It’s the little girl on the train that says: “what’s wrong with your head?” that is my standout Google Glass experience. For a moment I’m thrown. “It’s a new computer,” I reply. “You wear it on your head”.
When she is an adult, wearing head-computers might seem laughably antiquated. She will go wide-eyed and tell her own children about how people used to actually have to wear computers like glasses instead of having bio-implants.
But for the present, I’m wearing Glass, a new type of device made by Google that is phenomenally futuristic.
You wear Glass like a regular pair of sunglasses, but in front of your right eye is a clear piece of plastic into which a small video display is beamed.
Gaze skywards and a small video screen hovers into view displaying the words ‘OK glass’. This is your cue to talk. Say “OK glass” and up pops a list of options like ‘Take a photo’, ‘Post an update’ or ‘Send a message to’. You can then dictate messages through Glass to your friends, all without having to put your fingers on a smudge-covered screen.
As well as using voice commands to control Glass you can navigate its commands by swiping your fingers back, forth and up and down alongside the right side of the headset.
But Glass is wonderful to use. A standout feature is being able to take a photograph of whatever I’m looking at by winking. The cup of coffee I’m holding, my mother-in-law talking about trees, my nephew playing on a slide - everything can be instantly snapped and shared.
I record a video while I climb up inside a windmill and out into the sunlight - a shot that would have been impossible with a phone. Everything is from the first-person viewpoint, and because there’s no ‘Say cheese’ moment, I can get incredibly natural photos and videos of my friends and family.
My other half posts a photo of me feeding a goat in a petting zoo to Facebook. I reply with a first-person view of my hand feeding the goat. I feel like I’m living in the future.
“You look a right bloody nerd,” my sister tells me. A piece of paper inside the Glass box tells me otherwise: “You are a pioneer. A founder and an architect of what’s possible. You are a Glass Explorer”. It is the most wonderfully up-its-own-bottom statement I’ve heard in years - and that’s coming from someone who’s covered every Apple product launch since the original iPod.
As well as grandiose statements, Google Glass throws up some truly epic concerns about privacy. Glass has already been banned from all cinemas in the UK, and Google is in talks with the government about how it can get Glass to be legal on the roads. I try driving with the Directions app but it’s too distracting for me – it’s the only element of Glass I don’t like.
And that’s all before we discuss what it’ll be like to live in a world where people can take photos of each other just by winking.
In the meantime nobody hassles me. I don’t even get called a ‘Glasshole’ (the cheery nickname for Glass wearers in its native San Francisco).
Fashion or fail?
I do feel stupid wearing Glass to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk, but I take a photo of the milk as I’m walking home and post it on Facebook for my friends to look at. On the whole I quickly get over any inhibitions about wearing Glass, and most people seem to either not notice or not care.
A friend of mine believes that historically, people have vastly overestimated how important looking like a fool will be to hampering the adoption of new tech. He is right. Have you seen what kids are wearing these days? There are Lady Gaga fans who, literally walk around in their underwear. There are boys in my neighbourhood who, without any sense of mirth, irony or self-reflection connect a belt to trousers worn around their knees.
I don’t think Glass presents any fashion problems. The minute Jay-Z is seen sporting a pair they’ll be fair game for everyone.
Right now, the asking price of £1,000 is more of an issue. Glass is expensive, although I suspect Glass will be on a future Christmas list from him once the price falls.
In the meantime I am the only Glass owner I know. But owning Glass does feel incredible. It feels like a device from the future has slipped through a timestream and fallen into my hands. I love it.
Right now, Glass reminds me of the first time I held an iPhone more than seven years ago. It was like holding the future.
The price for Glass will have to come down and a few technical kinks still need ironing out. The social implications need talking over but, on the whole, I really am rather smitten with Glass. I hope it does well.