A Canadian Glasshole, Part III: Being in Public with Google Glass is Quite an Adventure

by Tom Emrich

New to this article, be sure to read Part I of "A Canadian Glasshole" first.

If you aren’t a fan of attention, you aren’t cut out for Google Glass, at least not while there are only supposedly 10 in Canada. Don’t expect to walk down the street with Glass right now without getting stares, be pointed at or whispered about. It’s just not going to happen. And it’s what Google wants.  

Google is extremely smart about how they are rolling out Glass. By making the device limited to only 10,000 people, they are not only able to pilot Glass to gather valuable feedback from developers and committed Explorers, but the exclusivity and scarcity of Glass prior to their mainstream launch has created a level of hype and excitement whenever they are seen out in the wild. This means that every time an Explorer wears Glass out, they are creating a PR stunt for Google which is just brilliant.

MUST READ: A Canadian Glasshole, Part I

As a new Explorer, I have to admit that it took me a bit to muster up the courage to wear Glass out of the house. The device looks like nothing we have seen before and often times new things just comes across as odd, weird or scary. But it wasn’t really people’s reactions that I was worried about, it was more the attention I knew Glass would get and therefore I would get in return being the lucky one wearing the device. I decided to start things off slowly by inviting friends over to my house to see their reactions before braving the general public.

Revealing Glass to friends and family felt more like a coming out more than simply showing off a new toy you picked up at the store. Glass isn’t for everyone and not everyone understood why I was so excited to be wearing a grey-colored band across my face with a tiny screen hanging down over my right eye. I wasn’t just demoing a piece of technology to people, I was also revealing how much of a fanatic I was about future technology and how committed I was to the potential of wearable devices.

MUST READ: A Canadian Glasshole, Part II

Once I was ready to hit the streets of Toronto with Glass my first experience was pretty memorable. After surviving stares and double-takes from my fellow pedestrians I finally made it to one of my favorite downtown coffee shops. At first, it seemed as though I would be able to order my coffee and sit down without anyone noticing. But once the Barista asked if what I was wearing was indeed Google Glass, I was immediately swarmed with people who wanted to try it on and ask questions.

I have to say that one of the best things about being a Google Glass Explorer, besides being able to experience it myself, is witnessing people’s reactions for the very first time and also to be there to help them get comfortable with the technology. I was excited to become an Explorer because I believe that wearable devices are a key part of our technological evolution and in order for them to be widespread, people need to see and experience this technology firsthand. So being approached to try Glass on by a total stranger is exactly what I was hoping would happen. 

The most common reaction to Glass is wonder and excitement. It’s pretty awesome to see people’s faces light up as they put Glass on and start to see timeline cards appear before their eyes. You can tell that they really felt they had reached that future we had only previously experienced in the movies.  

For those people who were familiar with Glass from either reading about it or seeing videos online, the first thing they did when they put Glass on is talk to it. The problem with Glass is that it only accepts voice commands when certain cards are available and the commands themselves are limited. So when people put Glass on and talked to it like they would another person nothing would happen. Once they understood that voice was cued with “Ok Glass” and learned a bit of the vernacular, they started to see the potential.

One of the major ways Google could improve Glass is to leverage some of the work they have done with making voice command search more conversational in nature so that you can pick up the device and tell it what you want it to do and it will do it.

I would say that 70% of the people that use Glass put them on and didn’t know what to do next. This whole new interface needs a little bit of guidance to get people started, but once they know how to tap, swipe and use the voice commands they were off to the races. Taking pictures and videos and searching for sports scores were among the most common interactions I’ve seen people do first when they get the hang of Glass.

Perhaps the most disappointing learning I’ve taken away from people’s reactions with Glass is their trepidation around the futuristic design Google has chosen for the device. Most people I talked to said they wouldn’t really consider wearing Glass until it started to look more like the prescription and sunglasses they are used to. This makes total sense of course, but I think it’s a shame to give up this opportunity to push the boundaries on fashion and design and simply revert back to what we know.

If we really want to feel like we have reached the sci-fi vision of the future, we have to start looking like it.

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. As a first step to fulfilling that mission, Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed a new approach to online search that took root in a Stanford University dorm room and quickly spread to information seekers around the globe. Google is now widely recognized as the world's... more

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Tom Emrich

Tom Emrich

Tom is a freelance consultant and blogger based in Toronto specializing in mobile, tablets and emerging technology. He has worked with independent developers, major media companies and start-ups on successfully developing, launching and marketing digital products here in Canada and abroad. His professional passion for technology is eclipsed only by his personal obsession with emerging... more

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