Published May 01, 2013
Today is my first full day as a cyborg.
I’ve spent the past 18 or so hours wearing Google Glass -- the Internet giant’s vision of an always-on, digitally connected future, disguised as a pair of glassless eyeglasses.
Looking past the double-takes and outright stares from everyone looking at me, it’s easy to see the potential of this crazy gizmo. But for now, well, it’s weird being one of the borg.
Glass is a lopsided yet oddly comfortable hunk of plastic, silicon and titanium. The brains of my device were housed in two hunks of gray plastic, all on the right side (and no, there’s currently no option to swap sides). Google has versions in a variety of colors, including a gorgeous bright orange. If you’re going to call attention to yourself, may as well do it in style.
At the back is a battery and a tiny speaker that rests against your head, and uses the bones in your skull to amplify its output. The front contains the camera, processor and a tiny display screen -- your interface to the world of Google.
I picked mine up from Google’s temporary Glass office in New York. And after a 90-minute walkthrough with several “Glass guides,” I was ready to set out in the world.
I found using Glass to be remarkably intuitive and straightforward. Others who tried it had mixed luck, however, which mainly revealed an eagerness to play around without knowing what exactly to do. The lesson: Read the directions.
Tap the touch-sensitive temple piece or simply tilt your head up and the screen activates, displaying the time and two words: “Ok Glass.” Speak them aloud and the voice-activated device gives you a menu with a few simple options: Google, take a picture, record a video, get directions, send a message, make a call, hang out.
Ask the device to Google something and, thanks to a Bluetooth link to your smartphone or the built-in Wi-Fi, it will search the Web almost immediately. I tried Googling the length of the Golden Gate bridge (8,980 feet), how to say “I love you” in Japanese (“Watashi wa anata o aishite”), and checking the weather (“No, it isn’t raining in New York, the weather is 58 and clear”).
The future is a robotic voice literally telling me to skip the raincoat, apparently.
Pictures with Glass are reasonably good; it has a 5 megapixel camera, comparable to that of a newish smartphone. That’s not the greatest quality, but it works. I immediately found myself wanting to edit images, crop out the backgrounds and boost the colors. You can do that all on Google+, of course, but there’s little interface directly through Glass itself.
The real charm of Glass comes in sharing, however, not touching your temples. Glass integrates deeply with Google+, which you’re probably a member of already, like it or not. It’s no Facebook, sure, but it does have tens of millions of users.
Using the simple MyGlass smartphone app, you can configure the Google+ sharing features on Glass: Which of your contacts you want ready access to, which groups you want to share videos and pictures to, and so on. For what it’s worth, Google+ actually does social networking better than Facebook in some ways, and sharing pics with groups and individuals is as easy as taking them.
On the other hand, social networking is both a Glass strength and its Achilles Heel: Everyone I saw while wearing Glass stared, then eventually asked me if I was recording them. Are we live right now? Is this online?
For the record, no, Glass is not violating your privacy. No, it is not surreptitiously recording you. No, it does not do face recognition. No, I am not seeing through your clothing.
While Google’s wild invention does raise those questions, the device is designed to skirt them all: To start recording a video or snap a shot, you need to actively turn it on. And there’s no red light on the front to indicate activity, but whoever you’re speaking with should be able to see the active screen.
And Google told me face recognition would require some processing power that’s simply out of the question, at least for now.
That said, what it does do is tantalize. Want directions? There they are. Want to share a picture of your trip? Done. Need a fact to wow a dinner party? There it is.
Just don’t wear Glass during the dinner party. At least, that’s what my wife says.