For the last several weeks, speculation about what Google Glass could mean to the world has been rampant but access to the wearable technology has been incredibly scarce. Well, a week ago, Science Inc. partner Peter Pham got the rare opportunity to take Google Glass for a brief test spin in San Francisco and gave his reflections on the experience to Adweek.
"They are the future," said Pham, a Silicon Valley vet who is probably best known for co-founding the mobile app Color. "One of the coolest, futuristic things I've ever touched. And I get to play with a lot of cutting-edge technology. They were fairly light but not uncomfortable at all."
He added, "I was in a pretty noisy environment. But I'd say, 'OK, Glass, take a picture. OK, Glass, find images of Game of Thrones.' And it worked. Basically, it was tethered to my Android phone. So everything I was looking at—whether taking photos, shooting video or searching—was from the data connection on my cellphone."
Indeed, Google Glass takes a person's smartphone experience and overlays the functionalities in front of his or her eyes. "It is actually easy to focus," he said. "It feels close. But at the same time, the screen size and the resolution actually made what I was looking at pretty big—I didn't have to strain. I was looking up into the right-hand corner. It was kind of hard to look at the screen without looking at the right-hand corner of the screen. To move from screen to screen, you gesture with a swiping motion on the side [of the device] like you are swiping a tablet."
The 37-year-old continued, "I think in the office, I'd probably wear it quite a bit, while sending email and doing other digital tasks while moving around. But...I don't know where the gap between now and normal lies. Will people be ostracized walking around? It's such an attention grabber, and it looks fairly awkward. In terms of the normal day-to-day walking around town going to lunch or the grocery store, I don't know if it's going to be cool. I don't know how long it's going to take before sticking a computer on your face will become normal. It's going to be like having your iPhone attached to your face all of the time."
The marketing vet also dished on what Google Glass could mean to advertisers, comparing the device to a much more advanced version of Yelp's mobile app features called Monocle and Goggles. In other words, the ramifications on local business marketing—considered by many to be the gold mine of digital—appear to be huge.
"I think Google Glass will accelerate [local discovery]," Pham said. "Instead of standing on a street corner and pausing while deciding where you want to go...all of a sudden the flow of that decision, in theory, will be smoother. It could show me where's the Burger King or McDonald's. An 'a-ha moment' I had was that Google Glass would give me a brand-new perspective on search, while letting me continue walking and receiving information in real time."
In addition, he said, "I think it's going to change the way advertisers target people in the physical world."
Tech haters, beware, as Google Glass beta wearers are about to be spotted in the wild. Mountain View, Calif.-based Google just wrapped up a 50-word essay contest where 8,000 winning applicants have been awarded the chance to buy Google Glass for $1,500.
Pham said, "When that contest first came out, I was like, 'I don't know if I want to spend $1,500.' Now I am thinking about sending them an email to see if I can get on the list."
Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer is one of the several thousand getting a pair soon. "I am going to wear them on the subway—I am going to give it a go," he said, after being asked if he planned to wear them in public. "It's funny. Since I've told people I am getting a pair, I've heard the term 'Glass-hole' about five times. But I have no choice [but] to wear them out and about because that's what they are meant for. I am going to take them through all the paces. And I look forward to exploring what they could mean creatively."
The most impressive Google Glass feature, per Pham? "Like I said earlier," he said, "it was noisy where I was. There were several hundred people around, and music was blasting. But I didn't have to yell [voice commands], and there was zero delay or lag. It still executed my commands. It was instant, which was pretty amazing."