I attended the first-ever Tokyo Google Glass Meetup yesterday, organized by Héctor of Kirainet fame. Enjoyed talking with other neds about Google Glass and its potential, and gave a talk myself about my bitter-sweet experience with Glass so far (slides linked above).
Yes, I still don’t have a title. That’s because I still am not happy with the lyrics, they don’t make sense yet. But I’ve been writing in all the parts as they come to me, figuring I’ll edit later. Next time, I’ll take the time to just figure each part out at the beginning, as far as pitches and…
Sara has been working on music production. Proud to see her release a brand new song today!
Reblogged from Sound Sifting
15th January 2014
A few weeks back, I’ve been invited to purchase Glass (a pair of Glass? A pair of Google Glasses? a Google Glass device?), and, just after new year, the device arrived to AQ's office and I got to try it out.
I spent a whole week trying out Glass, to figure out the device’s strengths and limitations, and here are my observations so far.
As Google warns, this particular device is not designed for people already wearing glasses. Since I hate contacts, I wore them over my usual pair of glasses anyway, and it actually worked OK — I could see the display pretty clearly, and the fit wasn’t too uncomfortable. It definitely fits better if worn as designed, though.
The weight is not an issue, I didn’t feel like the device was too heavy on my nose and ears or anything like that.
The screen is not of a great quality or resolution. Luckily, the UI is pretty simple so the display is adequate for that, but it definitely doesn’t make for a comfortable reading (emails) or browsing experience.
Speaking of the UI, it takes some getting used to but is overall easy to understand. The touchpad you use to navigate it, on the right side of the device, works OK, but could be more sensitive.
Glass’ killer app for now is definitely hands-free navigation. I used it to navigate Tokyo on my bicycle, and the device has performed this function very well. The display was at times too bright or too dim for comfort, but overall I never once took a wrong turn because of unclear directions.
It’s nice to be able to take pictures and videos via voice commands (and via the shutter button on top of the right arm of the device). The camera is pretty wide-angled (especially in photos mode), which is helpful because it’s almost impossible to consciously frame a shot. Especially close up, the framing is way off from what I imagine it would be.
Battery life needs to be improved. In my experience, Glass needs to be charged a couple of times a day: one after the commute to the office (if using the navigation feature), once before leaving for home (if I wanted to have enough juice left) and once overnight.
It felt pretty awkward to be wearing Glass in public. The feeling was mostly muted when surrounded by a group of friends, but walking alone was definitely uncomfortable. This being Japan, the awkwardness is compounded by the fact that I’m very visibly a foreigner. For the first time since living here, I have noticed people trying very hard to not look at me, something that didn’t happen when I was not sporting Glass. Not one Japanese passer-by asked about Glass in the entire time I was wearing it, though a couple other foreigners did.
It’s a great novelty item and conversation starter for friends and people you already know. Everyone at my gym who saw me wearing Glass had many questions and wanted to give it a try.
Once you’ve taken a picture, the process of sharing it or sending it to someone is pretty fussy. You have to swipe through several menus to publish it on Google+ or Facebook, and the only way to input a caption is through speech recognition, which (for me) doesn’t work consistently enough to be useful. However, all photos and videos are automatically uploaded (but not published) to Google+ using the service’s auto backup feature, so it’s easy enough to share them post-factum. If you’re not a Google+ user and want to do the same with Facebook, for example, tough luck.
While you’re swiping through the menus and paying attention to the UI, you have have a very strange “staring into space” look on your face (illustrated here by Paul), which will take some getting used to, once Glass-type devices become more popular. For now, it’s just pretty awkward.
The third-party software I was the most excited about was the Strava cycling app, as I think HUDs are a very exciting feature for cycling (looking down at a handlebars-mounted cycling computer can be dangerous in traffic). However, during my test ride, I didn’t get much interesting information from the app. It spoke to me the names of segments I had just passed, but as it was just a commute, I wasn’t really interested in that. While on the bike, I’m much more interested in navigation features the Google Maps app provides me, though I can imagine how things would be different during a training ride, for example. Anyway, since there’s no way to pair cadence and heart rate sensors to Glass, the Strava app will still lose out to a dedicated Garmin device for a serious cyclist.
