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.

Tim wearing an engineering prototype of the Recon Jet heads-up display

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.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Paul Johnson (May 22 2013, at 17:44)

What about safety issues resulting from the constant distraction?


From: Bud Gibson (May 22 2013, at 18:24)

I can see the sports oriented and navigation use cases right away. I can also imagine battlefield and security uses. That's where a lot of funding for wearables originally came from.

Simply stated, there are clearly markets for this kind of thing.

However, I don't see an everyday all time scenario like some envision. Things like lasik exist for a reason. People get fatigued wearing classes no matter how light the frame.


From: Hurr durr (May 22 2013, at 18:42)

Wow a Google employee telling us Glass is the non intrusive and totally omg cool. How unbiased and believable!


From: Kendall Gelner (May 22 2013, at 19:26)

The fundamental problem I see is exactly that they are glasses; most people don't like wearing glasses all the time, and the only ones many people do wear, sunglasses, are usually cheap because they are lost or broken.

Google Glass would not seem to integrate well with wearing sunglasses, and a pair of Google Sunglasses would be extremely expensive.

Where will wearable tech like this go eventually? My thought is either clothing, or watches, or even hats where you could drop down a display. I personally do not like watches but wouldn't mind an augmented hat...


From: John M. (May 22 2013, at 19:37)

I'm curious, what legal reasons make it tough to give them to Canadians?


From: Oluseyi (May 22 2013, at 19:56)

“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.”

None of those are needs, just minor aesthetic revisions on existing functionality. Time, calendar and directions could be served up on a smart watch, as you point out, and there are some advantages to having your camera on the end of your arm rather than your face. Overall, Glass seems to fulfill the category "occasional nice-to-have," and that's a real problem.

The bit from the Businessweek profile of Google X where Larry Page said they were "basically done"? That's a bigger problem.


From: Rob Z (May 22 2013, at 20:24)

Based on your pic, I'm going to take your "not unfashionable" critique with a grain of salt ;)


From: Ken (May 22 2013, at 20:53)

I guess the question is, is "hauling" out your phone to find the time, a map, or a "photo of an interesting streetlight" a significant use case for people?

It seems like a pretty big price to pay (money right now, but in the future, still another gadget to carry and keep charged) just to save 2 or 3 seconds now and then.

That's why it seems to some of us like it's novelty they're selling, not practicality.


From: bob smith (May 22 2013, at 21:25)

People will get dam sick of wearing glasses all the time too. And dam sick of the slow input systems that glasses have.


From: Dave Cohen (May 22 2013, at 22:25)

All this debate about Google Glass is quite silly considering there's next to zero interest in it from regular people… you know, the people who buy consumer devices. If you look at some of the reports, Google Glass will sell somewhere between Nexus Q and Segway's numbers.

In short, Google Glass is dead on arrival.


From: Aardman (May 22 2013, at 23:13)

Google Glass and its ilk will be great for special use occasions such as when you are hang gliding and want to record your visual experience, or when you're hiking in the woods and want an easy hands-free GPS read out. But it will not be the 24/7 device that Google wants it to be. No waitress will want to serve you wearing that. Bank security guards will ask you to remove them before you even enter the premises. People will look away and give you a conspicuously wide berth if you walk down the sidewalk wearing that. The experience related in the article is from Geekworld and is different from how normal people will react to Google's Stalker Spectacles once their capabilities become common knowledge. --Walk around holding a camcorder up as if you are recording with it, How do people around you react to that? That's exactly the reception Glass will get.


From: AlanAudio (May 23 2013, at 00:42)

If you ask people about their experience of watching 3D TV or movies, the most often heard downside is having to wear those special glasses.

Why would people suddenly decide that wearing special glasses in now something that they want to do all the time ?

It looks as though the wearable computing solution is likely to end up as a choice between glasses and a watch format. My feeling is that a watch style device is much more appropriate for all day use and more socially acceptable too as the user is seen to be using it, rather than appearing to look at you while actually concentrating on something else.

