OK, Glass: How do I stop people calling me a 'Glasshole'?

OK, Glass: How do I stop people calling me a 'Glasshole'?

Summary: Google Glass holds a fair few surprises — even if they are from the general public. How does a Glass wearer get around the social barriers of wearable tech?

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TOPICS: Google
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(Image: Sarah Tew/CBS Interactive)

It turns out the general wider public can be really mean.

For the past couple of months I have been experimenting with $1,600 (including tax) worth of wearable tech: the confounding and perplexing Google Glass. While the gadget is still within select circles of those lucky enough to have been invited, and ultimately able to afford the overpriced wearable prototype, it remains enough of an exclusive device close to a year after it was first released to still garner strange looks, bewilderment and intrigue from those on the streets of New York.

And in some cases, it was enough to produce some less than desirable responses from the general public.  

But I knew it would happen. I was a certified "Glasshole" the moment I put them on outside the social safety and cultural comfort of our newsroom, where (thankfully) around every corner there is a geek wanting to try on the device. As soon as I spilled onto the busy streets of Manhattan, there was no way I would be able to walk home without at least one person slashing my optimism with a fateful look or a cruel comment.

I'll be the first to admit it was expected. It would be more unusual if nobody did. Anyone with a weird contraption on their forehead may as well have had a swearword tattooed on their brow for all the difference it would've made.

But it was worth it to see how people reacted to Glass in the real-world even if it was to get the strange looks, the deathly stares, the confused glances, and the one-off utterance of abuse from the guy wearing just a t-shirt in the midst of a freezing cold snap in mid-November.

Because that's "normal." Pot meet kettle, sir.

I felt uncomfortable and awkward the whole time I was walking to work or home wearing Glass. And this is coming from a Tourette's sufferer who regularly shouts profanities and flails his limbs in an obvious, outlandish, and unnatural way. I felt the stomach-churning sense of embarrassment shooting down my body for the first time in a while.

Just as Glass was as alien to those looking at me, my own feelings to their reactions were just as painfully uncomfortable to receive.

Why would anyone even put themselves through this, knowing full well what they would expect? It didn't take long, though, to ponder how long it might take for Glass to catch on.

Because what felt like I was the only "glasshole" wearing the device out in the public , one did wonder if the selection process of so-called Glass Explorers was either to blame, or too narrow for social adoption. Simply put: if more people were given the chance to wear Glass, would the general public be a little less hostile to the growing minority of real-world explorers?

Right now we're in a unique test period for wearable tech. Only a handful currently have access to this technology a few fortunate thousand in the U.S. are donning this eyeglass gadget on a regular basis. But how often do you see someone wearing Glass? I've seen just one regular person outside our gadget-laden newsroom.

Also judging on my newsroom encounters and discussions with other tech-related folk, the Glass-wearing userbase also seems to be restricted to the tech world.

It had me wondering why those deemed by Google to be "worthy" of wearing Glass hadn't been more overt out and about on the streets.

Because it seems, anecdotally, those who understand what Glass is and what it can do mock it the most. Those who don't understand or aren't as clued up on the latest tech appear cautious and distant, but are on the most part willing to learn or at very least experience first-hand what this vastly misunderstood device can do. 

And why? Was there some deep psychological reason why we distance ourselves and denounce Glass wearers? One suggestion floated at work was this notion that deflected eye contact between two humans as a possible reason. While one can be staring emptily into the glass prism display, the other may look on longingly for attention. Eyes are, as the saying goes, "windows to the soul." And technology is soulless. 

Or was it simply down to a lack of willingness on the Glass wearer's part  a non-sentient and emotionless owner who might not have shared the device with others enough in efforts to teach others about the highly misunderstood technology?

Or neither. Maybe it boils down to simply being scared of the world that's ever changing around us?

(Image: ZDNet)

It quickly became apparent that Glass is the most personal piece of tech you may never own. Its roots in your life appear far deeper than your smartphone, which has yet to visualize the vast amount of data that we own, hold, generate and consume. Glass in its current physical formation may never see the light of day. Exactly how the device's capabilities can be absorbed by future technology remains to be seen.

While the technology is reaching — albeit slowly — the mainstream, Glass Explorers should be educators while they have the chance. While the pool of users is still so small, this few select "glassorati" should be out there teaching and humanizing this technology that has still yet to reach the hands (or heads) of the wider populous.

