It was a few hours into wearing Google Glass that I tried to convince myself they don’t really stick out and might actually be something useful.
“They may look ridiculous, but at least they’re not like wearing a dunce cap around campus,” I thought. “They even make some things easier, like being on the phone while running or trying to get directions from someone as they see what I see.”
For a good few minutes, I mulled these thoughts over in my head on the way from my Northside co-op to Dwinelle Hall. By the time I arrived at class, a nearly 160-person political economy lecture, I made a beeline for a seat on the side of the auditorium that wasn’t near anyone I knew. I felt some eyes on me, and a couple of folks even attempted the discreet head turns I was anticipating.
I eased into my seat, let my mind wander from the lecture and looked up at the ceiling for a moment. Just maybe, I could get through a day of wearing the silly thing.
“2:21 p.m. OK, GLASS,” the screen reads.
The device’s over-eye display turns on, and I’m distracted for a moment. I’ve forgotten that sometimes when you turn your head too abruptly, the light flashes on, and you need to wait a moment to let it fade away. I’m distracted from the lecture and my daydream for a moment, and the thing around my head pulled me away from them.
Glass weighs very little, and it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it, which is good because there aren’t a ton of things I was able to do with it in the time I was wearing it. It’s Wi-Fi-capable, which means when it’s connected, there’s a limited Google search function. If you have an Android phone or configure your iPhone properly, you’re even able to sync the devices over Bluetooth. But in order to really know what you’re doing and download apps and so on, you need to have some experience with computers and programming.
If you lack any actual computer science knowledge, the main things you can do are take pictures, record videos and upload them to your computer. Because setting up Wi-Fi in all the places a student goes in a day is such a pain, Google Glass’ capability at this moment feels closer to a more advanced Bluetooth headset. But these are just the technical basis for why my experience as a Glasshole was so unsatisfying.
The problem is that the value of Google Glass right now is mostly ornamental. At some point, maybe when Google announces that it’s made a decision to mass-produce Glass and sell it to the general public, things will change. But I doubt we’re going to get to that point anytime soon, if ever — regardless of the trendy partnerships Google can make as a result of producing Glass.
To begin with, Google Glass has a $1,500 price tag (in addition to an application process) — an enormous amount for what seems to be a relatively superfluous piece of technology, particularly in a business environment in which every great technological innovation (the tablet/iPad, the smartphone) seems to be cutting costs for consumers. That said, the problem isn’t just with the price tag.
The hands-free aspect of Google Glass, which really seems to be its highest-profile feature, has a few serious drawbacks. As my friend who lent me the pair pointed out, there is no text entry for Glass right now. This means you can’t take notes for more than a few seconds or enter information without speaking aloud. While the eye-detection technology is emerging, it’s not quite there yet.
This brings me to my last point.
If you can’t really get a ton out of the device right now, why wear it around? I suppose there are a few reasons. One is that you’re working out a new app, and you want to test it in the real world. Another is that if you fundamentally believe this is the future of wearable technology (a really gross set of words to put next to one another), then it’s logical that you consider yourself “ahead of the curve” or an “early adopter.” Still, though, explanations like these are unsatisfying.
As Gawker’s Adrian Chen pointed out, you’re an asshole if you wear Google Glass. “Wearing Google Glass is functionally the same as living with a smart phone held constantly at eye-level,” he explains. “This does not change if the smartphone is tiny and strapped to your eye and made by Google. In fact, you thinking that this excuses your asshole behavior just makes you that much more of an asshole.”
Defending the right to scale down a smartphone to further allow you to divide your attention when interacting face to face with humans is something an asshole does. And if that’s the concept that’s most attractive, regardless of the serious technical limitations of Glass right now, odds are you’re a Glasshole, too.