Saturday, January 7, 2017

More MAD Gaze (user review)

Previous blog entries on MAD Gaze:
MAD Gaze -first look
MAD Gaze - second look

Well, things started off well (solid, professional-looking, well-packaged product) before hitting the wall (unable to connect); here is the ongoing story of my trials and tribulations with the MAD Gaze.

Having been unable to connect to either of two WiFi networks at home, I gave it a try in the evening using the public WiFi network at my place of employment. I followed the exact same procedure and it surprised (and annoyed) me by immediately connecting to the WiFi! I have tried to figure out why this is, without success (for example, I screen captured the QR code and read it. It showed 55555workSSID; WPA/WPA2 PSK; pubpassword so clearly the extraneous 5555 is not the issue...). Note: It still refuses to connect to my home network.

So, next I did the "Connect Mad ID" step and that worked flawlessly too. I received a confirmatory email and the device showed up in the 'Account and Device' section of the phone app. 


OK, so now I put it through its paces. The results? A very mixed bag:

  • Display: Verdict: mixed - fairly crisp, but sometimes the font was too small to read easily, for example in the sub-menus. Occasionally a font was in a different color (e.g. a brown font), which is pretty hard to distinguish. 
  • Sound: Verdict: good - when the MAD Gaze spoke it was clear; overall it also did an excellent job of recognizing voice (even if the subsequent results were less than stellar e.g. see below).
  • Connectivity: poor - as evidenced by the difficulty getting a WiFi connection (see earlier blog entries). Also, I never succeeded in establishing a Bluetooth connection between the Mad Gaze and my phone.
  • Hardware: Verdict: Good - it would have been excellent were the touch panel a little more solid and responsive. Occasionally commands (e.g. tap once, tap twice would not be recognized, more than a little frustrating.) Once in a while in the middle of a function the display would unexpectedly and inexplicably prompt for a two-finger press, which would take you out of the function and to the Control Center.
  • Fit: Verdict: mixed - using the headband proved to be the best option to wear the X5. My glass frame was too narrow to hold/use the X5 with the provided glasses clip. Additionally the weight is such that when attached to glasses it was too heavy and the glasses became unwearable. However, the headband was comfortable, and also held the X5 steady enough to use while walking (it's quite amazing how much 'jiggle' one's head does while walking along... our eyes/brain accommodate this so that it is imperceptible to us, but it becomes a bit more obvious when you walk around with something strapped to your head!)
  • Battery life: Verdict: poor - after a couple of hours messing around with the X5 and trying out the various items of functionality, the MAD Gaze ran out of power and needed to be plugged in and recharged. Clearly inadequate for longer-term use...

  • The pre-installed functionality:
    • MAD Gaze Controller: Verdict: poor - the idea/thought of using QR codes to input required information for the connectivity was good; the implementation significantly less so. I'm still not sure what the issues are with my home WiFi, and, more importantly, with Bluetooth (since when you are walking around - outside - presumably you would be using the Bluetooth connection to your phone and not a WiFi connection!) ...
    • Camera and Gallery: Verdict: good/unclear - starting the camera turned on the viewfinder; this was really well done and clear, and walking around with this on was a much better experience (from a display perspective) than the other functionality. Taking pictures and video was a snap. Where the 'unclear' comes in is viewing the results. The images and video are stored on-board the MAD Gaze.You can scroll through and view them in the Gallery; however that isn't the greatest because of the diminutive size. The manual states that "...Micro USB to USB Cable that comes with the device can be used to transfer image and other files from MAD Gaze to computers, or vice versa..." This proved to be an overly optimistic statement! Plugging in to a desktop USB port allows the recharge of the X5, but driver installation failure made it impossible to read the storage and transfer the photos and video to the desktop for review! Looking in Device Manager showed that it appeared to be an issue with a MT65xx driver, see below. Multiple attempts to get this to work were unfruitful. First I tried on 3 different desktops, one laptop, and my GPD Win 10 (with different flavors of Windows, from 7 to 10 Home). After Googling, I also attempted the fixes referenced online, first disabling digital driver signature on the desktops, then attempting to update the driver using various versions downloaded from various android web sites. Several hours of futzing later, with one BSOD under my belt, I gave up for now. The bottom line: I am unable to really evaluate the photos and videos taken, to see how good/poor they are. I might take a run at this again next week!
    • Alarm: Verdict: OK
    • Voice Assistant: Verdict: Good/flawed - I say 'good' because it did an excellent job of understanding what I was saying; however the follow-up was poor. So, when I asked for the weather it was very hard to read the results since the font was smaller to accommodate the information in the display! When I asked for the news ("Show me the news") it showed a single headline from CNN (well, this was probably good from a legibility standpoint; however to see another headline I had to repeat the command) Similarly, when I spoke addresses when using Navigation, etc. it did a fabulous job in recognizing what I had said (the addresses showed on the display), but then most locations were reported as 'not found.'
    • Image Translator and Voice Translator: Verdict: N/A - not having a Chinese menu (or similar document) handy, I didn't test this functionality. Ditto for the voice translator.
    • Navigation: Verdict: fail - OK, before trying this you need to have Location Services turned on in Settings.etc. When starting any/every GPS application I have ever had or tried one always can start with the display of one's current location before using directions, etc. With the X5 when I started Navigation it waited for me to voice command a destination. Now, it did exceeding well at recognizing whatever  I said, be that a landmark or a specific address (Dayton airport, 1234 Main Street, Somewhere, OH 41142, etc.). However it then could 'find' none of them; they were all reported as 'location not found.' I'm not sure if this is X5-related, or if  this was because it had no Bluetooth connection to my phone; however, I had absolutely no luck. Note, I did try "McDonalds" and here it brought up a big list of 'McDonalds XXX,' where XXX was various Chinese ideograms/logograms...  I did not follow-up with any of them!
  • Other applications: The MAD Gaze folks offer additional applications; or at least the manual says they can be accessed by visiting the MAD Store with your phone. Ever intrepid, I tried to visit the MAD Store; unfortunately my phone browser (Firefox) never resolved the address (on several attempts) , see below:

The bottom line? I did not test everything, for example the MAD Gaze X5 Earphone, etc. However, overall, I was really, really disappointed. This was due to very basic flaws (the connectivity - WiFi, Bluetooth, and desktop - issues, the Navigation issues, etc) that completely undermined glimmers of brilliance in some areas! More than anything else it is these glimmers that make me sad that the MAD Gaze X5 did not live up to expectations!  I'm not too worried about the money I spent, since I popped for it at the earlier, discounted, backer rate!  Were I to have bought this at the regular rate (currently USD 719, per their web site) I would be really ticked off!

One final comment... In this day and age I can't imagine why any firm producing a newer electronic product would not set up user forums, where users can ask question, swap stories, discuss issues, help each other out, etc. And where the vendor can help with trouble-shooting and problem-resolution. I searched mightily and found nothing; which makes it even more reprehensible that not having provided such a forum they did not respond to a couple of emails asking for help! 

Miscellaneous Information:
Hong Kong Smart Glass Startup Taps IBM Cloud to Combine Augmented Reality and Cognitive Capabilities

Sad to say, but the MAD Gaze X5 is to be exiled to the 'closet of misfit and expired/replaced/obsolete technology.'

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