Finally, the flash of newness is wearing off. It's taken a few days, but the initial novelty of Glass, enjoying wearing it simply because I could wear it, is running thin. The haze of new gadget excitement is clearing and we can truly get down to brass tacks -- but that doesn't mean I'm not having fun. In fact I've had the opportunity to take Glass with me to do something very fun indeed: ride a Ducati 848 Streetfighter on some of the most amazing roads in the world.
Even as I did this, a jaunt more focused on gathering some exciting footage than truly evaluating the device, I learned some things -- including the fact that a Google Glass headset doesn't really fit underneath a full-face helmet. Not comfortably, anyway.
The thickness of Glass, its battery pack perched behind your ear, means getting it into position while wearing a motorcycle helmet is an impossibility. It's impossible, at least, while wearing a motorcycle helmet that fits properly. Where there's a will there's a way and I found if I wedged the earpiece up against my temple the helmet padding just held it in place, suspended about an inch or so in front of my face. I couldn't hear anything this way, but it was at least pointed in the right direction.
My goal had been to do a Google+ Hangout with all my followers on there, but it wasn't until I was out on the road that I realized this isn't possible. You have to select a specific circle of friends to Hangout with -- broadcasting to the public like you can with photos or videos is not allowed. Unfortunate. I have a few select circles set up, but with only a couple-hundred folks in them at most, few awake at 6:30 in the morning when I was riding, it didn't make for quite the grand demonstration I'd been hoping for. Things got even worse when I hopped back on the bike, entered the canyons and my phone immediately lost signal. So much for the Hangout. Thankfully, recording video works online or off.
Later, back on two feet and off two wheels, after losing the leather jacket and donning an unconstructed linen one to explore the XPRIZE Visioneering conference, I found myself making a lot of new friends with people who wanted to try Glass out for themselves. Friends like Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (Yes, this was quite an impressive roster of very talented people I was surrounded by at XPRIZE, but more on that in a future article.)
After a little guidance, peoples' initial reaction to Glass is almost universal: "Whoa!"
Letting others try the headset was very instructional for me in a few regards, primary among them that watching other peoples' reactions to something new is a great way to determine its initial ease of use. Most struggled to find the location of the touch-sensitive portion of the frame, either tapping too far forward (near the lens) or too far backward. Additionally, not a single person could figure out the interface without a few moments of instruction. But, with a little guidance and a few demonstrative swipes of the finger, the reaction was almost universal: "Whoa!"
However, a very few people with eyesight difficulties tragically could never make out the image at all. One gentleman, who had laser corrective surgery on his right eye to provide far vision and on his left to provide near, couldn't see a thing. A few others with vision troubles reported the same, whether they tried Glass with prescription glasses or without. There's no adjustment for focal length in the headset at this point, but hopefully this is something coming in a future revision.
Letting others try Glass also forced me to be a bit introspective. With everyone asking for my opinion on the headset I was, therefore, forced to actually have an opinion at all times. As the weekend wore on, I found that opinion starting to skew more toward the negative. I had run out of new things to try and I wasn't finding the act of skimming truncated versions of emails compelling enough to warrant wearing Glass around all day. And, as impressed as I was with the navigation aspect, that's hardly a daily thing for most.
Still, two events really raised the value of the headset for me. One was the opening ceremony of XPRIZE Visioneering, where a dancer up on stage performed an amazing demonstration of spinning, whirling and rolling around in a giant metal hoop. I'd never seen anything like it. I could have fumbled into my bag to pull out my camera. I could have pulled my Note II out of my pocket, entered my PIN and waited for the camera app to load. Either would have meant missing at least the first few moments of the act. Instead, I just held the button on Glass and was instantly recording from my perspective.
Secondly was another Google Hangout, this one with a much smaller circle of friends: my wife. Having only been home for a night or two over the past few weeks I was lamenting being away yet again. I'm typically not one for video calling in general: if I'm at my laptop then there are emails to be read and holding a phone in front of my face isn't very compelling. Here, I could show her the amazing views at the Visioneering resort and watch her react as I panned the view up and down the coast. Of course it might be better if she could see a bit of my face too, but we'll have to wait for NTT DoCoMo's prototype to get a little smaller for that.
That experience definitely made me recalibrate my opinion on Glass yet again. Still, I'm finally getting my head around this thing that's been around my head for the better part of a week.