Trying Field Trip on Google Glass

Photo taken while I was using Field Trip in San Francisco
Photo taken while I was using Field Trip in San Francisco

Back in May, I visited the Glass Basecamp in San Francisco for a tour of the surrounding area in the city with other Explorers led by Glass Guides.  The event coincided with the launch of the updated Field Trip app on Glass.  The app has been available since Glass launched in a simple form powered by the Mirror API, but this was the first release that used a more feature-rich GDK app and provided much richer content and the ability to prompt the app to surface more points of interest around you in different categories.

Field Trip works in two main ways: contextually pushing cards to your Timeline that bring information about places around you, and in a voice-triggered fashion.  Say “OK Glass, Explore Nearby” and the app will bring up bundles of cards featuring POIs in different categories including History, Art, Architecture, Food and Cool Stuff.  The app remembers what cards you’ve seen and avoids showing you cards for places you’ve been to already, at least in contextual mode (this solves the previous issue I had, where the card telling me all the movie scenes shot in front of Bovard Auditorium kept popping up every time I cruised by on my bike).

Like most Glassware, Field Trip is highly dependent on having a good internet connection.  My experimentation with the app in downtown San Francisco unfortunately came right around the time of Google’s infamous XE16 update to Glass – the first release that moved the device from Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) to KitKat (4.4), a massive jump that came with major performance, reliability, and connectivity problems.  Despite this, Field Trip made the hour walk around SF far more informative and engaging for me.  With Glass now running smoothly on XE21, Field Trip is a great example of a well designed Glass app.

There are some limitations and obvious missing features.  Field Trip would benefit from an option to save places for later research/remembering – it would be cool to be reminded of a favorite POI when you return to a location.  It should offer a way to launch the accompanying Field Trip apps for Android or iOS and pull up more content about the place you’re currently looking at (in general, Glass apps don’t offer integration with their phone counterparts in ways that should be obvious, and Field Trip is no exception). It also lacks an overall map view, which would be a nice way to browse around local POIs instead of swiping through stacks of cards.  Perhaps a similar pan/scroll method to the Glass web browser could be employed.

Field Trip is developed by NianticLabs, a team at Google known for the immensely popular location-based game Ingress.  It comes as no surprise that Field Trip is currently one of the best examples of location-based Glassware on the store to date.

Photo taken while I was using Field Trip in San Francisco
Photo taken while I was using Field Trip in San Francisco

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