Exploring Google Glass: A fitting appointment, step-by-step (slideshow)

Google is pulling out all the stops for welcoming more than 2,000 eager beavers into the Glass Explorer Program. Here's a close-up look at the fitting process.

Topic: Mobility
1 of 20 Rachel King/ZDNet

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. -- It's been nearly a year since approximately 2,000 developers, journalists, and other geeky tech enthusiasts signed up for the Google Glass Explorer Program.

For months, there have been morsels of availability information doled out along with and sent out in the mail.

Now, the time has come for all of us to pick up our Glass prototypes (and fork over $1,500 plus tax).

The Internet giant is certainly pulling out all the stops in introducing these new “Explorers” to Glass.

Glass recipients are treated with a concierge-like service, starting with a phone call to schedule an appointment fitting to the pick-up itself at one of three location options: New York, Los Angeles, and the Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View.

Of course, with anything technology-related, there are bound to be some hiccups -- and Google is no exception.

Photos: James Martin, CNET

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After a mix-up with my meeting time (Google reps informed me that that my appointment reminder email was "auto-populated with the wrong information"), I picked up Glass on Monday.

In what was much more glamorous than a regular visit to the optometry office, here’s a step-by-step look at being fitted for Google Glass.

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During the pre-appointment phone call, I asked why it was necessary to drive down from San Francisco to Mountain View at all for this.

After all, the original Explorer program email said there was the option that Glass could be mailed in the case that the participant couldn't make it.

There were incentives offered about visiting in person, including meeting other Explorers as well as Google Glass team developers -- not to mention valet parking and champagne as some luxe perks for springing for a $1,500 pair of shades.

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Explorers have five hues to choose from when picking out Glass: Charcoal, tangerine, slate, cotton, and sky. (These shades are also known by the names black, orange, gray, white, and baby blue).

Glass buyers are asked to choose which palette they'd like during the pre-appointment phone call, but I was asked again in case I'd like to change my decision last minute.

I still went with what I think is the cleaner, more modern (yet futuristic) look: "Cotton."

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There are a few steps to take care of ahead of in between the scheduling call and the Glass fitting itself.

For starters, explorers are asked to set up Google+ accounts -- if they haven't already. (It might be shocking if someone in this program didn't already have one considering the test pool is made up of Google fanboys -- or at least tech nerds who are likely social media savvy and must have set up a Google+ account, even if it's not active anymore.)

The Google+ account is considered vital to the Glass experience because users can share photos and videos recorded on Glass with their Circles and "the world."

There isn't much else to do with Glass beyond sharing photos and videos yet, so users might as well comply.

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Explorers are also asked to enable Bluetooth tethering on their mobile data plans for pairing the device with smartphones.

(More on this later as there is a loophole of sorts for Android users, but not so for iPhone owners).

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Finally, explorers also need to have consumer Gmail accounts. More so than with the Google+ account, this tip seems like a done deal at this point -- especially considering a Google account is integrated so much with the registration process for Google I/O, which is where Explorer Program sign-ups took place.

But the keyword is "consumer." Google Apps customers are out of luck for now, but a Gmail account is free anyway.

Nevertheless, this rule could initially present a number of problems for business use cases. In a way, it heralds the whole BYOD trend and concern if users want to use consumer apps and products (i.e. Gmail paired with Glass) for work and storing corporate information.

Furthermore, many companies might not want something as light, mobile, and eye-catching (no pun intended) as Glass to be used for work-related purposes with sensitive data onboard in case the device is stolen.

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But that's enough shop talk...for now. Let's get a better look at what's in the box.

Immediately upon opening up the box, Glass is on full display with a very minimally-detailed map as to what is where.

On the inside of the box is a three-step guide to turning off the device, which I didn't even notice until later because a Glass team member walked me through the entire process.

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The first step is turning on the device by pressing the power button. Like many products, Glass did come charged -- at least to 67 percent when I opened the box.

Even though by this point I had read enough articles and reviews about using Glass, I still jumped out of my seat ever so slightly when I first saw the display light up.

