I bought myself a pair of Google Glass. They opened up the Explorer program (as they call it) for 'One Day Only!' to anyone who wanted to shell out a pretty silly amount of money to help them continue the extended Beta test of their new device (and if the length of time Gmail was in Beta is any indication, there will be five more incarnations of this thing before it ever goes wide). Anyway, as a sucker for new tech, I bit on Google's one day invitation to get in. I'm fascinated by Glass.
I've heard the arguments against:
Not practical. Too Limited. Invasion of Privacy. End of the World and Society. Too much money. Ugly. Stupid. Nerdy. Useless. Excessive luxury.
Sure, any of those seem fair. I still wanted it.
I'm okay with the collective uncertainty and visceral distaste for Glass. I've been on the uncool side of things before. I was blogging before Facebook, back when it was kind of an embarrassing secret to have a blog. I was tweeting when people criticized and marginalized it for being an unnecessary commentary on the mundane. I got a first gen iPad upon release, when many thought it was superfluous if you already had a laptop. Didn't care. I get excited about new tech, even if it bombs. The same way people like to buy and restore old cars or refinish vintage furniture or splurge on expensive shoes...that's me with ipads, macbooks, iphones, galaxy s4's, fitbits, appleTVs, XBOX, projectors, etc. We live in the future, and I can't get enough of it.
So I bought Google Glass, with almost no real concept of what I was getting.
Here are some loose thoughts after two days:
It comes in a very nice package, as you might expect from Google. There's a well made storage bag, an ear piece with a nylon wrapped cord (take note, Apple), a charger, and a sunglass piece that snaps onto the frame. It looks way less pretentious when it's a robot arm on a pair of actual glasses rather than a robot arm on a weird glassless frame. I was supposed to get a pair of frames ("Split"), but they did not arrive with it. I'm guessing they come later.
Part of the problem with Google Glass is an image problem; a problem with public perception and an overall misunderstanding of what it actually is. I imagined that Glass was a new way to look at the world; a lens through which information would enhance everything I saw. A visual recording of my days, like the grain in "The Entire History of You" episode of Black Mirror. I imagined a Robocopish data processor screen, surmising the landscape around me and guiding me through life unfettered; World 2.0!
But what it really is, is a smartphone screen near your right eye. Google Glass isn't glass or glasses. It's a small computer that hangs off of the side of your glasses frame, projecting a tiny screen slightly above your right eye. From that screen, you can do many things. The arm of the computer is also a touch pad, so scrolling, replying to posts and emails, retweeting, updating your status, and adjusting the settings on the device can happen with a few flicks of your fingers along the side of the Glass device. If you have a device running Android OS, Glass is like the stripped down, way less features version of that, but in a small computer that lives on your head.
You do need to tether Glass to your phone, as well as have bluetooth turned on (for calls, I suppose). I've managed to hang on to my AT&T unlimited data plan up until now, but I was finally forced to get rid of it to allow tethering for my device. I've defiantly resisted letting it go, but their new plan is $50/month cheaper and has 3x more data included than I ever used before (10gb/month) on unlimited so screw it. So long Unlimited Data. It's only a matter of time before AT&T sunsets it forever anyway, IMO.
So once you create a personal hotspot on your phone, setup is simple out of the box. You open up the MyGlass app on your phone and follow directions. It then generates a QR code, which you only need look at with Glass, and it connects you. Pretty slick.
The other big misconception is that Glass should be worn everywhere and at all times. Not so. There is a time and a place for it, just as with anything else. I do understand why people think it looks dumb, because of course it looks dumb. Cellphones used to look dumb. Bluetooth earpieces still look dumb. Uggs? Actually, I've never thought Uggs look dumb. Comfy, but not dumb. Anyway...I imagined that I would wear it everywhere, critics be damned! No. I haven't done that. After two days, I'm still in the "just playing with it whenever I have a second" phase. (yes, I'm still talking about Glass)
I have it set to go on if I cock my head back 30°. It's all so futuristic and unlike any other interface I've used, and that novelty is part of the charm, I'm afraid. From the home screen, you can voice command Glass to do a number of things. What you can actually do depends on which Glassware (think: Apps) you have activate from either the Google MyGlass website or the MyGlass app on your iOS or Android device. I activated Facebook, Path, Twitter, Evernote, a suite of Google apps including YouTube and Gmail, and an interesting one called Field Trip. Field Trip uses your GPS location to find points of interest around you and then occasionally feeds you pop-up information about them...landmarks, historical events, old buildings. Kind of cool, but reminiscent of early iPhone apps that took advantage of the new smartphone technology but didn't have much real world use past the novelty factor. I think what Field Trip is doing is something that Foursqare has been doing for a while. No need for Glass for that.
Shooting video and photos is very cool. It's as simple as turning on Glass with a head flick and a quick audio command:
Take a picture.
And it does. Or you can use the photo button on the top of the unit for even quicker pix. And from there, you can email it, message it, post it, share it, etc. That part is fun, when it works.
I'm unclear about where the State of California stands on driving while wearing Glass, but I have a hunch they aren't into it. It should probably not be legal, but it is pretty cool if you use it for directions. Using Google maps, it maps your course on the screen (which goes off after a few seconds of non-use) and reads directions into your ear. Oh yeah, it can read anything into your ear: Emails, updates, messages, etc. Problem is, it only stores 10 contacts in this version, so you're somewhat limited on who you can email to.
It auto updates new versions of software while it's charging. The charge lasts about 4-6 hours, depending on usage. It plays music through a Google Play app, if you are a subscriber...
Another thing to consider...if you wear it in public, you become an ambassador. People are genuinely curious about it, even if their instinct is to dislike it (or you). If you're not someone who likes being a Google Glass rep, you may want to wait until it's not such a Unicorn in the wild. If you do go out with it, you will probably have to let people try it. A lot.
Ultimately, I think it's still mostly a novelty. Fears of compromised privacy at this point should be no greater than fears of the capabilities of the insidious cellphone. In some ways, cell phones are more stealthy because people are used to seeing them EVERYWHERE. You can fake a text or pretend you're reading an email and take a sneaky photo of someone if you really want to (just turn the flash off, or it it SO embarassing). Google Glass makes you look like a Terminator. No one doesn't know you aren't wearing them. You are a spectacle in public, and it will be that way for a while. You aren't sneaking video or pictures of anyone. (Although, you CAN take a photo by simply winking. Pretty badass. I can't wait for the contact lens version).
The technology is exciting. I think maybe this is not so much about what Glass is right now, but what it can and will be. I like being part of the process of figuring it out, even if I do look stupid/am a glasshole/deserve hazing.
That's it for now. I'll probably follow up once I get a better handle on it. It has, after all, only been 2 days.
I AM GLASSHOLIO...