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20-40-60 Etiquette: Are we ready for Google Glass?

The Oklahoman's 20-40-60 etiquette panel and guests explore etiquette and privacy issues related to Google Glass as the new wearable device goes out on the town.
by Clytie Bunyan and Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Adam Kemp and Callie Athey Modified: August 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: August 26, 2013

We've been hearing more about wearable technology as a trend that's here to stay.

Smart watches that tether to our mobile phones and wristbands that track health data can run applications. Smartphone-like devices are creeping onto our faces in the form of eyeglasses.

The most prominent of these is Google Glass, which we at The Oklahoman have been testing before it is released to the general public, now scheduled for sometime next year. It's still too early to tell whether people will adopt these devices for mainstream use or simply niche uses, but interest in them is high.

But does wearable tech require a new set of etiquette guidelines? Should we be worried about privacy issues that these devices raise?

To find out whether we in Oklahoma are ready for this kind of tech, The Oklahoman put Google Glass on members of the 20-40-60 etiquette panel — Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Helen Ford Wallace — as well as a couple of others in our newsroom. We wore Glass to church, to outdoor events, at restaurants, at swim meets and other kids' events, on walks and in our workplace. We recorded videos, took photos, posted to Facebook and did Google searches. We demonstrated them to people and let them try it on. We even talked through Glass on the phone and if we wanted to, we could read text messages and tweets through the glasslike “prism” that sits above your face.

And we asked others their opinion about Google Glass.

“The interesting thing is that they're useful if you're wearing them, but I feel uncomfortable wearing them in public because I think they're sort of odd,” said Oklahoma City resident David Glover, 50, who has an early pair as a member of the Google Glass Explorers program and is a community activist who is involved with technology startups in Silicon Valley and locally. “It's probably going to feel more comfortable when it's more ubiquitous and it's more common.”

We wanted to learn whether the general public is or should be concerned about privacy and distractions and whether we needed to learn new tech etiquette rules about how to handle it. By design, Glass sits above your line of sight and doesn't block your vision, and Google intended it to be less distracting than a cellphone. You only glance up at the screen on the glasslike prism when you need the information on it.

Here are some of our experiences, trying to answer this question:

Based on your experience wearing Google Glass, what concerns do you or others have about privacy and etiquette regarding wearable technology that acts like a smartphone? Do you think those concerns are valid?

ADAM KEMP, 20s, general assignment reporter for The Oklahoman: The baby blue glasses felt like a “look at me” sign strapped to my face while walking through the Plaza district on a busy Friday night.

Heads turned frequently as I gave Glass commands to take pictures of the setting sun or to record video of a band playing.

People were curious to see Glass and many people stopped me to ask about them and how I was liking them.

“Hey Google Glass guy!” one complete stranger shouted at me. We ended up discussing for a few minutes the future of this technology as it continues to be developed.

The prospect of having the power of the Internet, your phone and a high definition camera at the tip of your eyelashes is enticing.

But a less positive experience was the questioning looks I received from numerous people in this public setting.

Strangers would see me coming from a block away as I walk toward them, whispering to their friend and pointing at my face. Friends of mine would ask frequently when I looked at them if I was recording them or taking their picture.

I felt awkward “people watching” while eating even though I wasn't taking pictures or video, I felt like I was breaking someone's personal bubble just by looking at them with Glass on my face.

CALLIE GORDON, 20s, event coordinator for Chesapeake Energy Corp. and “20-40-60” panelist: Technology is a term that I have grown up with. Any new-and-improved product has been ingrained into my generation as a mantra: “I must get the new and best product.” When I forget my phone it is the worst feeling. A sense of panic and anxiety takes over.

The newest technology is Google Glass, a wearable smartphone. I expected the experience to be like Google intended: Instead of looking down at your phone you're looking up, out and into the world! Instead of putting your phone in your pocket or your purse, it is on your face!

Being one of a few thousand in the world to try on and experience Google Glass before the launch, I was excited!

However, once I got the Glass, I noticed annoyances. First, it was hard to get it to fit over my sunglasses or glasses. Glass comes with black lenses you can put on with the glass. They looked like the ones you wear after you get your eyes dilated — um, no thank you.

Speaking to it to “take a picture” made me feel odd when others were around. Strangers would stare at me with confused looks on their faces as I ordered my coffee, ate lunch outside and browsed the bookstore. Only my colleagues, friends and family had the courage to ask “What is on your face?!”

During work I felt distracted more by something on my face than something in my purse. That got me thinking of how Glass would be beneficial to my everyday life. My phone is connected to my car, making it hands free, so I didn't need the Glass for my car. Searching the web was difficult, maybe due to the fact that I wasn't used to the product.

To make a long story short, I don't have a use for this in my everyday life and I still prefer my smartphone in my hands. I like being able to put away my phone when I am eating lunch with someone, in a meeting, out with friends or just making dinner. While I know I am not “in” with my generation by being against this new technology, I am finding myself pushing it away. One, it is totally dorky looking; two, I didn't need it for my everyday life; and three, it could be a privacy issue for people. I am OK getting my phone out when I want to take a picture, video or search the web. For now, personally, I'm not ready for this change.

LILLIE-BETH BRINKMAN, 40s, The Oklahoman's assistant features editor and “20-40-60” panelist: In my successful application to the Google Glass Explorer program, which is how we brought the device to The Oklahoman, I said that I wanted to explore tech etiquette, everyday life and relationships using this new device, and that's what I've done, as a working mom whose daily experience mirrors that of many. I've taken it everywhere I've been, like the grocery store and out with friends and even zip lining, and I've gotten all kinds of reactions, mostly positive. I've loved the perspective of photos and videos; I see a lot of potential as people develop apps to make it even more usable for us.

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by Clytie Bunyan
Director of Business and Lifestyles
Clytie Bunyan joined The Oklahoman in 1989 as a Metro desk reporter. She later moved to the Business desk to cover real estate and presided over extensive coverage in the 1990s about the then-uncertain future of the Skirvin Hotel. She also has...
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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Adam Kemp
Enterprise Reporter
Adam Kemp is an enterprise reporter and videographer for the Oklahoman and Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State...
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by Callie Athey
Freelance Writer
Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a...
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