg has designed a range. Luxottica isn’t far behind. It looks as if you have nicked a posh pair of specs with the security tag still on. The only problem is when content appears you can’t help rolling your eyes upwards like a mediaeval saint. I also struggled to hear the female (I think) voice telling me I’d just passed Shake Shack.
Still, it was easy to follow the arrow to Covent Garden with the Google representative that accompanied me as I used the gadget (when not hooked up to wi-fi, the device had to be ‘tethered’ to her smartphone). I found a burger restaurant and booked a table via my glasses, translated a sign into French and spoke bad Gujurati to an obliging British Asian couple, who said the words were correct-ish.
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. 

Need help? VS Eyewear customer service is here for you. Give us a call at 877-872-5780 or send us an email at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get vip access to new arrivals, promotions & more!