Introduction Contrary to popular belief, wearable technology is actually not a new concept. Over the past few years, we’ve seen multiple wearable products come to the market, but none of them have been able to appeal to the mainstream consumer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve been able to learn a lot over the past few years about the way we use and interact with these wearable devices. Wearable technology has signiﬁcantly advanced over the past year. With recent products like Google Glass and the Pebble Smartwatch, more and more companies are starting to dive into the world of wearable tech. We’ve put three of the top wearable devices to the test; Google Glass (Explorer Edition), the Sony Smartwatch 2, and the Pebble Smartwatch. Each device has been thoroughly tested by and is accompanied with a written review. “We are at the beginning of a new era. Personal computing is being redeﬁned as the technology around us becomes a part of who we are. This is the wearable revolution.” - The Creators Project
Editor-In-Chief Design and Layout Photography
Google Glass (Explorer Edition) - Review By Gorav Menon
Introduction What was completely an oddity just two years ago, is now starting to take shape into a real consumer product. Google Glass has sparked the world of technology with a new way to interact with our devices. As a new kind of computing device, Glass allows you to capture and communicate in a way that feels natural and is non-distractive.
Product: Google Glass (Explorer Edition) Release Date: October 2013 Speciﬁcations - High resolution display (Equivalent of a 25” HD display from 8ft away) - 5 MP photos - 720p videos - Bone conducting transducer (speaker) - Wi-Fi - Bluetooth - 16 GB (12 GB of user accessible storage) - 1 day battery life - iOS and Android compatible with the “MyGlass” companion app
No longer is having a computerized device on your head something you see in Ned's Declassiﬁed School Survival Guide or Star Trek: The Next Generation. All those things you could have only dreamed of, are now coming to life with the help of Google Glass. Glass has the potential to alter our lives at the same level smartphones and tablets did.
Design Glass features a very simple and clean design. In some ways, it’s a beautiful piece of hardware; while in others, it can sometimes be clumsy.
Price - USD $1500 Availability - Invite only (Google Glass Explorer Program) - Must be US resident - Must be able to provide a US based shipping address or pick it up at one of Google’s campuses - Must be 18 years or older to purchase
This is the cotton (white) model of Google Glass. Other colours include charcoal, shale, tangerine, and sky.
The frame is made from a titanium band backed with plastic for added support. It’s simple yet sturdy, and can easily withstand day-to-day use. All of the main components are located on the right. The battery sits at the back, behind your ear, along with the bone-conducting speaker. The bone-conducting speaker allows only the person wearing Glass to hear what’s being said. All of the circuitry (the processor, RAM, storage, etc...) are located on
the middle of the right side. The main attraction, the display, is located right above your right eye. The display’s position can be adjusted from a hinge attaching it to the main body. The design does a good job overall in balancing all of the components although having everything on the right side can sometimes be slightly off-setting when wearing it.
bone-conducting speaker. The bone-conducing speaker conducts sound through the bones of your skull to the inner ear. This allows you, and only you, to hear what’s being said. It sounds like the sound is coming from inside you head - it really is cool! It’s another one of those things that you have to experience for yourself to really understand how it’s like.
How It Feels The whole purpose of Glass is that it’s not supposed to distract you from your everyday tasks, but be there when you need it. That being said, you’re supposed to have Glass positioned such that the display is arranged high enough that it isn’t in your way. It’s pretty tough to keep it that way, though. It can be hassle to get Glass to sit evenly on your head for long periods of time, mostly due to it being right-side dominant. After you’ve found the perfect position, it feels pretty natural and comfortable the rest of the time.
The battery and touchpad can be seen from the side.
Something that I found cumbersome was that the frames did not fold like they did with traditional glasses. That’s especially a problem when you may want to take them off, for example before entering a public restroom, but don’t have anywhere to safely put them away. Google includes a carrying case which only protects the front and the display, and doesn’t help at all for reducing the carrying size.
Interface An up-close view of Glass from the front. You can see the camera to the left and the display to the right.
