In a loft atop Chelsea Market, Google is doing something special. Here, lucky Explorers will get their first taste of Project Glass. Yes, Google's latest X project (that we know about, at least) has finally made its way to the East Coast en masse. More importantly, it's also made its way to my face. A full Engadget review of the headset is most certainly on the way, but this is the sort of thing that will take some time to evaluate. You can quite quickly size up the next iteration of a great smartphone. Evaluating a wholly new product category to see how it fits into your life? That takes a little longer, dear readers.
I plan to spend a little while living with Glass in a variety of ways, some exciting and many less so, with the goal of getting comfortable with the thing -- or uncomfortable, if that's how it turns out. Given how many of you are excited to read about Google's new wearable, we wanted to let you come along for the ride. After all, isn't sharing an experience what Glass is really all about? Join me for my very first impressions after picking up my headset and some sample footage of the trip home.
Google Glass unboxing
So how did I get here? Did I post an inspirational video online pledging why I should be an Explorer? Nothing that aspiring, sadly. As you may recall, Google first started accepting pre-orders very nearly a year ago at its I/O developer conference. After being wooed by skydivers and extreme bikers, I stood in line like everyone else and walked away with my own little individually numbered Lucite cube. This week, nearly 10 months later, I got an email. My time, it seemed, had come. I set an appointment and scrambled down to NYC as quickly as I could get there to pick up my new headgear.
Enthusiastic Google employees will ensure every aspect of Glass is perfect before letting early Explorers start exploring on their own.
On the other end of an elevator hidden in Chelsea Market was where lucky ones got to pick theirs up. It's a clean, open space, full of stations where enthusiastic Google employees sat and patiently ensured that every aspect of Glass is perfect before letting those early Explorers start exploring on their own.
There were mirrors at every station and the whole place looked a bit like a high-end, open-air, futuristic salon -- minus the chemical smell and banal chitchat. Here it's just a team of very eager-to-please Glass experts who walk you through every step of the process, from opening the box to pairing to your phone, even adjusting the nosepieces so that the whole thing rests just perfectly on your face. The final step? A trip over to the window to sample the great view -- and to capture your first photo and video through your new headgear.
You do get your choice of color and I had my heart set on something pastel. Alas, currently available choices were somewhat limited: what amounted to gray, darker gray or white. I went with the latter, a particularly conspicuous hue that I may learn to regret. Indeed, I wasn't more than a few steps out the door before the curious looks started and, on my first subway ride, I noticed a total stranger smiling at me. This is not a typical thing.
"Is it as good as they say?" a stranger asked. "It looks cool."
"Is it as good as they say?" he asked, after a few moments. I apologized, saying I'd just barely put them on and didn't really have any impressions to give yet. "It looks cool," he concluded. Not a bad start.
I managed to capture our conversation on video, a process achieved by holding down the tiny shutter button on the right of the device. It records for only 10 seconds by default, but two quick taps on the touch-sensitive side of Glass will extend that indefinitely. Just shutter pressing the button once captures an image.
You can, of course, do all that using voice if you like, but saying "Okay Glass, take a picture" every time is a bit cumbersome. You can also speak to get directions, make phone calls and search the web; things I'll dive into a bit more next time.
The speaker on Glass, in case you're wondering, is a bone-conductive unit that buzzes just behind your right ear to create sound. It actually tickles a bit sometimes and is a little hard to hear in crowds, I learned, but if you plug your ears it works well even there. Interestingly, I found I could hear it best whilst wearing earbuds.
I captured a few other short clips on the long, late-night ride home that I've cut together in the video above. As things get progressively darker, you can see the limits of this tiny, 5-megapixel shooter when it comes to low-light capture. The last clip, of me getting home late at night and being greeted by our sleepy, but excited mutt Yoshi (who you may remember from an earlier review), looks like a murky scene out of a horror movie. It was very dark indeed, but after I turned the light on, I could still see my pooch just fine. All Glass could pick up was a hint of a happily wagging tail.
Don't worry; you'll get to see more of Yoshi later with future videos I'll be sharing, along with plenty of impressions leading up to our full review. Much more to come.
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