Clumsy Strangers and Attacking Insects: My Two Hazardous Months Wearing Google Glass

Cradling my bike, right foot on the curb, left hand on the handlebar, I stood and waited for Glass to give me directions to my destination. As I stared into the rectangular prism above my eyebrow, I felt a tap on my right shoulder. Before I could turn, a voice asked, “Are those the new Google Goggles?” “Google Glass, actually!” I responded. 

(Note: this guest blog is written for Avaya Connected by Carlos Monterrey, a San Jose, Calif.-based writer, who also supplied the photos.)

I’ve been using Google Glass – no plural, thank you very much – for over two months now. I was one of the lucky few who secured a pair through Google’s Glass Explorer Program for developers and early adopters. 

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Carlos, about to be accosted by a friendly stranger over his choice in eyewear.

Like most explorers, I had a vision of grandeur, a hope for technologic luxury and exciting innovation. The reality is unfortunately more mundane. Wearing my charcoal-colored Glass in public has made me more self-conscious than I expected to be, especially in public restrooms, gyms, and other peeper-sensitive settings.

Being an early adopter of wearable technology also comes with a peculiar civic duty. When you’re the owner of globally-publicized, bleeding-edge gadgetry, the burden to share, teach and entertain is all too real, with friends and family, as well as the ever-looming friendly stranger.

This scenario, which has already played itself out more than a dozen times, goes something like this:

1) Ask about Glass.

2) Ask if they can wear it. 

3) Talk loudly in an attempt to make it do something cool. “OK, Glass…umm, Ohmigod, is this like Siri?” 

4) Clumsily swipe the Glass’ touchpad, causing it to dial your cousin, girlfriend, and other random people in your address book.

5) Accidentally post unflattering pictures of themselves. 

I get why people are so curious about its design. The nearly-indestructible frame weighs next to nothing. It produces HD quality video, and its bone conduction audio system is extremely effective. Most people stare out of curiosity, and all of the comments have been positive (possibly-relevant note: I live in the heart of Silicon Valley). 

Some spiteful non-users and cultural gatekeepers are bashing Glass as just being the latest symbol of nerd-dom – like a Segway, only wearable. Wired magazine recently had an article titled “Guys Like This Could Kill Google Glass Before It Ever Gets Off The Ground” showing young, savvy tech investors wearing Glass and looking “goofy” — meaning that if they can’t look cool wearing them, neither can we. I won’t weigh in on the fashion aspect, but I will say one thing: most people are curious to try on a pair when they see one. And food for thought: I was told that taking pictures with Glass made me look exponentially less bourgeoisie than taking pictures with an iPad.

Looking Glassy-Eyed, and Other Hazards

My initial plan was to build an app for Glass, a venture that was more educational than entrepreneurial. That hasn’t come to fruition. The Glass Developer Kit (GDK), which would give developers access to the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to build apps for Glass, was announced at the Google I/O conference in May. Despite the release of other Glass features, the GDK still hasn’t been released. 

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The Latest Symbol of Conspicuous Nerd-dom, ala a Wearable Segway?

That’s got me and other Glass owners impatient. Whenever I wear Glass, I can’t help but imagine a plethora of possible applications: x-ray vision, telekinesis and mobile home theatre. Jokes aside, the included applications – hands-free picture and video, GPS navigation, voice command – though limited, are practical. They work quickly and eloquently, with the only drawback being, for a lack of a better term, looking “Glass-eyed.” This refers to the motionless stare that most users have when actively using Glass. My story: I was taking pictures atop one of my favorite hiking trails. While composing my photo, I was so motionless – necessary in order to reduce image blur – that a fly nearly flew into my mouth. 

Though the future of Glass as a social innovator is still questionable, some are turning their attention to workforce applications. Think of Square and how it eases credit card payments for very small businesses; Glass could do the same for inter-business communication. 

I think back to when I was 19 and at my first part-time job at the Home Depot. Within days of getting hired, the manager called me to his office and told me that I’d be working the electrical department because the usual guy had called in sick. Naturally I knew nothing about electrical appliances, or electricity for that matter. I spent the rest of the day avoiding questions from confused customers–sorry Home Depot. 

What a difference it would have made if I’d had something like Glass! Imagine scanning a QR code and getting everything I needed to know about fluorescent light bulbs projected directly in front of my eyes instantly. If I was really in trouble, I could have paged for assistance. Or I could have conducted a quick screen-share with a co-worker in the lumber department who knew a little more about connecting ground wires to service boxes for pre-WWII house than this teenager.  

RoboCop, and Other Industrial Uses

Law enforcement agencies have been tinkering with ideas similar to Glass for a while. Imagine having image recognition apps that instantly tell you everything you need to know about a person; height, weight, criminal background etc. in a hands-free headset. 

A person operating machinery in a factory can update supervisors in real-time about potential dangers by literally relaying what he or she sees. A handyman may not need to pull out his bubble-level anymore
because the projected image of a geometric line will tell him if the shelf on the wall is straight or not. We’re only limited by our imagination, truly. 

Unwilling to wait, programmers have tinkered with Glass and started compiling a list of hardware functions and specifications. They include a Texas Instrument OMAP4430 processor, accelerometer, gyrocompass and a proximity sensor. These could enable the holographic hand swiping made famous by Tom Cruise in the movie, “Minority Report”. All told, the components are worth between $150 and $200 – low, when you consider that the list price today is $1,500. Insiders predict that Glass will retail between $300 and $500 when it becomes widely available. 

In my opinion, $500 should be the highest price — especially if Glass doesn’t expand on its current list of features. It’s to Google’s advantage to release the Developer’s Kit as quickly as possible, as the creativity of developers and the apps they build will justify the concept of wearable computers – or not. Only then, will we be able to judge if wearing Glass on your head is truly better than pulling out your smartphone.

In a world where technological innovation is intertwined with seamless integration, Glass represents the way of the future for wearable technology, at least the early stages of it. They are like Google’s self-driving cars, which are just now starting to become visible on highways across America. The day will come when people will get used to the idea of mobile glassware technology; further advancing the fusion between technology, culture and person. Until then, I’ll continue to be interrogated about my choice in eyewear by friendly strangers.

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