While wearing Glass, you look up to the display in front of you. The screen is not disruptive, and you don’t feel burdened by it. Because of how the display is projected and how the light reflects through the prism, the screen looks like it’s floating in front of you in space. It’s really cool once you get to try it in person. According to Google, the display is equivalent to watching a 25” HDTV from 8 feet away. You can activate the display either by tapping the touchpad on the side or by tilting your head 30 degrees up. After I’d gotten used to looking through the display, there was minimal to no eyestrain at all. An unexpected neat thing about Glass was the
The interface of the OS on Glass is simple, modern, and very reminiscent of the “cards” UI found in many other Google applications. Each card contains quick information pertaining to a certain app. For example, you might have a card for the current weather, a recent message, or an upcoming calendar event. With the help of Google Now, Glass can give you quick and glanceable information, right at the perfect time. You can swipe through the different menus with the touchpad on the side, or talk to Glass via voice commands, which we’ll talk about more further into the review. You can swipe from side-to-side to go through the different menus, swipe down to go back a step, and tap the touchpad to select. Tapping the touchpad within apps brings up options such as share, delete, read aloud, etc. You can
generally ﬁnd anything that you need within a few swipes.
Features and Functionality Because Glass is still relatively new and not very widespread yet, there are still only a limited number of apps available. Although more and more developers have started to get their hands on Glass, it will still be a while before we start to see some really useful and innovative apps. Some of the current third-party apps currently available include, Facebook, Twitter, CNN, and The New York Times.
You can activate any app or action with a simple voice command, always beginning with the phrase: “Ok, Glass.” For example, if you wanted to take a picture, you would say: “Ok, Glass. Take a picture.” It’s that simple. Some of the basic commands include, “Start a Hangout (video chat),” “Google search for _____,” and “Get directions to _____.” Some of the more unique commands include, “What gate is flight 123 at Pearson airport?” or “When do I have to leave to be on time for my next meeting?” If you ask Glass a question, it will usually respond back to you aloud. The voice recognition is really accurate when you are in a quieter environment, but sometimes has difﬁculty recognizing your voice if you’re in a louder environment. It ‘s worth noting that notiﬁcations for text messages and turn-by-turn navigations do not work on iOS devices, like the iPhone, due to software and compatibility issues.
Battery Life The battery life is subpar. It’s difﬁcult to get through an entire day on a single charge; not something that you should be worrying about on
a device that you want to wear throughout the day. Google claims that you should be able to get about a day of use out of a single charge, which is generally accurate if you’re doing lighter tasks. Obviously, certain things such as video chatting, recording video, and watching videos do use up the battery faster.
Accessories Included in the box, is a pair of sunglass shades, a mono-earbud, a micro-ﬁbre/plastic carrying case, and a charger with micro-USB cable. The list of accessories keeps on growing as Google continues to partner with other companies.
Prescription frames by Warby Parker.
You can currently order a small selection of prescription frames by Warby Parker or sunglasses frames by Maui Jim, directly from Google. Other ﬁrst-party accessories include a stereo-earbud and clear shades.
Conclusion In it’s current form, Glass is still very much a prototype, mainly intended for developers and for the select few that can afford it. Google still has some time to make improvements, before Glass ofﬁcially comes to the market. Google is aiming to have Glass out as a consumer product by the end of the year at a much lower price. Right now, the price is hard to justify unless you are a developer. Much of the future success depends on how much developer support they can get. The future potential here is phenomenal, and while we’re looking to Google to continue to drive the development of Glass, the unexpected and innovative things that developers do will really continue to move Glass as a platform.
Sony SmartWatch 2 - Review By Ian Lo
Introduction The Sony SmartWatch 2 (SW2) is Sony’s newest smartwatch. It is a watch running a heavily customized version of the Android operating system. Released recently in September 2013, the SW2 is one of the latest wearables currently available from any company. It is built to be an accessory and extension to your smartphone and not as a stand-alone product.
