After a spring launch last year and long chug through the bitter winter, Citi Bike, New York’s bike share program, is on faltering financial ground. But just as the city’s started talking to a new, gym-related investment firm to bolster the program (and possibly raise the annual membership rates), local software developers are looking to entice another kind of demographic to bike-sharing: Google Glass users.
CityRide for Glass, one of the 150 submissions in New York City’s BigApps competition, aims to provide hands-free direction to Glass users navigating the city. Led by Katy Kasmai, CEO of social media polling platform Xocracy and founder of New York City’s Glass meetup, CityRide’s developers want their software to be “the preferred Google Glass app for Citi Bike.” As such, the app responds to commands like, “Okay, Glass, dock a bike” or “locate a bike.”
But is CityRide supposed to be used while actually riding the bikes? It appears so. Kasmai compares the app to car navigation systems, but also suggests that users ride responsibly.
“With CityRide I can keep my eyes on the road and both of my hands on the handlebar and get the information I need without getting distracted, something you can’t do with a mobile phone you have to pull out from your pocket,” Kasmai writes by email.
Possible distraction concerns aside, Google Glass still faces a fair bit of social stigma in the five boroughs. It’s an issue Kasmai herself is familiar with, having been denied service at a popular brunch eatery while wearing Glass earlier this year. Kasmai’s response stirred up controversy when she took to Google+ and Yelp to complain about the incident; the brunch place, Feast, soon reported a series of one-star reviews from Glass enthusiasts.
When I asked Kasmai about how other New Yorkers on the road might perceive a Glass user on Citi Bike, she didn’t express much worry. “As has been highlighted, the need for information that can be delivered without taking your eyes off the road and hands off the handlebars is particularly applicable for bike riders and we’re very excited about the opportunity to help provide this functionality to bikers in NYC,” she writes.
A Citi Bike Glass app does sound like it could be useful, if designed and operated properly. Still, it doesn’t prevent anyone from leaning over and punching Glass off your face at a red light.