Since Google in February revealed its potentially revolutionary mobile product, Google Glass, everyone from tech players to media giants to marketers have been eagerly waiting to see what the device might mean to their communities. Adweek shared one of the first sneak peeks to what wearing Glass is like three months ago, but the user's account was limited due to only having a brief experience with the hard-to-access apparatus.
But in the last few weeks, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has begun putting them regularly in the hands of folks lucky enough to be selected as beta testers. One of the rare program participants, Matt Karolian (pictured), social media strategist for ad agency Arnold Worldwide, offered us an extensive narrative on experiencing the world through the lens of Glass, which in addition to enhancing one's worldview entails of a plethora of voice-recognition utilities.
Below are excerpts from a diary kept during the Arnold exec's first week using Google Glass. Karolian, who had to travel from his Boston base to New York City to purchase the device, even supplied videos and photos taken with Glass in addition to his text-based perspective.
Start Me Up
After months of anticipation, I finally found myself stepping into a vast loft space in NYC to pick up my Google Glass. As I walked in, I noticed the walls were lined with the Glass in multiple color options, and trainers were ready to walk you through all the wonders of Glass.
My trainer spent quite a bit of time talking about the various different colors you could pick up, offering to let me try on all of them. Likely, this lengthy choice process is relative to the ticket price. With the cost of Glass coming in just shy of $1,700, they want you to be very pleased with your selection. In the end, I picked what I thought to be the least conspicuous color: charcoal.
The next station is where the real training begins. The trainer starts you off slow, teaching you how to move through the interface, connect to WiFi networks and [connect] the Glass to your cell phone. Once you get the basics down, they bring you up to a platform overlooking the meat packing district. There, above the NYC streets, your real photo and video adventure begins—all shared out through Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
In Real Life
Stepping out of the Google Glass training facility and onto the streets of New York is weird. You feel awkward, people trying to catch glances out of the corner of their eyes, and well, you are very aware that you have a piece of technology strapped to your face.
Immediately after orientation, my girlfriend and I took Glass to The Standard Hotel's outside bar and tried to use them as casually as possible, if that’s even possible, while also learning the ins and outs of how to use [the product]. Our server, visibly confused by the device, took our order in stride without mentioning much—but she did seem to come back to our table less than others. I don’t blame her—we looked as weird as she probably felt.
We did have a few "celebrity moments" when other bar patrons came up to us, curious and excited to see the Glass in real life. After drinks, we headed for the High Line and strolled around. It was a beautiful day, and what struck me most is the ease of snapping pictures while still enjoying the scenery.
Driving with Google Glass is not something you think you would recommend, but allowing you to see both the road and the screen at the same time, it also did not seem as dangerous as you'd imagine. Even though I drove through several tunnels on my mostly traffic-free journey into Boston, Glass never lost connectivity and I didn’t feel any need to fiddle with it. Overall, Glass was much less distracting than using a cell phone or switching radio stations.
This Bike Ride Could Be Recorded
Biking with Glass on Boston's city bike program, Hubway, I rode from Beantown’s Government Center area through the park to the end of Newbury Street. Sometimes, you zone out while you’re riding a familiar route and can miss the details, so it was fun to change things up by recording my entire route. Because I have an iPhone, I was not able to take full advantage of the turn-by-turn directions or the ability to search for a local pizza joint or other business. More on this later.
On An Island
One of the things that makes wearing Google Glass not an all that appealing proposition is that, for right now at least, you are the only one. You will wake up, go to work, go out and come home and you will be the only one wearing them. This attracts attention and often makes you feel like the spectacle instead of Glass. With Glass, I compare it to owning a super flashy sports car, where people tend to cast judgment upon someone they believe to be openly flaunting an exclusive object that others can't easily attain.
Where's My Man Purse?
There's no place to put it—[Glass] is just not pocket size. Since Glass is not anywhere near mainstream, and there is currently a mostly unfounded fear you are recording everything you see while wearing them, you may choose to wear Glass some places but not others. This presents a problem given how big the case is. You can easily slip a cell phone into your pocket if you don't want anyone to know you have it… not Glass. Bringing Glass along requires you to also have some sort of bag or backpack with you. My pair of Google Glass spent a significant amount of time in my girlfriend's purse. Here is a photo comparison of the case next to an iPhone:
You really can't do anything besides takes photos or videos without an active data connection, which presents the tethering problem. Ideally, Google wants you to call up your cell provider and have them enable tethering on your account. For someone like me, with a grandfathered-in unlimited data plan, this is a non-starter as I'd lose all the benefits of my plan—and pay more. Most carriers charge about $30 extra a month for tethering, which means over the course of just one year, you will pay an extra $400 just to have it work outside your home or office.
I found an interesting solution to this problem, however! The guys behind YourKarma.com helped me pair my Glass with my mobile hotspot device, which allows me to pay as you go. The downside? Now I am carrying three devices around with me everywhere… my iPhone, my WiFi hotspot and my Google Glass.
Glass has a companion app for Android that allows wearable device to do two very important things—give you turn-by-turn directions and read/respond to your text messages. This companion application is only available for Android users. So as an iPhone user, I was out of luck.
What They Ask About When They Ask About Glass
When I've worn Google Glass in public, only two or three people have come up to me and asked about them. When my girlfriend has worn them, she gets asked very frequently what they are, how they work and how she likes them.
Favorited Features: What I Loved
• Google only allows really important data to filter through to Glass, which I think is great
• Not having to dig your phone out of your pocket all the time is awesome
• It just feels like a better, more integrated and organic way to do things
• The photos you'll start to take have a unique POV—no one else sees the world like you do
• You are a spectacle when going out in public, as people stare
• Constant connectivity is a pain to manage and potentially expensive
• No iOS support leaving many users without important features
• Battery life is abysmal, coming in at about three hours of heavy use
• Unclear how weather-proof they are
Parting Requests: What Upgrades I Want
• Better battery life
• Built in cell radio
• iOS support
• Better search results when Google-ing using the device
• More apps, especially a cooking app, as no one wants to touch their phones to see the recipe ingredients and instructions while their hands are messy from cooking. Lastly, here am I cutting pizza...