Google Glass just got a whole lot more useful for travel. The connected headset now has official apps for Foursquare, TripIt and OpenTable.
The new apps join Word Lens and Google's own Field Trip (which recently got an upgrade) to create an impressive suite of travel apps for the wearable device. With the apps, wearers can explore their immediate area, make reservations, get updates on planned trips, and even translate signs and menus — all without ever touching a smartphone.
I got a chance to try out the new apps. Foursquare offers an extremely stripped-down experience when compared to the smartphone app, but it gets the essentials: the ability to see venues close by and to check into them. Both are actually accessible via the same command: "Okay Glass, check me into...." With that, the app serves up a "strip" of venues you can browse by swiping; a tap will check you in.
I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't add a photo to a check-in, but I expect that will be one of the first things to be added in subsequent updates.
The upcoming debut of Swarm — Foursquare's plan to split check-ins and discovery into two different apps — suggests the Foursquare Glass app was in development well before Swarm was announced. Given that Glass apps lend themselves to simple experiences, it's unlikely Foursquare will opt for two apps on Glass, but it may rebrand at some point after Swarm's launch.
TripIt inserts its trip updates and information in the Google Now cards that already appear on Glass.TripIt inserts its trip updates and information in the Google Now cards that already appear on Glass. Your flight status, departure time and gate will all appear on a single card like the one, above, easily accessible with a tap and swipe on Glass' touchpad. Although Google Now already provides travel information (assuming the trip is in your Google Calendar), users who prefer to use TripIt can now do so through Glass.
Open Table has its own command: "Okay Glass, make a reservation...." Once you speak those words, a selection of nearby restaurants will appear, ready for you to scroll through. Completing the reservation is as easy as a tap: Your preferences (say, party of three for 8:30 p.m. ) are saved each time, so the app will carry them over, but you can change them with a few more taps and swipes if you wish.
The current version of Google's Field Trip sends you notifications about surrounding points of interest, but the upgrade, released in April, lets you specifically ask what's nearby. When you do, you can get general recommendations, or narrow things down by categories, including Art, Food and Museums. Tap again, and a scrolling list of venues appears.
Finally, Word Lens completes the travel package. The app has been on Glass since last November, but its augmented-reality translation abilities are arguably perfectly suited for smart glasses. With Glass, all you need to do is look at a sign or menu, aim Glass' camera so the text you need translated is in an onscreen rectangle, and the words will change — from, say, Italian to English — before your eyes. On a smartphone, the effect is impressive; on Glass, it blows you away.
This set of apps emphasizes one of the main areas where smart glasses can be truly useful: travel. When you're in a foreign land, having fast access to information about the area you're visiting is essential. Glass not only provides that access, but does it in a hands-free way. If smart glasses ever go mainstream, the category may have the travel industry to thank.
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