Google Glass is a new technology that puts many of the tools we use on our smartphones today in a small square-shaped “prism” that rests above your eye.
Being a part of the early adopter group in the U.S. to have this technology, I've been wearing Google Glass for two days. After wearing Google Glass from California, where I picked it up, and back to Oklahoma, I've realized that people have lots of questions and thoughts about the new device that looks like glasses and brings computing to your forehead.
People who have seen me wearing Glass were intrigued, amazed and saw a lot of potential in the device with a heads-up display. However, others have raised concerns about privacy, tech distractions and the dangers of using it while doing other things, like driving.
I've had questions from a woman who took my order in the McDonald's drive-thru window, people behind the counter at the airport shop, air travelers, people at work and others, all who want to know more about the device that until now they had only read about because it has not yet been released for sale to the general public:
“Is that Google Glass?”
“What does it do?” “How does it work?”
“Does it work with prescription glasses?”
“That is one of the neatest things I've seen.”
“Wow! I can't wait to show friends I tried on Glass.”
“This is the future.”
Svetlana Saitsky, who works for Google demonstrating Glass to the early “Explorers,” has the perfect answer to the “future” statement when she hears it:
“Actually, it's the present. You're missing the fact that it's right here,” said the 27-year-old, whose enthusiasm for the device and its potential is catching. “I love to tell people that.”
The early Explorers are either developers or those who were selected via a social media contest to try out the device before it goes on the market, which is how I was eligible to buy a pair. The beta-version of Glass retailed for $1,500 to the Explorers, but most people in the tech industry that I talked to said they expect the price to come down before it is released to the public.
After being selected through the contest, I found myself in Mountain View last weekend, drinking Champagne at Google headquarters with my dad to toast the experience and listening to Saitsky show me how it works.
Glass rests on your forehead like glasses, but it includes a clear prism that rests above your eye and acts as a projector for information. On the prism, you can see photos, videos taken by the device, information from Google, texts, incoming calls, posts that mention you from connected Twitter feeds, the weather and other “Glassware,” which is what applications are called that people will develop specifically for the device. Many of the apps we've grown accustomed to on our smartphones are not yet on Glass.
Saitsky explained to me when I picked up Glass that Google's intention for the device was to make it “Simple. Human. Now.” Those words, she noted, encompass Google's lofty goal to get people away from hunching over their cellphones, tapping, and back into the real world, interacting and connecting with each other. It's still too early to tell whether that's what how the general public will use Glass.
Although you can attach provided shades for the sun or clear shields to protect your eyes for, say, a motorcycle ride, Glass is designed without lenses (and with the prism above the eye), so there's no barrier between your eyes and the real world. To use the device, you look slightly up. You control it with voice commands and by swiping or tapping the computer on the right side by the temple. You hear it through bone conduction behind the ear. It is so lightweight and out of my line of vision that the more I wore it, the less I remembered I had it on.
Glass and its new technology is definitely a conversation magnet that brought me in touch with interesting people.
At the airport, first I met Dave Head, an optical engineer from San Jose, Calif., who is now turning discarded optical lenses into art — mobiles that refract light in different colors. He had already tried them on, and they didn't work well over his prescription glasses, but he asked me about them and then told me about his interesting art.
Google has said it hopes to eventually offer a prescription option, perhaps when the device goes on sale to the general public.
Because of Glass, I also met Hitesh Patel, a nuclear medicine technologist from Springfield, Mo.; Jane Smith, a retiree from Edmond; and Brock Shetley, a University of Oklahoma sophomore majoring in air traffic control. All wanted to try it on. Shetley texted his friends to prove it. Smith told her children about it and then later had to ask what it does so she could explain it better. I only caught the first name of another woman who wanted to try it on, Carol, who works in the field of child nutrition and obesity.
And one friend who tried it, Monica Hoover, who has worked as a registered nurse, saw all kinds of potential applications for the medical world to use — because it's voice-activated, it might be able to translate a non-English-speaker's concerns to a doctor wearing Glass. Or maybe the deaf could take advantage of it, with the vibrations that users feel when the device speaks, she said. Others have suggested bloggers could use Glass for food demonstrations as they host “Google Hangouts” that project what they are doing and seeing to viewers watching on the Internet.
The privacy concerns for this device are real, and people don't always notice Glass — the flight attendants did not see it on me when they asked everyone to turn off electronic devices so they didn't ask. Also, Glass to me doesn't at first appear to be a distraction while driving because it doesn't sit in my line of sight and you use voice commands to take calls or use it.
But those are valid issues to keep discussing as more understand what the device can and cannot do. For now, Google has made an intriguing, sturdy device that works well, as promised, and that has gotten people talking about the future — and the present.