With great power — and I say sincerely, because Glass Explorers today hold the key to the future integration of the technology in wider society — comes even greater responsibility. Fears are rarely unfounded. They stem from somewhere. All it takes is one wrong impression or inaccurate perception and that entire safety sphere crumbles around a person. 

Read this

Google Glass: The most personal piece of tech you may never own

Google Glass: The most personal piece of tech you may never own

Some gadgets you can use as though they were your own, like tablets and televisions. But Google Glass, the new kid on the wearable technology block, extends the nature of "personal tech" to a whole new level — even more so than your trusty smartphone sidekick.

The fact of the matter is that during the time I was wearing Glass, despite my initial preconceptions and concerns, there were very few out-in-the-world situations arose that caused concern or worry among the public.

There were however in close-quarter situations, isolated incidents where some were notably concerned for their privacy. I explained in one case numerous times, again and again, that I would have to physically push a button on the device to take a photo of them. This allayed fears in the short term, but would it have stuck? I felt bad in that I wasn't telling them the whole truth. I could easily take a sneaky picture without their knowledge. Was I wrong to? Probably. But short of facing physical hostility I felt at times I had to bargain with the chips I felt I was handed.

(I should point out that a Glass "Guide" who walked me through the setup and initial learning process at Google's New York base told me that there was "no way for Explorers to surreptitiously take photos with a blink or a nod." But that changed with the latest version of the Glass software, dubbed XE12, which allowed users to less than covertly — but still far from observably — "wink" to take a photo should the setting be calibrated and enabled. Despite the initial yet unfounded rumors, this feature addition may only compound fears that photos and video can be taken without a physical interaction that could be blocked by an onlooker.)

Google, the developer of the sought-after device, above all else has a responsibility to its users — for their safety, and the general public — for their privacy, to consider the hardware design aesthetic of the device. Changes to how the gadget looks will have a significant effect on how people react with Glass users, rather than the device itself.

Let's face it: it wasn't so long ago taking photos from an iPad was frowned upon. It looked silly. And it still does to the untrained eye. But most have become accustomed to such an irregular facet to our daily lives.

A more surreptitious look for Glass could see the device blend in and be less intrusive on social interactions, but could foster a greater "big brother" feel to on-the-street surveillance. The other side could reduce fears of privacy invasion but take longer for ordinary folk to adjust to the idea of someone wearing an intrusive-looking device on their brow. 

In spite of the dozen updates to the Glass software, users are still limited in what they can do with it. And that's no secret. It's much at the mercy of a smartphone and a Google account, which can be remotely dissected by the search giant's vast analytics services and computational power. Glass doesn't know what the weather is: its Google Now service does, and it feeds the information to your eyeglass headset.

Beyond the occasional novelty that relies on the search giant trawling through your Gmail inbox for pointers on what it can display, such as flight details and other data-laden emails that would be an NSA analyst's wet dream, Glass may be more aptly named "Looking Glass," as a viewer into your smartphone's superior data and processing core.

Glass still feels like — with all due respect to Google — a bit of a "dumb" device. It's a second display for your smartphone, one that is easier to visualize the pocketful of data you have — and for that reason it could be an enterprise disruptor — but otherwise it's device that still has little else to offer besides a new way of interfacing and interacting with the person using it.

(Image: ZDNet)

But it isn't an excuse, at least in my eyes, to chastise or belittle the user wearing it. In fact it takes gumption to don a brand new technology that will no doubt baffle and confuse so many. 

Glass isn't a straight-up simple solution to any particular problem. Nor is it a gadget or device that invokes reaction from people in a certain or prescribed way. There's no single way to gauge how someone might react, or not react as the case may be, to someone wearing a foreign or unfamiliar device in plain sight.  

It goes almost without saying: Glass isn't and will not be for everyone. Smartphones, let alone the dozens of different variants on the market, aren't for everyone either, particularly those in the older and very-young categories. Tablets don't suit everyone's needs, in particular my own personal taste.

Likewise, Glass will probably not enter my periphery of technology that I will need in the near future. But it was nevertheless an interesting, fun, exciting, and enthralling time in tech to try it out.

(Image: ZDNet)

And maybe that's where the problem lies. In fact, for all of the mentioned reasons, it adds up to a device that isn't necessary, can't do much (and what it can do wears off as a novelty pretty quickly), and a limitation on the wider public-facing education of a device that is unlike any other gadget developed in the mainstream, it all adds up to distrust.