All sorts of things are possible with technology, but unless that technology is coupled with a proper understanding of how people react to it, it risks being a flawed solution. The emotional reaction to a product is often underestimated, but is hugely important.


From: Lucian (May 23 2013, at 03:03)

For me they fill a simpler need: I have to wear glasses at least some of the time anyway, I might as well make them actually do something useful.


From: Space Gorilla (May 23 2013, at 05:56)

The obvious needs you list are better served by a wrist device, not a watch exactly, more of an iBracelet. Think scaled down iPod Touch with a curved screen, lots of voice UI, decent size screen for quick glances, good camera, maybe small solar panels on the sides and bottom of the bracelet to extend use. A bracelet has a lot more possibilities.

Also, a wearable device with limited function has to be a reasonable price. Glass is years away from being a reasonable price.


From: foljs (May 23 2013, at 06:08)

Wow a Google employee telling us Glass is the non intrusive and totally omg cool. How unbiased and believable!

I second that...


From: Steve Lim (May 23 2013, at 07:15)

"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?"

-IMHO that is naïvely optimistic. Please consider Dongle-gate as an example of how we collectively don't understand public shaming. Even without Google Glass. This is a question of etiquette, so please consider how widespread poor etiquette is when it comes to our phones.


From: d.w. (May 23 2013, at 07:36)

I think a valid issue, even among techies, is an uneasiness about what role, exactly, this product fills for Google. Is this a product that is expected to be a direct profit center (i.e. is the monetization strategy derived directly from selling the hardware) or does it fit in some other way? One thing I've noticed is the increased focus from a lot of recent Google products on being able to tie location to your Google ID.

Frankly, one of the reasons I still use Apple maps on my IOS devices (for my chunk of the USA, the results really aren't significantly worse than other navigation apps) is that I know Apple's monetization strategy (sell me shiny stuff), where Google's is more obscure.


From: Tom (May 23 2013, at 07:52)

I don't think manufacturing cost is a big issue at all. Compared to a smartphone (which costs about $100 to $200 to build) you save on the display, CPU and battery. Or where is the big cost? If Google ordered 1 million of these for the launch they could sell start selling them for $399 and, assuming the mass market catches on, go down to $199 within 5 years.

I honestly wonder if this $1499 price point and even the reference in your post is a marketing effort to make the device more desirable, similar to when Apple, one week before the iPad launch, leaked a price of $999 to the WSJ.


From: Dan (May 23 2013, at 08:08)

Morality and ethics are created on an ongoing basis, as the need arises. An article this past week discussed how, at Google I/O, Google Glassers were casually walking into the bathroom, looking around, and taking pictures. That's bad form. Our current mores inform us that you do not walk into a bathroom with your smartphone out and start taking pictures, so why would you do that with Google Glass?

I think that common sense and good behavior will dictate that Glass users park their glasses on top of their heads or in their shirt pocket when they enter a sensitive area, once this technology becomes more mainstream.


From: eas (May 23 2013, at 09:35)

They may be blending in to the background in your social/professional context, but at the current price-point (or even a significant reduction) it is hard to imagine they'll become ubiquitous enough to be routine in wider circles for quite some time, if ever (Bluetooth headsets, which also have social issues, never went mainstream, despite being relatively inexpensive).

We will see what happens with GG. There are times I'd love to have something similar, there are even times where i wouldn't mind interracting with someone else wearing them (and many more when I'd hate it).


From: Howie Makem (May 23 2013, at 10:04)

Try taking a ride on Caltrain sometime. The times I've seen anyone wearing them on the train, the wearer has been simultaneously playing with a phone and wearing Glass.

The tittering and stares as they walk past people is quite revealing.


