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Google Glass: A Different View

[Editor’s Note: Good thing we sent two people to the Google Glass Debut last week, because Tech Columnist Ian Henshaw came back with a very different view than my own.]

Glass Under Pressure

Durham, NC – Story by Tech Tank Managing Partner Ian Henshaw.

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If you missed the hype about Google Glass coming to Durham, you either are living under a rock, or are not involved in the Triangle Technology Ecosystem. 3,500 people sold-out the event in about 24 hours. Much of what you have read in the press about Google Glass has been developed during private invitation only sessions (many links can be found at the end of this article). As the Technology writer for Cary Citizen, I wanted to witness the Google Glass experience through the crush of people at the Durham event.

Logistics

The event was scheduled from 10 AM to 6 PM at Bay 7 of the American Tobacco Campus. 3,500 people in 8 hours means that the event needed to be set-up for handling 437 people per hour or just over 7 each minute! I was concerned about excessive waits as I was seeing pictures on various social media showing long lines and then about 1 PM I saw the following Tweet from @AmerUnderground

Three hours in and the line keeps growing! #durhamthroughglass #durm pic.twitter.com/AJ3D4Bj50g

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I showed up just before 3pm and the line went just past Bay 9 (shorter than I had seen in pictures). I then found out how well organized the event was. As I arrived in line, we were given a card showing the basics of operation of Google Glass. We were also told that the wait would be 35- 40 minutes (my wait was 32 minutes) and were provided iced water as we waited (thankfully due to the 92F temperature).

Inside the event was very well organized; registration went quickly and we were grouped to first have a demonstration of Google Glass, and then moved to another area where we could personally try it out. Afterwards, we were provided wonderful refreshments by Angus Barn, as we waited for our picture wearing Glass, provided a poster (we now had 3 souvenirs of the day) and the option to give feedback (on a new Chromebook Pixel via Google Docs).  In total it took me about 2 hours.

A well organized Google Glass event in Bay 7.

My Glass Experience

The demo was not going so well. Monty and Jim were giving us a demonstration where we should be able to watch simulcast on a tablet, but the Wi-Fi was overloaded and we were not being able to see what we were told was happening. Many excuses about connectivity problems and the overloaded Wi-Fi. In the loud room, Glass was having trouble understanding verbal commands and the user was basically unable to hear from the device.

Quick look around while in-line for picture at the Durham Google Glass Event - Everyone on their smart phones.

Quick look around while in-line for picture at the Durham event – Everyone on their smart phones! How much Wi-Fi and cell service do you need?

We were now able to try Glass. In the the RSVP confirmation we were told:

Leave your Glasses behind: If you wear glasses or contacts, please put contacts in for the event. If you only wear glasses we’ll do our best to fit Glass over your frames, but your experience will be much better with contacts.

Now I have worn glasses since 5th grade and had given up wearing contacts over 15 years ago. Based on the above suggestion I tried without my glasses (thinking that something close to the eye would be easily visible) but this turned out to be nearly impossible as the image is projected at infinity so it was very fuzzy. I also could not get Glass to be able to find directions to anywhere (which apparently resulted from the device not being synced to GPS due to the Wi-Fi overload or other issue)

My Glass Experience, Part 2

My Cary Citizen Press Credentials were seen by the event promoters, and I was quickly introduced to Devin Buell from Google (Devin was working at the Google Chapel Hill office until he recently joined the Glass team) and given a different Glass that had connectivity.

This time I tried the Glass over my glasses and what a difference! I could see the screen clearly (Note to those wearing glasses – definitely use Glass over your glasses).  After a few tries, Glass finally understood where I wanted to go and gave me directions (remember the room was really noisy).  I fumbled through a few navigation steps, but was able to see the promise of this very cool technology.

I was glad to have the press credentials that gave me a second try to be able to evaluate Glass through a few paces.  (I’ll probably follow up with another article about my specific observations and things I have thought of since the demonstration.)

Privacy Invasion with Glass?

There has been much written about invasion of privacy with Google Glass, but after seeing Glass in use, these fears seem to be overblown. The Battery life was given by one of the presenters as 45 minutes watching video, but could ‘last all day’ under normal use (which is normally not on). People wearing Glass have to make obvious gestures on the side of the unit and need to make very clear verbal instructions for the Glass to go through its paces. With the ability of all new cell phones to be recording devices, Glass seems to be a very clumsy and obvious way of invading your privacy.

My Takeaways

Google Glass was clearly playing to their potential early adopter customer base at this event. My estimate is that the average age of attendees was ~35 years old and a smart phone owner. No one seemed to mind the line waits and a ~2 hour experience to get their hands on Glass for maybe 5-10 minutes.

The event was very well managed and everyone had the chance to try Glass and even more importantly get their picture taken wearing Glass. Social media was chock full of people sharing their experience, so Google got a huge bang for their buck from hosting this event. I would be interested to see the results of feedback from such a pro-Glass audience and if this is really an indicator of support from the general population.

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I think that Glass provides an interesting presentation of information – kind of like being able to check your rear-view mirror while you are driving. Glass seems to be a good complementary device to your desktop, tablet and smartphone, but would not replace any of these at this point. I’m intrigued and would like to be able to evaluate Glass for a longer time and I look forward to see how the product continues to develop as part of Google X.

What Was Your Experience?

Did you go to the Google event in Durham? We would be interested in your experience.  Please comment below or E-mail me about your experience with Glass.

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