At Google in general and IO in particular, there are a whole lot of Glasswearers, and there’s a smattering here at Gluecon where I’m writing this. I don’t own a pair (it’s tough to give them to Canadians for legal reasons) but have had a few looks, and am used to being in a room with them. So, a few things seem obvious.
Are They Obtrusive? · No. The novelty wears off and since they’re not flashing (unless you look real close) or moving, and they tend to neutral colors, they just become part of the visual landscape, right away.
Also, they don’t obscure the essentials of people’s faces, so pretty quick you don’t see people-wearing-Glass, you just see people.
Are They Dorky? · A matter of taste. I think I’m reasonably sensitive to the way people look, and (again, once you’re over the initial shock) they don’t make people look like hopeless basement-dwelling social outcasts. Given the general geek predilection for tech-logo T-shirts & basic jeans, there are a lot of cases where the Glass is the best design statement on some Googler’s body.
There are exceptions: I find they look sort of obtrusive on people with thin faces. But a well-dressed, well-groomed person is not gonna have their look or personal style ruined by Glass.
Are They sui generis? · Nope; the category is “portable Android-based heads-up display.” For example, consider the Recon Instruments Jet goggles, as written up in Wired and modeled (in an engineering prototype) by yours truly.
The display is down and to the right, unlike Glass, and the battery’s on the other side, for balance. It’s sports-oriented; the sample apps are for tracking running and jumping and so on.
It runs a forked Jellybean and there’s an SDK. Recon is in my hometown, Vancouver. I’m a fan.
Now that there are two such products, there will be more.
Presbyopia? · No problem. I need reading glasses for text that’s any closer than a meter or so away. These HUDs are perfectly readable for me. Don’t know how they’re going to work for prescription-lens wearers.
Are They Privacy-Busters? · Potentially, but it doesn’t feel like a big deal. Anybody who thinks they can’t be filmed without knowing is just wrong. Misusing Glass to splash damaging video on the Net is bad behavior and people who do that will be seen correctly as assholes. If a high proportion of people who wear Glass are assholes, that would be a real problem. But most people are decent, most times, in my experience. So why expect the worst?
Having said that, I’m sure there will be litigation as people explore how this fits into existing privacy-legislation frameworks. I can’t imagine that any new legal frameworks are required.
As for the bathroom eye-rolling, gimme a break. It’s already impolite for people to stare at each other in those sorts of situation, and you can’t film someone on a HUD without staring at them.
Do They Meet a Need? · Seems pretty obvious to me; I’m damn sick of hauling out my mobile to find out what time it is, or to check on my next meeting, or to glance at a map, or to snap a quick photo of an interesting streetlight or whatever.
Will They Succeed? · I haven’t got the vaguest. They need work on power consumption and software fit/finish and syncing and lots of other things, and the manufacturing cost needs to come way, way down.
A lot of the things Glass does could maybe work just fine on a smart watch or some such. So in a couple years it might be ubiquitous, maybe it’ll just catch on for certain professional uses, or maybe it just falls flat.
But people, and there are a lot of them, who are saying “Glass is doomed because it’s dorky-looking/privacy-invasive/anti-social” are pretty well wrong; it’s more complex than that.