How To Develop Useful Google Glass Apps

How To Develop Useful Google Glass Apps
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Google Glass — glasses with a built-in screen, Internet connectivity and the ability to run apps — has attracted lots of attention from developers since its launch last year. But how can you build apps for the platform that are actually useful, not just oddities that will disturb passers-by?

Saurabh Jain, ANZ general manager for technology for global property management services giant DTZ, has been experimenting with developing property management applications for Google Glass since the beginning of this year. Jain showed off some of those applications at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in the US last week, and demonstrated them off at an Oracle media event in Sydney today.

“The big question you have to ask is: how do you make something better on a wearable device?” he said. Merely moving an existing desktop or mobile app to the platform isn’t helpful.

“The first time, we made the mistake of trying to replicate what we did on the mobile phone on Glass,” Jain said. “That didn’t work.”

Rather than trying to build a general-purpose app, DTZ has found more success in using Glass for helping to speed up and automate processes which have a relatively well-defined workflow. “What can you do simpler, what information can you give people at the right time, and how can you make their tasks easier are the key questions,” Jain said. “We want to eliminate steps. The way it improves productivity is to let someone know something they need to know without having to ask.

In property management, the obvious area to develop is handling maintenance requests and work orders. A maintenance worker wearing Glass can be notified of urgent problems in a building they’re actually in, rather than having to log in and seek them. Similarly, someone visiting a new work site can have relevant jobs sent to them once the system detects they are in a particular location. They can also watch safety induction videos before commencing a task.

“Small videos work quite well — it can’t be more than 10 or 20 seconds or you find you get distracted.” Video of a repair can also be recorded for checking.

While DTZ has been impressed with the system it has developed, Jain said he suspects the final version will be on a watch or some other form factor. “The current limitation of going large-scale is the availability of the hardware — it may be some other variant,” he said. Google hasn’t set a broad-scale release date for Glass and the prototypes are expensive — DTZ has just six pairs for testing.

“It’s not quite product ready,” Jain said. :It’s more like a beta hardware device. It’s still got the nerd factor — that’s why I don’t think it will become mainstream.” Testers using it still spend a lot of time explaining to observers what’s going on, Jain noted — something that might not happen with a watch.

For more Google Glass developer tips, check out our previous guide to issues to consider when building for the platform.