From: Michael Mullany (May 23 2013, at 11:02)

I'm still surpised at people not paying attention to all the business use cases for cheap HUD's. Isn't it possible that every worker who needs to have their hands free for their job will be wearing these within ten years: warehouse pickers, waiters, tour guides, flight attendants, retail assistants, nurses, manufacturing workers, dentists, musicians etc.


From: Hamranhansenhansen (May 23 2013, at 11:06)

Google Glass is Microsoft Tablet PC from 2001, and Sergey Brin is Bill Gates from 2001, suggesting that the smartphone/PC will be replace by these immature, underdeveloped glasses/tablets. The reviews are the same for both products: “futuristic,” “expensive,” “nerdy,” “possibly useful by couriers and other on-the-go industrial workers,” “lacks apps," “short battery life.”

Mainstream computer glasses will need to be much more advanced. Like iPad compared to Tablet PC: 10 hour usage battery instead of 3, consumer styling (made by Ray-Ban, look exactly like regular glasses) not nerd styling, useful to everyone not just industrial workers, interesting to everyone not just nerds, cheaper than other options not more expensive, and almost no learning curve instead of requiring a developer user.

Also, I think a lot of laws and customs Ha e to change before it is practical to have mainstream head-mounted, Internet-connected cameras building a giant online database of photos and video. The public bathroom will have to change if people are wearing glasses-mounted cameras. The row of urinals is obsolete. Sergey is on one hand pushing Glasses and on the other hand saying all laws are obsolete. Hard to trust Glasses wearers to do the right thing. And we shouldn't put down the concerns of the public when surveillance cameras are going digital and searchable and cops and lawyers are uniting Instagram images with Twitter images with surveillance cameras to make arrests. That would be fine maybe if all laws were for the protection of victims and all people in prison were criminals, but in the US, the majority of arrests are for marijuana possession, and the majority of prisoners had no victims, 75% of police time is spent on marijuana, and most people rely on insurance companies to not deny then health care, for example because they drink or smoke or skydive or whatever other action they may have been captured doing on thousands of publicly-available frames of video. Therefore a private person going around with a head-mounted camera is going to be a de facto narcotics cop, immigration cop, insurance cop. They are going to be treated as such until we stop having narcotics cops, immigration cops, insurance cops altogether.

So not only is the technology way too immature, but giant law reforms need to be enacted to make wearing a head-mounted camera anything other than a kind of weapon you point at innocent people and their lives are destroyed.


From: Andre Richards (May 23 2013, at 11:30)

Your arguments actually work against Glass in many ways.

"...there are a lot of cases where the Glass is the best design statement on some Googler’s body."

That's just setting the bar low to defend Glass. It still doesn't alleviate the fact that Glass just looks dorky. Sorry, it does. No way around it.

"Anybody who thinks they can’t be filmed without knowing is just wrong."

More setting the bar low. Just because we can be filmed to excess doesn't mean we should accept further intrusion by Glass. Personally, I will have no problem asking Glass-wearers to remove them when I'm talking with them. (Although note that I don't anticipate having to do that. My friends aren't dorky enough to wear this nonsense nor do I expect this Google-spawned turkey to fly.)

"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..."

More setting the bar low. Imagine doing those same tasks 10 years ago. The smartphone is a godsend and Glass shoving that info into your eyeball doesn't really address an actual need--just moves it somewhere else.

"...they just become part of the visual landscape, right away"

Sure, if you're at a convention where everyone is wearing them. But again, that's not a defense. Bluetooth earpieces make people look douchey. Just because you can tune it out doesn't make it any less douchey.


From: Mel (May 23 2013, at 11:30)

Most smokers weren't jerks, either, but enough were that smoking became banned all over.

If jerks had not smoked where it bothered other people, or when requested to not smoke hadn't given some version of "it's a free country", anti-smoking probably wouldn't have had the force it did.

I'm saying that it doesn't matter if only a few Glass users are jerks; if ENOUGH are jerks, they'll be a stigma against even the nice ones.


