Published On: Wed, May 8th, 2013

Why Google Glass Matters

google-glassThe first two sets went to Sergei Brin and Larry Page, and then about a dozen went to Eric Schmidt and other big deals at Google. Before anyone outside the company could really get a sense of what Google Glass was all about, the hoopla and controversy had already ignited.

Google, usually tight-lipped before a product is launched, and generally conservative in publicity, started titillating the public with juicy previews. At a developer conference, nine months prior to releasing the Explorer version to developers and journalists, skydivers leaped from a plane over San Francisco, using the new wearable computing prototype’s video capability to record their downward trajectory.

A month later Project Glass, as it was called, merged with Project Runway as models paraded in the sleek devices and expensive Haute Couture at a tony Manhattan fashion show. Co-founder Brin started speaking publicly with far greater frequency and was caught riding a New York City subway wearing a pair. The company released periodic videos on its YouTube property showing conceptual previews of how great the device would be.

All this happened before April 2013, when the company began parsing out Explorer versions of Google Glass to third-party developers and testers at a price of $1500 each. There were just a few thousand of them available in the first 30 days and they were doled out one-at-a-time to recipients who would pledge not to loan or give their devices to other people.

This caused a conversational explosion divided into two groups: Those who had a prototype of the device seemed to universally love them—or the promise of what they could be—and those who had not yet touched or even seen a set, who warned of the horrors Glass was about to trigger upon humanity.

The high price meant that Glass would be a device only for wealthy geeks like Brin and Page. Glass wearers would be able to record your activities in public restrooms. Privacy, as we know it, would soon end, some warned.

Five Points, a Seattle-based bar, banned them without ever seeing a set. A Congressman in West Virginia, a state that trails the nation in public education, proposed that drivers in his state be banned from wearing Glass sets. A national petition was started to prohibit Glass use as an “illegal surveillance device.” A Forbes columnist warned they would make classroom cheating rampant.

A full month before Glass was released to developers, the Urban Dictionary published a new entry: Glasshole—a person who constantly talks to his Google Glass, ignoring the outside world.

All this angst over a device that upon its release to developers did nothing a smartphone couldn’t already do. In fact it did a lot less since mobile apps were extremely limited at the outset. Glass wasn’t even the first facially worn device.

Steve Mann, a Canadian professor, had been walking around with one for years. Once, in Paris, he was dragged out of a McDonald’s and jostled on the Champs Élysées by staff who found the camera attached to his eye disturbing.

Oakley, of course had launched Airwave, its fashionable smart ski goggles for retail consumers more than seven months earlier.

So what was the big deal? Well, actually a lot, but let us switch to third-person narrative a bit so we can tell you how we got familiar with the hands-free device and what our impressions were.

Not Another Day

Robert Scoble was the 107th person to receive a Google Glass prototype. He put them on and started posting short notes on his social networks about his experience. He took them with him as he bopped over to Europe delivering speeches at tech conferences and letting hundreds of people give his Glass a quick try.

After two weeks, he posted his first review to Google+, the default social network for Google Glass users: “I’m never going to live another day without a wearable computer on my face,” he declared.

To illustrate his point, his wife photographed him in the shower wearing the device.

In the first two weeks, Scoble also produced over a thousand photos taken with Glass, as well as six videos.

Scoble is a noted lover of shiny objects. His career is built on meeting with developers of innovative technologies. He is known for both his candor and his enthusiasm.

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