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.
Most who see me wearing the device are not that concerned with privacy because they can see when it's recording, and I'm not hiding it on my face. That fear seems to be more in the abstract or in the news. As more people have them, however, I can see concerns about secret recordings and videos growing simply because we're not paying attention to who around us has a camera. That happens now with smartphones, security cameras, etc.
Also, fears about it being distracting dissipate when they see how high up on the face it sits, out of my field of vision. The distraction happens more when a person first wears it and gets used to the controls. It's very comfortable.
However, the longer I have it the more self-conscious I have become with Glass on. It is an attention-getter, where I either find myself answering questions from strangers about it or I am the recipient of some strange, curious stares. I love answering and demonstrating it, but after a short time, I put it away when I'm with friends so I can enjoy hearing what they're doing instead of having the focus be on me.
I do see the need for some etiquette rules to guide us, but they're similar to the Golden Rule that already applies to all etiquette situations — treat other people as you want to be treated:
Don't record without people's permission, and be clear when you're taking a photo or start a video. Don't make the other person uncomfortable when you're wearing them; even if you're not recording, take it off if they ask you to. And be wary of what the device is doing while you're wearing it. When I told a recent story to some friends in person, something I said threw the device into voice activation mode, specifically a Google search. While I had Glass connected to my smartphone, it keyed in on a certain phrase I said in telling the story about zip lining. When I looked up at the device, I was surprised to see such risqué photos in my Glass stream. To keep that from happening again, I banished it to the car temporarily.
But that's the problem. As Glover said, “if you're not wearing them you're not getting any use out of them.”
It's been difficult for me to get past the novelty of Glass and actually using it to be helpful. I would rather tell the world “I'm using this device for work reasons,” than just be wearing it on my face for personal use.
I find that Glass is a remarkable device that will truly be helpful in the future. Today it's fun to use it to dream about possibilities, and people have found some marvelous niche uses for it. But it has a long way to go before the general public accepts it as an essential part of the day like we now regard our smartphones.
CLYTIE BUNYAN, 50s, director of business and lifestyles for The Oklahoman and NewsOK: It's Sunday, and I'm contemplating over breakfast whether to wear Glass to church. I'd worn it before, one day at lunch and patrons stopped eating to ask about what it can and can't do. To have that reaction at Mass was worrisome, but the Glass is so cool that I couldn't resist wearing it after I got dressed.
I walked in to church and could see the heads turning as I walked to my seat. The young man in the pew ahead of mine smiled broadly when he turned around and saw the one-lens contraption on my face. Others looked curiously, clearly wondering what in the world I was wearing.
The internal debate I'd been having all morning got into full gear. As a journalist, I love the possible capabilities of the Glass; as an individual, not so much, especially in places where privacy is assumed. There's something rather uncomfortable about recording people without their knowledge. Mass was about to begin, and though I'm sure there may be an argument for wearing Glass in church, such as to record the mass to watch it again later, I felt an overwhelming irreverence. I decided this was not a place for Glass. If cellphones had to be off, Glass should be stored as well. I didn't want to be the cause of people disregarding why they were in church.
After Mass, I took it out again and allowed some friends to try it on. But it seemed like there was divine interference. The Wi-Fi disconnected.
Incidentally, I also think patrons should not be allowed to wear Glass at a restaurant. Can you imagine some unflattering photo of you while eating showing up all over social media?
HELEN FORD WALLACE, 60-plus, The Oklahoman's Society Editor and “20-40-60” panelist: While wearing Google Glass, I quickly realized that it is my new favorite technology. On a trip to Stillwater for an interview with Ann Hargis, wife of Oklahoma State University president, Burns Hargis, the only trouble I had was trying to figure out how to extend video time. I kept scrolling to the wrong screen. It was distracting to the people I was interviewing and to me. It might not have been so distracting if I had known how to work it properly. I used Google Glass to take video of the gardens and photographs of the people that I needed for my newspaper article.
I felt like I had a friend helping me record what I was seeing, which was OSU gardens. When I said, “OK, Glass” to launch voice activation commands, it was in the ready mode and I didn't have to dig around in my purse for a camera or a phone.
One other distraction of Google Glass was the fact that people who knew what it was wanted to talk about it or to try it on.
Ann Hargis, as she watched me wear Glass around, noted “I appreciate having the light on (a small button right on the glass) for video so I know I am being recorded.”
Really, if I owned Google Glass I would wear it as much as possible, but I would ask permission of the person I was interviewing. If I already had the Glass on my face and gave instructions to turn it off or on, the person I was interviewing could also hear those instructions. They could ask me to refrain from taking pictures or recording if they wanted to and I would certainly comply. So, new etiquette rules would seem to be to at least let people know you are taking pictures and/or recording.
When you are using it as a smartphone, you are looking outward while you are taking a picture, as opposed to being behind a camera, and also, when you are using the voice-activated texting mode, you are also looking outward and not down at your phone. You can wear Google Glass and look at people and stay engaged in conversation, which is always good manners.
Although it will take some practice to learn to use it in the right way, it's a great interview tool. It's a great conversation piece. I love Google Glass!
To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.