06 4 / 2014

Google started testing its newest product, Google Glass, in 2012.  The tech world is very much aware of this device, but there are many people in the general population that have never heard of Google Glass or what it does.  When worn, Google Glass looks like a very small piece of glass sitting just above and in front of the wearer’s eye.  It is either hooked onto a pair of glasses or sunglasses, or it could be worn alone on its own frame.  This tiny device allows the wearer to accomplish a wide range of tasks that include sending messages, searching the Internet, and taking pictures and videos.  It will even give directions.  All of this is done simply by speaking a command.  Directions to the business meeting you need to attend will be delivered to the tiny glass screen just by saying, “Get directions” and giving the address.

The term Google has given to Glass wearers is “Explorers”, and since it’s been introduced, roughly 8,000 people have become Google Glass Explorers.  At 2013’s SxSW conference (the annual music, film and interactive technology forum held in Austin, TX), Explorers were seen everywhere.   In fact, Google Glass was one of the main topics of conversation.  When 2014’s SxSW was held, even though people were curious, it gave many a great sense of discomfort if they were near an Explorer.  How could this tiny piece of glass make someone feel uncomfortable around it?   

People who aren’t really familiar with Google Glass have heard of the things it can do, and the part that worries them  is the fact that they don’t know if they are being recorded.  You could be having a conversation with an Explorer, or walking past an Explorer and not know if the device is even on at the time.  There’s a sense of creepiness in this unknown factor.  Some people feel so paranoid they will go out of their way to avoid an Explorer.  The Explorer can be using the Glass to read his e-mail, conduct research or have the device turned off, but still, people will walk as far from him as possible so as to not be “caught” by the Glass.

Explorers have been in some embarrassing situations just because they are wearing Google Glass.  Some have been asked to leave nightclubs and business meetings because of the sense of unease others were having.  Explorers have also been given extra scrutiny at airports and other transportation terminals.  Cecilia Abadie discovered that wearing Google Glass while driving could result in a traffic ticket.  In October 2013, Ms. Abadie was stopped for speeding.  In California, there is a law that a monitor (DVD, computer, etc.) can’t be visible to the driver, so the police officer gave her a ticket for “Monitor visible to driver” in addition to the speeding ticket.  The matter was brought to Court in January 2014 and Ms. Abadie was found not guilty of the “Monitor visible to driver” ticket.  The Judge explained that in order to have been found guilty, the police officer would have had to prove that Ms. Abadie’s Google Glass was actually turned on while she was driving.  Since this was impossible to prove, the ticket had to be dismissed.

When there are discussions about Google Glass, the lines are split.  Explorers love it, but those who don’t wear it say they will barely tolerate it or hate it altogether.  Non-wearers always have that feeling of discomfort whenever an Explorer is in their vicinity.  They don’t like the fact that their every movement could be recorded in secret.

Explorers have given the argument that there is no need for the unease around Google Glass because wherever you go, there are security cameras recording your every move and people taking photos and videos with their smart phones.  But non-wearers have brought up that while there are cameras all around us, they are at least visible, and it’s obvious when a smart phone is being used to record.  When it comes to Google Glass, only the Explorer knows for sure if the device is recording, or if it’s on at all.  The conclusion to this is that it’s not the Glass that is causing the unease; it’s the fact that one never knows what is happening behind that Glass.

Explorers have been asked if they feel the same sense of unease when coming in contact with another Explorer.  They all say that they have no issues with other Explorers because they are fully aware of how Glass works.  They can also somewhat understand how it can make non-wearers feel uneasy because it’s still relatively a new technology that isn’t fully understood unless you have it.

Google is aware of the unease caused by Google Glass and have written a “Do” and “Don’t” list for Explorers to follow in order to alleviate some of the discomfort felt by others.  Here are the lists developed by Google:

Do

1.  Explore the world around you. 

2.  Use voice commands when wearing Glass.

3.  Always ask permission before taking pictures or recording someone.

4.  Others may be curious, so always lock your screen when not wearing your Glass so no one else can use it.

5.  Be active and vocal in the Google Glass Community.

Don’t

1.  Don’t overdo by using your Google Glass so much that you stop doing the things you normally love to do.  In other words, don’t “glass-out”. 

2.  Don’t wear Google Glass when participating in high-impact sports.

3.  People will be curious and approach you in order to talk to you about your Glass. So, don’t wear Google Glass and not expect to be asked questions. 

4.  Don’t be a “Glasshole”.  Take off your Google Glass anywhere that you would normally be asked to turn off your cell phone.  Don’t be creepy by wearing your Glass at the movies, in a bar or during a meeting. 

So, if you ever encounter a Google Glass Explorer, ask questions instead of running away.  You may see Google Glass as a violation of your privacy, but Explorers are on a journey to discover the world through new eyes, not to secretly record total strangers.  The more you learn about Google Glass and the Explorer community, the less unease you will feel when you next encounter it. 

At this time, Google Glass is not available in stores, but there are some stores advertising its sale.   Don’t be fooled by these scams.  In order to become a member of Google’s Explorer community, you must apply directly to Google.  If you are accepted into the community, you can purchase your Glass directly from Google for $1,500.  I think I’ll be applying as soon as I can save up for it!

(Source: privacypartners.com)

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