Product: Sony Smartwatch 2 Release Date: September 2013 Speciﬁcations - 1.6” transflective LCD display (220px by 176px) - Water resistant (IP57 rating) - Silicon and metal band options - Bluetooth - NFC - 3-7 day battery life - Android compatible with the “Sony Smartwatch 2” companion app
Design The watch face is a square with an aluminum body. The watch face also features three touch buttons at the bottom for going back, going to the home screen, and opening additional settings for the application that you are in. The power button is
Price - CA $199.99 Availability - Sony Store
The Sony SmartWatch 2 with the metal band.
a circular aluminum button on the edge of the watch face. In addition to matching the aluminum body, the power button is used for turning on the screen and is the only physical button on the SW2. Opposite to the power button is the micro USB charging port covered by a flap to keep the watch water resistant. The watch comes in a silicon and metal strap model. The metal band provides a more professional and classy look while the silicon provides a more comfortable and sporty look.
Screen The screen, which measures 1.6 inches diagonally, has two modes for use. Generally, when not in use, the 220 x 176 pixel screen is dimmed in a power saving mode and only shows the time. With the press of the power button, the screen will light up and open the home page.
opens up an ocean of opportunities to expand into using the NFC chip.
Apps Apps for the SW2 are all installed through the smartphone it is connected to and are distributed through the Google Play Store. The SmartWatch companion app, only for Android devices, has the convenient feature of being able to search only for SW2 apps making it easier to ﬁnd apps that will be compatible.
When the SW2 is not actively being used, the display goes into a low-power mode which dims the display and only shows the time.
Although the pixel density is far from the quality of current day smartphones, text and images are still fairly crisp on the tiny screen, which serves its purpose well.
Interface The Android based SW2 software is very similar to the Android software available on many smartphones. Gestures such as swiping down for notiﬁcations and opening additional options using the designated button felt fairly natural coming from an Android phone. The operating system runs very smoothly on the SW2 with smooth scrolling and page flips. The most frustrating part of the interface design for me was that it is difﬁcult to clear past notiﬁcations and they often build up on the device adding clutter.
Features and Functionality In terms of hardware, the SW2 doesn’t bring too many unique perks to the table as it relies greatly on the information provided from its connected smartphone. However, one unique feature on the SW2 is that the user is capable of pairing the watch with the smartphone using the built in Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This adds the ability to quickly pair with your smartphone and
Apps for the SW2 can be downloaded from the Google Play Store via your smartphone.
For me, the most useful apps have been the Gmail, Google Calendar, Messages, and Circa (news app) extensions. These extensions provide short notiﬁcations to the watch that is displayed in a concise manner on the watch so that you don’t have to open your phone to check them.
Battery Life Battery life depends greatly on the amount that the SW2 is used. On its power saving mode, the watch will last for almost a week with the time showing constantly. Even when connected to a phone, receiving notiﬁcations, and utilizing the screen, the battery will still last 2 or more full days. As a result, the watch doesn’t have to be plugged in every night, and instead, can be charged every couple of days for convenience. Although the watch may go for days without needing a charge, constanly having a Bluetooth connection on your smartphone may decrease its battery life signiﬁcantly, depending on the device. Devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy will not drain the battery as fast.
Compatibility The SW2 only works with Android devices running Android 4.0 or higher and devices that have Bluetooth capabilities. This would include most of the Android devices currently in use. Unfortunately, the SW2 does not support iOS devices such as the iPhone.
The SW2 is only compatible with Android devices running v4.0 or later.
Conclusion The SW2 is a great watch for all its features and design. Itâ€™s great when you want to check notiďŹ cations or apps without pulling out your phone. In my opinion, the price is a little steep for a watch with limited hardware, but the Sony has a lot of potential in developing their wearable technologies.
Pebble Smartwatch - Review By Baron Alloway
Introduction The Pebble smartwatch makes the perfect daily companion. This handy wristwatch allows you to stay up to date, effortlessly. Read text messages, emails, get GPS directions, and even reminders with just a glance at your wrist.
