What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Glass, Handset, Wear: The $2000 Cheese Sandwich at Wearables TechCon
March 12th, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena
Given how much press is being heaped onto the whole wearable/IoT fad, it was refreshing to hear somebody speak in no-nonsense terms about one way to make it all work. Tuesday morning at Wearables TechCon in Santa Clara, an incredibly poised Rutgers undergrad named Victor Kaiser-Pendergrast gave a one-hour talk exhibiting a specific use case involving both Google Glass and Android Wear [your not-Apple watch].
The motivation for his demo was to highlight the fact that although some apps are perfectly suited to Google Glass [e.g., navigation] and others are perfectly suited to Android Wear [e.g., list selection], there are a host of apps which are best implemented using both technologies.
Shooting a clay target, for example: The target is displayed on Glass and you aim by moving your head. “But I don’t want to smash Glass on my face to fire,” Kaiser-Pendergrast said, “because that dislodges Glass just enough to cause a miss.” For shooting clay pigeons, therefore, it’s better to tap or swipe Wear on your wrist to guarantee an accurate hit on the target.
From that demo, Kaiser-Pendergrast moved to the problem at the core of his talk: Using Google Glass, Android Wear, and as it turns out, an Android Handset to order a cheese sandwich from a local deli.
[A seemingly trivial challenge, but one that demonstrates the true state-of-the-art of linking wearables within the IoT. There’s still a lot of work to be done here, as evidenced by Kaiser-Pendergrast’s cheese sandwich, even though tech keynoters everywhere these days talk as if the IoT in all its glory is just a tap or swipe away.]
Communicating between Wear and Glass is not simple. Wear uses raw Bluetooth to communicate with Handset, but pairing Wear with Glass is not as easy because Google’s design discourages that type of Bluetooth communication with Glass.
“It’s raw Bluetooth that screws things up,” Kaiser-Pendergrast said.
The solution is to connect Wear to Handset, and then depend on Handset to communicate to Glass. Kaiser-Pendergrast showed us a boatload of code to demonstrate how he’s using an Android feature called BluetoothSPP (serial port profile) to connect from Handset to an open socket on Glass: “BluetoothSPP has auto-connect that spins up its own service, and every couple of seconds tries to connect to a device.”
That’s good, right?
Yes, except according to Kaiser-Pendergrast, “Android’s going to kill that service, because they don’t like services that run indefinitely. But that also brings up more questions. Even if Android doesn’t kill the service, is it a good use of the battery to keep a socket always open? That also goes against the whole Android way of doing things.
“So we need some kind of way to communicate to Handset that the Bluetooth socket on Glass is open, probably through a third party. Then when we launch Glass [by touching it or talking to it], we’ll have the third party tell Handset that Glass is ready for communication. Handset will then call up the auto-connect function and try to establish a link with Glass.
“But what kind of third party are we talking about? And isn’t it a kludgey way of doing things to have the user of Glass activate a third party like Google Cloud messaging to initiate communication? Plus, it also means we will need Internet access on Glass to make it work.”
“All of this,” Kaiser-Pendergrast concluded,”is really indirect and not at all the seamless way that Handset and Glass interaction should function.”
Nonetheless, he said, to accomplish the task of ordering a cheese sandwich from the local deli using Google Glass and Android Wear, for now you’ll want to use your Android Handset as an intermediary, sending Wear messages through Handset to Glass, and vice versa [with Google Cloud figuring in there as well].
Okay, let’s stop for a second and ask the obvious question: For those of you now sporting Wear on your wrist and Handset in your pocket, those two devices working in tandem are already sufficiently enabled to order your cheese sandwich from the local deli. So why do you need Glass?
The answer is, Kaiser-Pendergrast isn’t saying you need Glass. At Wearables TechCon he was just demonstrating a use case where Glass was involved. The exercise is about implementing the IoT, one labored step at a time. It’s not about a kaiser roll with frontega cheese.
And yes, we all realize Google Glass is no longer being produced [for now]. Nonetheless, there are just as many instances of that nifty little product in the hands of wearable devotees, as there are Model S sedans in the hands of Tesla acolytes, somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 units.
Just like people who embrace the risks and rewards of cutting-edge EVs are helping to establish that technology, people who play with Google Glass are pushing the wearable envelope and helping to bring the dream of the IoT far closer to the reality that tech keynoters believe is possible.
At the end of Victor Kaiser-Pendergrast’s talk, he fielded enthusiastic questions from his audience.
Q: Google Glass is just designed for the right eye. What if my left eye is dominant?
Q: How much would it cost to get kitted out with Google Glass, an Android Wear device, and a handset to order my cheese sandwich?
Q: San Francisco bars eventually prohibited patrons from wearing Google Glass while in the bar. Do you think that impacted Google’s decision to cancel the program?
Q: What do you do with your free time?
Victor Kaiser-Pendergrast is the developer on DriveSafe and an undergraduate computer science student at Rutgers University. When he’s not occupied with classwork, Victor is busy working on various commercial and research projects. He started developing for Android in 2008, and from there he’s worked on research into computer vision, natural language processing, parallel computing, web backends, and most recently, applications for Google Glass.
He’s always on the lookout for intriguing technological developments, and more than willing to collaborate on ideas with potential. In this past year, Victor has a patent pending for a novel means of image recognition, and has published a book: “Elementary Android App Development.”