Why am I a "glasshole" exactly? Because I can't be trusted to not take photos without permission. I'm also embracing a technology that has yet to be tried and tested among the general populous (ergo making the term synonymous with "geek" or the less-friendly "nerd"). And, last but not least, because people are afraid of what's new and the unknown.

But that's to be expected. The one takeaway for myself, a Glass Explorer, is that as the elephant in the room (or on the street) I should have stopped the guy who called me a "glasshole" and let him try it on.

Because watching his face light up with excitement and interest, and the willingness to try something new on his way to work that ordinary Tuesday morning, could have been magical.

This is the second article in a five-part series on Google Glass.

Also read:

Topic: Google

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109 comments
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  • You don't.

    How does a Glass wearer get around the social barriers of wearable tech?

    You don't.
    NoAxToGrind
    • So leave your ipod, ear buds and mobile phones at home.

      And leave those tablets at home too - they take pictures as well.
      Sounds stupid?

      Wearable tech is going to be there whether you like it or not.

      Some because they NEED it (blind may use it as a safety device, warning them of activity, or a braille translator of text).
      Some may use it to compensate for brain damage such that they cannot Geo-position themselves, or to identify trusted individuals to request assistance (facial blindness)... or just use it for navigational aid.

      In some cases, such wearable tech will be used to prevent heart attacks, fast identification of injuries, crime scene investigation, medical records... even legal records (if you attack the wearer, it would provide the evidence and identity of the attacker).

      You may not like it, but you are being recorded every time you go shopping.
      jessepollard
      • No it won't

        Not going to happen.
        NoAxToGrind
        • Jo 90

          Remember this TV show http://youtu.be/nTsMx1DGfNk

          That is why people hates these stupid glasses. Nobody likes "I know it all" people and with these glasses that is what you pretending. Worst, you can even record how superior you are without people's agreement. A recipe for rejection.
          gbouchard99
          • And when this goes main stream??

            Yes, your comment makes no sense at all ...
            Wearable tech is here .. just get used to it or stay stupid ..
            CND-Dude
      • Nice ..

        Wearable tech is here and is only going to get more powerful over time.

        This little article is a great look into the personal misconceptions of
        what the general public feels is a misuse of technology. Yes, a Google Glass user can
        take pictures/video of what ever they want, but on the flip side, so can a smart phone user. Hell, we can hack a smart phone to have the phone take pictures for us!!

        NYC and other major US cities are installing thousands of security cameras. along with the already existing in building cameras that film every bodies moments each and everyday.

        People in general hate/dislike what they do not know/understand... So it is understandable that some one using a device like Google Glass will cause some unrest in the general public.

        One last thing.. Technology is not going way! and if you think that you can stop it, then you will be sadly mistaken.
        CND-Dude
    • There is already cameras everywhere, other then the glass tech itself..

      you don't even realize your being recorded. Traffic cams, store cams, business cams.. there's even a camera in the lobby of my apt. Has been like that since 94 or earlier. Privacy has been dead since security cameras has been installed.
      MidnightDistortions
      • With Great Power Comes Great Accountability

        The difference is that surveillance is usually handled by enforcement agencies or other apparatuses that use the information in a way that's deemed non-intrusive and in some cases even regulated (regular audits, security checks, etc). The issue is accountability.

        If you're apartment complex is surveilling your lobby it's likely for security purposes. However, if they have cameras in your bathroom or bedroom that would be an invasion of your privacy to which you could issue a subpoena to cease and desist.

        There's also the matter of having full view of the cameras watching you. They're not hidden behind flower beds or in mannequins' eyes. They're mounted to ceiling tiles or directly above and behind the teller at the bank. You have full knowledge that you're being watched, which will hopefully elicit responsible and civil behavior.

        But it's different if any and everyone can record you at any time. Ergo, no accountability. What are they doing with that footage? Who's making sure that they're using it in a responsible matter? Who else has access to that content and what will they do with it?

        Imagine the janitor or the intern being allowed to swerve the cameras in any direction he likes (including maybe the bathroom) then taking the footage home for his own sorted and morbid habits.