Design Product: Pebble Smartwatch Release Date: January 2013 Speciﬁcations - 1.26” e-ink transflective LCD display (144px by 168px) - Water resistant (5 atm rating) - User replaceable 22mm band - Bluetooth - 7 day battery life - iOS and Android compatible with the “Pebble Smartwatch” companion app
Pebble comes in two designs, the classic and steel. The classic design is a simplistic-style plastic shell with a user-replaceable rubber wristband. The classic comes in black, white, grey, red, and orange models.
Price - CA $149.99 Availability - Best Buy (Online only) - Future Shop (Online only) - GetPebble.com
The black model of the Pebble smartwatch.
However, Pebble also markets a version known as “Pebble Steel”, whose design features a stainless-steel or leather wristband with a matching steel encasing. The steel comes in silver and black models. Both designs are fully waterproof, feature a 3-dimensional accelerometer, and are built to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life.
Screen The Pebble sports a 1.26 inch, 144x168 e-paper display. The display is always easy to read in any lighting condition, and looks very sharp. E-paper only needs to refresh when the display changes, as supposed to a traditional LCD screen. The result is an extremely long battery life. The watch does
feature a backlight for reading in dark lighting conditions, which can be activated with a simple flick of the wrist. The backlight shuts itself off after about 5 seconds of inactivity.
free, as Pebble does not yet support paid applications. Pebble’s SDK also allows third-party developers to integrate the watch right into their existing applications, with no need for any additional installs. Some functional examples of useful apps include GoPro, Yelp, and Foursquare.
Pebble features a rudimentary interface, with navigation via the three buttons on the side of the watch itself. The arrangement of these buttons married with the simple software design makes the Pebble very intuitive to navigate and use.
Watch-faces and apps can be downloaded from the Pebble app store through the ofﬁcial companion app.
Battery Life There are three buttons on the right: Two navigation (up/down) buttons and a selection button.
Features and Functionality One of Pebble’s flagship features is the ability to read push notiﬁcations from your phone. After pairing via Bluetooth and installing the ofﬁcial companion application, the Pebble vibrates and displays the notiﬁcations that appear on your phone. On iOS, the Pebble will display those notiﬁcations that are set to “banner-style” (i.e. those that appear as a banner at the top of the screen). The Android version works in a similar way. When receiving a phone call, Pebble will “pulse” vibrate, and display the caller-ID, as well as an option to either accept or reject the call write from your wrist. Finally, Pebble also allows you to control your music on your smartphone right from your wrist. The watch’s vibration is silent, meaning only you will be notiﬁed; not those around you. Pebble is a very functional smart watch! The ofﬁcial Pebble app houses a special app store, where users can ﬁnd apps, download them, and install them directly onto their Pebble with a few simple taps. All apps in the store are
Pebble typically lasts about 5 days on a full charge with normal use. This extensive life is mostly attributed to the e-paper display, which requires very little power to run. You charge the Pebble via a charging port on the side using a proprietary cable that magnetically connects to the watch, similar to Apple’s MagSafe chargers for their MacBooks.
The power button and magnetic charging port are located on the left.
Compatibility Pebble is compatible with a wide array of devices. iOS and Android both have ofﬁcial companion applications. There is currently also an unofﬁcial app for Windows Phone. There is no word on whether Pebble will be ofﬁcially supporting Windows Phone or Blackberry
devices in the future. Pebble connects via Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy. This is not only widely supported, but ensures that your phoneâ€™s battery life is not taxed too heavily from being constantly connected to the watch.
Availability The classic Pebble watch can be ordered in an array of colours on the ofďŹ cial website (GetPebble.com) for $150. Limited quantities of Pebble Steel are also available for either $230 (Only leather strap included), or $250 (Both steel and leather strap included). Best Buy and Futureshop now also carry a limited supply of the classic Pebble in the colour black on their online stores.
Conclusion The Pebble smartwatch is usable and affordable. Whether you are a developer looking to revolutionize the world through the wrist, a tech-junkie looking for your next high, or just interested in getting text messages on your watch, the simplicity and versatility of the Pebble makes it the ideal watch for almost anyone.