I’ve had the very good fortune of being part of the Explorer program for Google Glass for two weeks now. In an upcoming post, I’ll give a full review of the product, but for now I thought it would be interesting to share what it feels like to be among the earliest non-employee users of this revolutionary new platform.
First off, I’d say the Explorer program is a brilliant (and necessary) move. There’s no doubt that Glass is both revolutionary and controversial. Reactions to the product are all over the map, and it’s going to take society a while to get comfortable with this new generation of technology. So, having a small group of early adopters acting as ambassadors for the product makes a ton of sense. I’d also say that this is a program well suited to confident extroverts — and one that I imagine would be quite painful for all others.
Wearing Glass in public generates lots of reactions, ranging from stares, to audible murmurings (“Glass!” “He’s got Glass!”), to lots of unplanned conversations with complete strangers. Glass is a conversation starter with familiars, too, like the folks working the cash register at my local coffee shop and grocery store.
I’ve now discussed Glass with over 100 friends, family members, familiars, and strangers — and let more than 40 of them try the product. The reactions can be grouped into two buckets: fear and loathing; and curiosity and joy.
Fear and Loathing
There are definitely some folks freaked out by Glass. Not so much by what it actually does and how I find myself using it, but by what they think it must do. These folks, mostly men and mostly over the age of 30, assume the device is constantly recording, or at the very least wearers of Glass are constantly and secretly snapping photos. Common reactions from this crowd are:
- Are you recording right now?
- Don’t take my picture.
- Why do you need those?
- Take those off!
- You look ridiculous.
Conversations about Glass with those who have already formed a strong negative opinion tend to go poorly. I’m keen to help people understand how the product works, and what I like about it, in hopes of dispelling some of the misconceptions. So far, I don’t think I changed anyone’s mind. Oh, well.
Curiosity and Joy
Fortunately, even more people think Glass is a wonder to behold. These folks come in all ages and genders, but I’ve noticed a certain pattern; everyone under the age of 18 that I’ve discussed Glass with is very excited by the product.
Folks in the curiosity and joy camp tend ask a lot of questions, like:
- What are those?
- Are those glasses?
- What do they do?
- What are you seeing?
- Do you work at Google?
- How much do they cost?
- How did you get them?
Letting the curious try on my Glass is almost always a rewarding experience. At the grocery store a few days ago, a young man working there asked me a few questions. He had never heard of Glass and had no expectations of what it might do. I offered to let him try them on, but he said “no”. He asked another question, though, so I offered one more time. “Just for a second,” he said. And when he put them on, and saw a few events on my timeline, his face lit up with an enormous smile. “Oh, my God!” he said, and it sounded like he was having a religious experience.
Here’s someone in the curiosity and joy camp:
I will admit that part of the fun of the Explorer program, especially at this early stage, is that despite the freaked out minority, wearing Glass around Silicon Valley feels a bit like how I imagine it feels to be a celebrity. I’m noticed wherever I go, and strangers are keen to engage with me in really positive ways. Some have asked to get their picture taken with me. Curious.
There’s an interesting irony here: right now, in wearing Glass, I’m giving up some of my privacy, as I no longer blend into the crowd. But that seems only fair, given the privacy concerns of others about this new product.