Is Google Glass Ready for Prime Time?

Paul Cheung and Google Glass

Asian American Journalists Association National President Paul Cheung adjusts his Google Glass while making a presentation during the Media Access Workshop held in Chicago on 26 April, 2014. There is no evidence that Mr. Cheung is a “Glasshole”. Photo Credit: Audrey F. Henderson, All Rights Reserved.

 

Angry Internet discussion board posts describe violent actions that the writers pledge to take against anyone they witness wearing them. Restaurant proprietors and other business owners have requested (or ordered) people sporting the hardware to leave their establishments. Said wearers have retaliated with derogatory reviews on rating sites and in social media. Meanwhile, the product is still in development, but presently carries a $1,500 price tag nonetheless.

Ready or Not, Google Glass Is a Real Thing

“It” is Google Glass, and ready or not, the wearable technology is out in the wild. If you have not yet encountered someone sporting Glass, wait. You will.

In the process of refining Glass, Google began recruiting an army of what it calls “Explorers” as testers in 2013. Potential Explorers were required to submit a 50-word application explaining what they would do #ifihadglass. The first group of Explorers chosen to receive the first wave of prototypes paid $1,500 for their devices and traveled on their own dime to New York City, San Francisco or Los Angeles to attend a special “pick up experience.”

In April 2014, Google expanded its cadre of Explorers by holding a one-day sale of its prototype Glass online. The wearable technology was available for purchase by any U.S. resident age 18 or over with a spare $1,500 (plus tax). There was an undisclosed but limited stock of Glass devices available and sales were first come, first served. Google is also courting the Enterprise with its new technology through its Glass at Work program, and is allowing nonprofits to participate in its Giving through Glass initiative.

Or Your Money Back

While many Explorers are excited about Glass, not everyone is convinced that the device represents a good value for money. In an article posted on the ComputerWorld website in May 2014, Matt Lake describes his experience as an Explorer, having purchased his Glass device the previous month. Less than impressed after three weeks, Lake declared that he would be shipping the wearable computer back to Google for a refund. According to Lake, Google Glass provided a sub-par performance. Among the shortcomings Lake cited were notorious battery drain, GPS dependent on a mobile phone’s precious data units or frequently unreliable Wi-Fi connections and overall ill-fitting, poor design, including a bulky profile and ear buds that refuse to stay in the ear.

“If you’re wearing a $1,500 piece of equipment laden with cool features, you want to get your money’s worth,” he complained in his article.

No Expectation of Privacy?

The wearable technology has attracted controversy and suspicion from the start, mainly around privacy concerns. An August 2013 Mail Online article described an a newly patented device called the Gaze Tracking System, an innovation which records the eye movements of Glass wearers in order to generate paid ads. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to envision a dystopian existence in which a wearer’s every move is recorded, producing endless amounts of data that Google could slice and dice to fill its server coffers. More pedestrian criticism notes the obvious fact that Glass can (and probably will) be used to collect personal information about and create surreptitious video recordings of – anything and anyone within range.

Depending on the cordiality of Glass wearers and whether the people he or she encounters are cool with the technology or find it to be intrusive, up-close and personal exchanges between Explorers and the general public can range from pleasant to unsettling or an outright catalyst for fisticuffs. In a true indication that Glass has penetrated the general cultural consciousness, there is already a street-level derogatory term for less-than-polite Glass wearers. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “Glasshole” is “a person who constantly talks to their Google Glass, ignoring the outside world.”

And you thought endless texting was rude.

We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service . . .

To minimize resistance to its space-age innovation, Google devised a list of Do’s and Don’ts for its Explorers. The list includes such succinct items as “Do ask for permission,” “Don’t glass-out” (stare into the device tor extended periods) and “Don’t be creepy or rude (aka a “Glasshole”)”. Google also advises its Explorers to expect curious inquiries while wearing Glass and to be prepared to serve as positive ambassadors for the technology.

Nonetheless, there has been pushback. For instance, in May 2014, Business Insider reported that one of the managers for Feast, a New York City eatery, requested a customer wearing Glass to remove the device while inside the restaurant due to privacy concerns expressed by other patrons. While previous requests had produced compliance, in this instance the wearer, CEO and co-founder of social media site Xocracy Katy Kasmai, took exception and left the restaurant instead.

Kasmai took her displeasure a step further, writing about her experience on Google+. Among the more than 100 responses posted was a suggestion to give the restaurant poor reviews on various review sites. Soon after, Feast received more than a dozen one-star reviews, nearly all from individuals who had never set foot in the restaurant but who ostensibly supported Kasmai and other Glass wearers, according to Business Insider. Pushback from Glass detractors took the form of highly positive reviews of the restaurant on Yelp, and a statement that “1,000 stars” should be granted to any establishment that stands up to “Google Glass bullies,” the Business Insider article reported.

The Wait is Over!

If you missed out on the previous releases of Glass prototypes, do not despair. As stated earlier, you too can become a Glass Explorer — but only if you can spare the Benjamins. Predictions and rumors that Glass would come down in price have so far failed to come to pass.  There is no doubt that the steep price tag will inhibit the migration of Glass to the mainstream except among techies with fairly deep pockets. Nonetheless, you would be well advised to brush up on your Glass etiquette, whether you plan to be behind the lens – or find yourself in the line of sight of a Glass wearer.

Note: This post was originally published via LinkedIn on May 31, 2014. It has been updated to reflect new developments in the availability of Glass to the general public.

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