Google Glass, the wearable computer from Google. has seen many uses in a wide array of domains: it was used in the medical field as doctors performed surgery that they transmitted live via Google Glass; it was also used in sports, from basketball, to American football and soccer and of course it has been used for entertainment. Glass was even used in an opera, as a few singers and musicians performed while wearing Google Glass. Unfortunately, it seems we will have to wait a bit longer before Google Glass will be used in space, as at the moment it seems it is not good enough for space exploration.
In July this year, NASA performed a series of tests regarding the latest in wearable computers, Google Glass. These tests were meant to determine just how useful Glass would be to astronauts sent in space. In order to determine this, NASA tested Google Glass during NEEMO 18*, an underwater training mission off the coast of Florida. During the NEEMO 18* mission, NASA astronauts were put in an underwater lab and for a few days they tested technologies such as Google Glass and the iPad. The results indicated that Google Glass is “not an optimal tool” for use in such an environment (which isn’t that much different than a space station, like the ISS).
During the NEEMO 18* mission in the underwater lab, astronauts from NASA performed several tests (using the aforementioned devices, Google Glass and the iPad) such as a “sanitation tank purge” operation and assembling and disassembling a piece of exercise equipment. In a surprising turn of events, it seems that NASA astronauts found the iPad to be a lot more useful than Google Glass in performing the aforementioned tests, so for the purpose of this mission, the winner of the two devices was the iPad. That is not to say that Google Glass is a bad product; it just didn’t fit in NASA’s current plans.
After the NEEMO 18* mission in the underwater lab, NASA released a report mentioning why Google Glass will not be used in space, at the moment: “Google Glass is a promising technology, but needs to overcome battery life, display viewing, and scrolling issues in order to be an operational useful tool [...] In its current configuration, Google Glass was useful for data collection (e.g. taking a video or picture) but for current operational procedure/task completion, it is not an optimal tool [...] The iPAD review demonstrated that the iPAD provides features readily adaptable to support operational tasks”.
In order to asses the usefulness of each of the two devices, NASA astronauts that participated in the NEEMO 18* mission rated the iPad and Google Glass based on how they performed in a number of tasks. Google Glass was very useful when it came to capturing photos and videos; however, it didn’t do well in tasks such as reading. The official report released by NASA mentioned that “only a few words at a time could appear on Google Glass [...] Google Glass would time out making it difficult to get back to last slide”. It seems that we won’t see Google Glass used in space in the near future, but as Google will improve the device, we are sure that NASA will give future iterations of Glass a second chance.