        Recording anyone and everyone without oversight or some sort of regulation is dangerous. Not saying it can't happen now but someone following you holding their smartphone or tablet out is incredibly apparent. But a pair of glasses that can be activate a recording or snap a photo with just a wink, not so much.
        bruce_leeroy
      • It's not the same

        But I guess until people like you get a slap in the face then you will never realize it.
        global.philosopher
      • Here's another good example

        You can be arrested and fined and even go to court/jail for pointing a camera up girls dresses on stairs and escalators. How do you catch the pervs doing this with Glass?
        global.philosopher
        • Yeah

          Because no one will see you stick up your head or remove your glasses and point upwards and say "Ok glass, take a picture"
          wei2912
        • easy

          You look for the people wearing google glass on their shoe

          if your afraid of someone looking up your skirt secretly with a camera attached to their head, And not notice it maybe you shouldn't be standing legs shoulder width apart bent over on the escalator in a miniskirt
          djdunn420
      • You seriously don't see a difference?

        If I go into 7-11, yes, I'm recorded on camera. That video lives on a videotape or DVR system that lives in the back room. A 7-11 employee /may/ be watching at that particular moment, and may not. That tape /may/ be reviewed later on, and may not. In some spectacularly odd circumstance, that video may be transferred off the recording device and uploaded to the internet, and will be unlikely to be given to another party without some sort of court order.

        Now compare this with Google Glass. At any point, the wearer could be uploading real-time video footage to Google. This is the company that never deletes anything, performs facial recognition, does location based correlation, has thousands of other people doing this kind of surveillance (and thus providing more data to mine) and stores things forever.

        ...You seriously think that they're equal? I don't.

        Joey
        voyager529
        • funny...

          don't lkke people looking at you dont go outside, I'm sure 100% that google does facial recognition/geolocation to everything that gets uploaded to youtube

          Wakeup call, your not that important.
          djdunn420
  • you maybe are (Gl)asshole

    1) only limited iPeople are jealous
    2) of you think that these limited people are important for innovations, than you deserve that :)
    3) if it had "Apple" logo they would buy it even for 3000$
    Jiří Pavelec
    • Re: Jiří

      1) It isn't iPeople jealousy, but fear by the public. Try walking around with any camera constantly pointed a strangers.
      2) Not sure what your point is?
      3) You are an anti-Apple bigot. Doubling the price doesn't make it attractive. Making it work does or the market will kill you even if it is an Apple product.
      CanadianTrooper
      • Secret Envy

        People can't help but to drag Apple into the conversation. It's really sad and likely points to a user who secretly wishes their hardware/software of choice was as well respected as Apple.

        As for the price, if Apple did charge an insane amount of money for a similar product it would likely work a lot better and they wouldn't need nearly 2 years for people to try it out. Consumers would just go out and buy it because they see the value in the usefulness in it.

        Having said that, I don't know if anyone has the secret formula for wearable tech, not even Apple. I just don't see the need. All of the options currently on the market aren't really doing anything different or offering a feature that goes beyond a few seconds of convenience.

        So the text message from the wife appears in my eye or on my wrist but pulling my phone out of my pocket is hardly a chore (it's usually on the desk, on the couch or in the passenger seat next to me when I'm sitting down/driving anyway). Besides, as an iMac and iPad user if a get a iMessage text, Facebook alert or Reminder alert is pops up on my screen anyway. A watch or glasses would be yet another beeping/buzzing do-dad that I'd have to ignore or swipe out of my view (not to mention the upcoming iOS in the Car on your car's dashboard).

        If a watch or eyeglass mount can do something that my smartphone can't do then maybe I'll entertain the notion but as it stands no one's has hit the 'I-gotta-have-it-button' yet.
        bruce_leeroy
        • What?? Apple gives you a choice of H/W and S/W ??

          'It's really sad and likely points to a user who secretly wishes their hardware/software of choice' is Apple ??

          Sorry, but Apple does not give you a choice.. not sure what your point was here ..??
          Apple is the biggest Communist phone company on the planet!! Choice is not in
          Apple's dictionary ... (Apples are also Red!!) can I be anymore blunt!

          Oh ya, Apple is said to be working on an iWatch, Not that you have to buy one, but I bet you will!! you make quite the iSheep by the sound of it! Apple looks forward to your $$
          CND-Dude
      • Apple is proved evil

        I just know the facts that
        1) Apple's iPhones are infected by NSA doors (I don't trust Apple what is saying like a us judge said
        2) Apple harms mobile industry through ridiculous wheel like patents
        3) stealing from customers via e.g. price fixing ebooks
        Jiří Pavelec
        • You wouldn't know a "fact"

          If it came up and bit you on the @$$.
          matthew_maurice