From: Marcos El Malo (May 23 2013, at 12:28)

Google Glass isn't dead in the water. As has been pointed out, there will certainly be uses. The open question is whether it will catch on as a mainstream consumer item. I don't doubt we will be seeing more and more wearable computing devices in the near future, and one or more will capture the public.

What I really want to see is the Google Gun. Where gun control legislation has failed, a Google Gun could succeed, at least in terms of registration and tracking of firearms. (This idea started as a joke, and it still sounds off the wall, but once I started thinking about it, it really seemed interesting to me.

Another device I could see myself using would be a smart necklace. Easily concealed under clothing, easy or fairly easy to access, could be used used with earphones, easily removable. I live in a tourist town, so I see those passport wallet neckless thingies on occasion.


From: Maynard Handley (May 23 2013, at 14:25)

Some silly statements here:

(a) Much of what is being said about "corkiness" and "doesn't solve a real problem" could be said about bluetooth headsets. BT headsets were not ESSENTIAL, but they often are a better enough solution than the alternative (either directly talking to the phone, or using a wired headset) that they sell in the millions.

(b) Complaining about tbray being a Google employee is just stupid, a way to refuse to engage with the points he is actually making. It's like complaining that anyone with an opinion about US politics should be ignored if they're a US citizen.

(c) A lot of the carping here seems to be predicated on an assumption that Glasses are expected (by Google) to be a massively selling product within a year, and anything less than that is failure and a waste of everyone's time. This is silly and ignorant of history.

Plenty of what Google does are long-term projects. Translation works badly today (but better than three years ago). Self-driving cars can't be bought today. Google voice appeared to make no sense, except that it laid the foundation for future voice recognition work. etc etc.

We have ahead of us a whole new future of extremely personalized devices. These will include smart watches, smart bracelets, smart pens, medical devices, glasses, "smart hearing aids", etc. No-one knows exactly how this will play out. But the company with plenty of real-world experience (including failure) today is a whole lot more likely to be successful in this field in ten years than the company WITHOUT such experience...

Ten years ago the state of the art in phones was the Motorola Razr. Anyone looking at Glass today and assuming it (or very minor modifications) represents where such devices will be in ten years is stupid beyond belief.

(And I say this all as a die-hard Apple fan. This is not about who is your favorite company and who you hate. It's about common-sense interpolations of the last fifty damn years.)


From: Ian (May 24 2013, at 15:56)

Bluetooth headsets. The early models didn't have nearly enough battery life, didn't always sync very well, looked odd and made the wearer appear to be a crazy person talking to themself.

They survived, evolved and become commonplace. Why? Because they met a desire of the users not to have to hold a phone to their head to talk.

I can see head-mounted displays following a similar path. Sure they look funny now and they have a lot of room for improvement in terms of battery life and software but they fulfill a desire to have the screen in front of one's eyes without having to hold a phone there.

Not only that but using a projected image, head mounted displays have the potential to exceed the practical size limitations we are running into with phone screens - there's only so much phone a user can hold in one hand and Samsung are already pushing those limits.

A watch display suffers from the same drawbacks as a phone: (even more) limited screen real estate and having to hold it in front of one's face. You think you look dorking walking around with Google Glass on? How much dorkier will you look walking around holding your wrist in front of your face? Not to mention that your arm will quickly get tired.

Ergonomics... it's not just a well-fitting word.


From: len (May 26 2013, at 17:57)

Given power and durability, and safety glass, one could apply them to TMs without stretching social mores too much. Integrate pattern matching against a visual scan of a damaged part not so much for analysis although that's useful but for the records. Might want to look at the Safety boundary design declarations and S1000D integration.

Seems obvious. Not sure if Google will work that market but aomeone building tech in the market class will.


From: len (May 28 2013, at 19:16)

A Glass experience. No comment because of no experience. Just sharing the link FWIW.


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