Google Glass, Google's data-connected headgear project, made a small splash on the web yesterday, in the way that many Google projects make a splash: people thought they might get something rather new and unique for free.
If everyone had read the fine print a bit, the very eager "applications" for a pair of "Explorer Edition" glasses under the #ifihadglass tag on Twitter and Google+ might have died down a bit, as "$1,500 plus tax and a mandated flight to a major U.S. city" is something more than "free." And Google itself is trying to tamp down expectations, with copy that reminds applicants that "we can’t promise everything will be perfect, we can promise it will be exciting."
But Glass is conspicuously being tested in public. And even if Google has only created a few robotic monsters, the pitchforks are out. As you might imagine, the main concerns are privacy, followed closely by the ever-present and rather vague "what this says about society." Given Google's history, the "interface made for engineers" and "wait until Apple perfects it" will come soon after, but right now, it's the awkwardness.
I wore a Google Glass headset for a brief period, in June 2012 at Google I/O, and wrote about it. The display is smaller and more transparent and subtle than it appears in video representations. You might not notice the headset if it was attached to someone who is always wearing glasses of a similar size, but otherwise, you're definitely walking around and "sharing with the cloud."
At a small press event, Glass lead designer Isabelle Olsson responded to questions about the not-so-subtle aspects of the headset's design, and the general clash between an always-available camera and social norms.
"We want to be honest, and we don't want to conceal it behind something that people will find creepy," Olssson said. Told in a pointed question that the glasses would look "extremely odd in any town in America," Olsson noted that the Glass project has collaborations with sunglasses, prescription glasses, and other forms in mind. For this early stage, though, the glasses are "something new," and "it takes some time for society to develop an etiquette with new technology."
To recap this very short public service announcement: a very limited number of people, selected by Google and willing to drop $1,500 and maybe the cost of a flight and hotel, are going to be wearing very obvious headsets, which they have to address verbally ("Okay Glass ...") or pointedly tap to activate. They will mostly be using them to take pictures and videos, get directions, and ask goofy questions when nobody is listening. There is no advertising, no inherent revealing of locations, and they will basically invade your privacy only slightly more than they already do with their smartphones.
Stay calm, and wait until everyone else figures out the bugs, awkwardness, and battery life. You'll know Glass is around when you see it.
Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.