Back to the OS, Glass provides GMail and Google Hangouts notifications — these were not useful to me at all. Reading email on Glass is not a great experience, and neither is replying to chat messages, since Glass has trouble understanding my accent. I didn’t see any way to easily disable these notifications either.
Glass gets its internet connection by tethering to your phone via Bluetooth. Another thing it does through bluetooth is that it becomes a speaker for your phone, so if you get a call, the audio goes through Glass. A bit surprising at first.
Overall, it’s pretty clear that the current iteration of the device is still a prototype. The novelty factor and the couple useful features in no way offset the inconvenience of feeling that you look like a jerk and of having yet another device to charge. It’s only a matter of time before Glass-type devices become smaller, less conspicuous, get a much longer battery life and a better UI, and then — then things will get really interesting. I’m looking forward to the next iterations of the hardware.
31st December 2013
Smartphones are everywhere, vast majority is Android, but iPhones here and there too. Our guide for the last few days was using a Galaxy Note 2 phablet.
While in the countryside few people have internet access, in the cities most people do, from their smartphone. Unlimited data plans (throttled after a usage cap is reached) cost from under US$3/month and are affordable to most.
3G (HSDPA) is ubiquitous in urban, tourist, and even some countryside areas. Speeds are good enough for light usage, YouTube and other streaming services are slightly choppy.
Outside of 3G coverage, speeds drop down to Edge (and, in some cases, GPRS), which is much less usable with modern web apps.
3G on your phone and tethering will give your laptop or tablet much better internet access than the vast majority of hotel WiFi.
I was able to purchase a prepaid simcard with 3GB of 3G data (throttled to Edge after that) on arrival at Ho Chi Minh city airport for under US$10/¥1000
Most of the iPhone users I saw, even those with high end iPhone 5S models, prefer not to use the hardware home button, using the accessibility feature to enable an on-screen software home button instead.
Lovely country so far!
9th December 2013
I occasionally get asked how I came to be living and working in Japan.
Invariably, my answer is that I was lucky — lucky that Cookpad brought me over from France to work on their fantastic service, and lucky that I was looking for new opportunities at the same time as the fine folks at AQ (my current employer) were looking to start building in-house engineering.
But landing a great job — a job that truly makes you grow in your craft — of course isn’t just a matter of luck, nor is it just a matter of skills, or of the diploma in your pocket. Of course, all these factors matter, but they’re nowhere as important as creating value or, in other words, creating your luck.
Engineers — creating your own luck means taking steps to show that you already belong where you want to be. If you want to work for that one awesome company that builds fantastic web services with some of the smartest people around, you better either have tons of prior experience (which is hard when you’re a recent graduate), or be able to show that you’re genuinely interested in the field.
These following things will make smart people excited about working with you:
- Side projects — if you spend your own time working on something you think is cool rather than watching TV, it’s a pretty good sign that you’ll be a good fit with other similarly driven people.
- GitHub account full of open-source contributions — same as above.
- Community involvement such as speaking, blogging, teaching, etc — even better. A person who likes to teach and share knowledge about subjects she’s passionate about will be welcomed with open arms.
- A twitter account — not as important, but can be a very good way for a potential employer to see the way you think and what makes you tick.
I guess the above advice is in line with the thinking outlined in books such as James Altucher’s Choose Yourself and Reid Hoffman’s The Startup of You — invest in yourself and your skills, do things that you love, and the rest will follow.
As for my own personal story of coming to live and work in Japan, here it is. After being increasingly unhappy working “normal” jobs after graduating, I ended up trying to launch a startup with two friends. After some time, our startup failed, but in the process we have learned to build and launch an online service.
I knew I wanted to spend some time in Japan next, so following the March 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, I built a very small service called Japan Status that tracked radiation levels across the country. It turned out that an engineer at Cookpad (hi Viktor!) had been working on the same thing, and so after exchanging a few emails, he introduced me to the company. A few months later I was on a plane to Tokyo to start an exciting new chapter of my life and career.
A lot of luck was certainly involved, but I do like to think, in retrospect, that I nudged my luck in the right direction.
P.S.: I wrote this from an engineer’s perspective, but as you will see if you read the books I linked above, this should probably be applicable to whatever field you’re in. If you can provide value, nothing can stop you.