TechnologyBrowsing the Web with Google Glass

August 5, 2013by Reva McPollom2

As I mentioned in a previous post comparing Google Glass to another augmented reality glasses product, I’m not really into the idea of surfing the Web on Glass. Not because I think browsing content via augmented reality is a bad idea, but because the current Internet experience is based on a desktop/smartphone/tablet paradigm, and because Glass is what I like to think of as AR-lite. Although Glass is an Internet-enabled device, it doesn’t live in the same space as the aforementioned devices, not in my mind anyway. I summed this up in my original post on becoming a Glass explorer:

“The affordances of Glass demand a new approach to data where digital knowledge and real-world exploration coexist seamlessly and unobtrusively; the browser doesn’t meet that expectation…”

Browsing websites on Glass 

I began my test with a search on “Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes” which returned results from,, and in that order. The desktop search results were mostly consistent with the Glass search results, except that and were in reverse positions. Although Glass provided a dialogue with instructions “tap and hold with two fingers,” I found the zoom and click navigation less than intuitive.

You have to tap the side panel on Glass with two fingers then move your head around to view different parts of the page. For an example of what this looks like, imagine looking at wall mural. If you’re standing close to one, to see all of it you would have to turn your head up, down, left right. It’s the same thing with Glass. Swiping two fingers forward and back (or left and right) zooms out and in respectively. To me, swiping back/left to zoom in feels backwards.

Once your clicker is activated you can select links on the page. You’ll know it’s active when you see a circle of white dots – the same circle of white dots that are used in the YouTube video loading dialogue. You align that with whatever you want to click, then tap Glass with one or two fingers to click the link. Once you’ve clicked a link, tapping once on a page (without the clicker activated) gives you the option to go back. Once you go back, tapping once gives you the option to go forward. So as comparison, it takes two taps on Glass to navigate back and forth on pages versus just one click on more traditional Internet-enabled devices.

Glass typically goes to sleep after a few seconds in order to preserve battery life, however, it stays awake longer when you have a web page open (it actually could be the case that you have to swipe down, exiting the web page altogether, for Glass to return to its default sleep action). But when you wake up Glass it does not return to the previously viewed website, instead the default “okay Glass” screen is displayed.

What this means is that on Glass, to get back to that last viewed Web page after the device has awakened from sleep, you have to swipe back to the card with the search results, click that, then click a screen that says “show results”, then select the result which you had previously selected (it should now be the first result you see), then click that result again to get back to the website you were on before putting Glass to sleep.

Computer users have been conditioned to expect much simpler protocols, e.g. moving a computer mouse and seeing the last opened application by default. Glass should provide a card that takes you directly back to the last viewed website to reduce the steps, instead of making you go through the search results again. Though, it may go without saying why Google, being the search giant that it is, would force users to go back through the SERPs each time they want to visit a website.

Oh and internal site search and other website forms are currently unusable on Glass. In order for internal site searches or forms to work on Glass they would need to accept voice input. I don’t see this being an option any time soon, so I might suggest that designers building websites for Glass forgo said site elements.

A case for video

Based on my experience, it’s hard to make a case for searching and browsing on Glass if you have a laptop, tablet or smartphone handy, unless it’s hyper-local. In general, browsing websites on Glass is kind of annoying and a bit straining on the eyes, especially when the site is not mobile-optimized. But watching videos on Glass is a different story. Visually the video quality is decent, and I can see the utility of AR video when multitasking; say watching a recorded interview and typing an article at the same time.

Video discovery is pretty simple with YouTube results tightly integrated into Google SERPs. When I performed a search on Glass with the voice command “okay Glass, Google Gladys Knight videos” the first four results were for YouTube, the fifth result was from To play the video, I performed the same double tap action to activate the clicker, then tapped on the play button on top of the video. None of the other standard video buttons worked, like expand or the play button on the video wrapper. YouTube internal search did not work either, which means any video search has to be initiated from Google.

Since the only way to search for YouTube videos is from Google, it might encourage Glass users to spend more time viewing related content. It’s way easier than swiping back to the start screen and initiating a new Google search. This may be a case for SEOs to consider optimizing YouTube videos to increase their relevancy to other similar YouTube videos so they rank more highly among related videos.


  • Bryson Meunier

    August 5, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    Great info, Reva! Can you take a video or more screenshots of browsing sites on Google Glass?


    August 5, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    Thanks Bryson. Screenshots require the MyGlass App, which is only available on devices with Android 4.0.3 or higher. I don’t have such a device yet but have been looking into the HiSense Sero Pro, it’s a little cheaper than a Nexus 7.

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