Google Glass and the Future of Second Screening and TV News
While not due for commercial release until the spring, Google Glass is generating extraordinary buzz in sectors ranging from advertising to healthcare and, not least, in media for its potential to open up new video applications—or disrupt old ones.
Among the growing collection of Glassware (Google's term for Glass apps) is CNN Digital's News & Topic Alerts, developed by Turner’s Emerging Technologies group in San Francisco. The app sends news alerts with short video clips about topics they are interested in to subscribers on their Glass device. CNN is on the verge of launching its citizen journalist service iReport to the Google Glass user base offering Glass-wearers the chance to shoot video or take a photo then upload it to iReport where a CNN editor will take a judgement on whether it supports the day's news agenda.
Google Glass Expands Newsgathering Potential for CNN
“We haven't yet got CNN professional journalists to use it but that day is coming,” says Jeff Eddings, a director with the emerging technologies group and a director of Media Camp, Turner’s accelerator for media startups. “iReport with Google Glass is the 'always on' model of news reporting. It's a test. We have one user lined up to run a half marathon and broadcasting while running using Google Glass.
“Each editor at CNN gives an urgency metric to news items, allowing for automated systems like our Glass alerting service to make intelligent decisions when prioritizing news alerts,” he explains. “In conjunction with other automatically collected metrics, such as social activity and page traffic, this determines for each user whether they see a particular news alert in the Glass device.
“We are testing out some assumptions,” he adds. “We don't know if Google Glass will work for news gathering. We think it does, but we are in a phase of testing and validating those assumptions.”
A third of Google Glass users have signed to the CNN News Alerts app. “There will be a subset of those will use iReport,” Eddings says.
Once such a device lowers the threshold for capturing information, more events that happen in an instant can be captured and reported on. “With more people wearing cameras on their faces and wrists, multiple angles can be captured, and different portions of an event can be stitched together to provide a complete picture,” says Eddings. “The more perspectives and data we can get the better, in order to build a picture of an event from different angles.”
Media Camp has funded Switchcam, a software that aggregates videos from users and stitches them into video of a single event. “As more wearables make it into the hands of consumers, products such as this will provide new ways of telling a story,” he says.
Wearables also help with the validation of news stories, he says, by transmitting metadata, such as GPS, time, and identity of the user for evaluation by the news organization.
“Imagine what President Obama's inauguration would have been like from crowd-sourced video rather than just the multi-camera set-up. Imagine what a news event like the San Francisco plane crash would be like if reported live via Google Glass from someone onboard.”
Tim Pool, online news producer for Vice Media, has used a Galaxy smartphone to live stream to 7,500 viewers from a Trayvon Martin protest this summer and has also explored Google Glass to livestream from Occupy Wall Street.
In interview with The Guardian he observed: "Some people have told me that it's like journalism video-gaming: an open window into what's going on...and with social media, people can chat with me while I'm broadcasting, and chat to one another, which is just as powerful."
Demonstrating the tech at trade show IBC, Pool observed that journalists need to be more security-aware with new technologies. “A smartphone is like carrying a tracking device. Journalists must beware of protecting themselves and their sources.”
Google Glass is in the hands of a select few users, who not coincidentally make for great brand ambassadors. Media brands with Glassware apps includes Facebook, The New York Times, Twitter, Tumblr, Elle Magazine, Gmail, and Evernote.
Google Glass as the Second-Screen
Among the latest is support from French group TDF Media Services, whose application enables users to record, tag, share, view and manage the videos by voice activation with TDF's cloud-based video platform.
A primer: Google's augmented eyewear comprises a camera, display, touchpad, battery and microphone built into spectacle frames so that users can see a display in their field of view and also film, take pictures and search on the go. Users initiate the device by saying "OK, Glass," which prompts it to accept voice input. By saying "take a picture," "get directions to," or "make a call to" users can command Glass functions. Voice commands also enable users to start a Google+ hangout, use Google Now or search for information online.
Essentially, the hands-free technology promises to make content creation and online distribution incredibly simple and inexpensive. It's easy, for example, to imagine journalists freed from camcorders conducting an interview in the street then uploading the sequence, after applying a descriptive tag, ready to view. It would seem straightforward to put Glass, rather than a video camera, into the hands of a technophobic corporate trainer or university lecturer for remote viewing by staff or students. Consumers and employees can subscribe to a particular service and select the categories they are interested in for streaming in-Glass.
"We believe wearable technology is a significant catalyst for the future of online video," says TDF CEO Julien Seligmann. "In the corporate sector especially, content creation has always been a challenge. The ability of Glass to seamlessly record and share videos enables customers to create content in a more ad hoc and cost efficient way. It is not every day when we get to witness such a disruptive device entering the market.”
Like CNN, TDF's Glassware exploration is similarly designed to keep the organization in front of innovations that may rapidly change the consumer experience. TDF itself comprises companies including CDN and OTT provider Qbrick; secure file transfer technology SmartJog (which ranks HBO among its customers), playout service Cognacq-Jay Image (deployed by Canal+) and metadata management tool BeBanjo (in use at UK network Channel Five and IPTV service BT Vision).
“We are able to offer an end-to-end content management platform for operators,” says Qbrick deputy CEO Rami Alanko. "Our TV customers ready for this new device which we think will change content creation. Almost every company would stand to benefit from an internal discussion about what the future of wearable, internet-connected technologies holds.”
Qbrick Deputy CEO Rami Alenko shows off his Google Glass
TDF developers have embarked on a second phase exploring Glass applications in conjunction with three of its customers. Having had the tech to play with for several months, Alanko says it is already “as commonplace to use as a smartphone.”
“Glass will open up more creative types of videography,” he says. “With Glass, we will be able to record video from an entirely new perspective such as interviews or reality TV shows and take second screen experience to where it should be—on top of the broadcast stream.”
Instead of referring downward to a tablet/smartphone during a live broadcast, would not the viewing experience of live broadcasts on the primary screen combined with a second screen app be more natural if viewed in line of sight?
“It's easy to imagine EPG information and programme guides via Glass or asking what is on next or for background detail on content in the broadcast stream,” suggests Alanko. “Fans in a stadium watching a soccer match could see replayed on-demand highlights in realtime via their Glasses, or receive data from other games in progress.”
This month, Stanford basketball players wore Google Glass for fans attending the event to view the action. In conjunction with CrowdOptic's technology, fans at courtside could see the athletes’ perspective simply by pointing their mobile device in their direction. In addition, spectators were able to join a Google+ hangout or view through their own Google Glass.
There are some obvious limitations to Glass—viewing video is reportedly not great in direct sunlight, and while fine for clip snacking it may not be the best screen for longform content. Connectivity via Wi-Fi or tethering to smartphone via Bluetooth may also inhibit the user base. “For non-English language speakers the speech-recognition system leaves a lot to be desired,” reports Alanko.
Outside of media, a number of enterprise applications are in the works. Spanish Google apps developer Droiders streamed a knee operation live and online froma Glass-wearing surgeon at a Madrid clinic in June. Droiders has apps in development for translation, security cams, calander alerts and reminders, health monitoring, tourism information, emergency SOS, instant purchase, augmented reality, advertising, and tutorials.
“Google Glass will live or die on the experience it creates for people,” says Alanko. “Early adopters will abandon Google Glass if they do not sense the social approval while wearing it or find enough useful, everyday applications. Sooner than later, Glass and other types of wearable computing will be the norm. Google Glass may indeed become the pivotal post-PC device.”
Juniper Research predicts that sales of wearable connected devices will hit $19 billion by 2018, up from the $1.4 billion the industry is expected to generate this year.
Wearables will be a major emergent category at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 where organizers have set aside the WristRevolution TechZone to showcase the latest advancements in wristwatch technology.
CNN is also to launch News Alerts on the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which Eddings says has a different potential to Google Glass.
“The biggest hindrance to Google Glass is the stigma of wearing the device, something that is less likely to hinder the adoption of smartwatches,” says Eddings. “Samsung has the potential of having a large number of Galaxy Gear owners in the market quickly and it will be fascinating to see what happens when it gets into hands of many many people.”
While Google Glass has no competitor as yet, it wouldn't be a surprise if Samsung were to confirm that its patent application for electronic spectacles registered in Korea earlier this week was to be the first of many.