But I'll admit that right from the get-go, it was a distraction while trying to focus my eyes on and listen to the Glass team member explaining the details.

I wanted to make eye contact, but then I also wanted to look at the screen. I know it might take time to become accustomed to, but it didn't feel intuitive nor encouraging of conversation while wearing Glass.

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The second step is to adjust the nose bridge to the point where the display should sit just above the user's field of vision.

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I was informed (or rather reminded) by the Glass team that each person's nose is different, so it's best to have them on hand to help frame and shape the bridge.

I was actually a little nervous about trying to adjust the bridge on Glass. (Wouldn't you be if you were handling a pair of glasses that cost more than a grand?)

But the frames are made out of titanium, making them both quite bendable and sturdy at the same time. Thus, if you can't make it to a Glass fitting in person, you should feel confident that you can fit them accordingly yourself.

And much like earbuds, the prototype also comes with an extra set of nose pads for a more comfortable fit depending on the shape of your nose.

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The third step is to position the display in order to see the whole screen clearly.

Honestly, this is easier said than done.

I was fumbling with the display during the entire appointment, which lasted close to an hour giving that I was taking my time and asking a number of questions -- many about which the team couldn't disclose detailed answers.

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Along with the aforementioned nose pads, there are two other important accessories in the box. One is the vital microUSB power cord, which has a nifty two-tone pattern.

At first glance, it looks like a simple black and white cord. But as the Glass team member pointed out, the plug was designed so that users wouldn't have to even think for one nanosecond about how the adapter connects to the cord -- just match the colors.

There is an important note about the power cord. Yes, it sports a standard microUSB interface -- but it doesn't charge the same way.

The simple story here is that you can use an older microUSB adapter you might have lying around from another device to charge Glass, but it will charge slower.

But the Glass team advised never using the adapter that came with Glass for a smartphone as it might fry the smartphone's battery altogether.

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When that's all said and done (at least the box opening), it's time to pair Glass with your Google account as well as a smartphone.

Setting up Glass with a Google account is the easiest part of the process. In fact, it's really one of the things that Google does best. Just look at how easy it is to log into a Chrome browser anywhere or auto-populate a brand new smartphone with all of your data and email just using a Gmail account.

The same concept applies on Glass.

But a problem comes about if you are an iPhone user.

I happened to have bought a new iPhone 5just ahead of the Glass appointment, but I brought along a Samsung Galaxy SIII to challenge the difference.

The Glass team seemed overly enthusiastic that Glass should work with an iOS device, but they admitted that there are some gaps in usability.

The biggest one is the tethering connection. Android devices don't actually require Bluetooth tethering to work with Glass. Wi-Fi will suffice thanks to the MyGlass native app (available for free in Google Play). Through this app, users can manage Glass as well as duplicate whatever is being shown on the Glass display on the Android device's screen.

But there isn't an app for iPhone users, so they need Bluetooth tethering on their data plans, which comes at an extra cost on a monthly phone bill.

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Once the initial set-up process was done, there wasn't much else left for the appointment besides asking questions and getting a mini-tour of the surrounding buildings at the Googleplex.

For many users, the feature that will be tried out first is the camera.

My first snapshot with Glass is above, and given that I basically gave the photo equivalent of the guillotine to the giant Android statute, it's obvious that using the camera takes some practice.

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With a little help from the Glass guide, I figured out the right way to take a photo. Here was a better result.

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Having a Glass team member around when first trying out Glass is helpful for a number of reasons.

One of the mistakes I kept making was assuming the digital display should replicate a viewfinder on a traditional camera, and this isn't the case.

The digital display projected by Glass is supposed to sit a bit above eye level so that I can walk normally and look up (without head movement) when I want to check out Glass features.

But the lens on Glass is supposed to replicate what the user is seeing at eye level. However, the movement didn't feel intuitive as I kept automatically looking up and down when snapping photos, making me quite dizzy during this spin through the Android sculpture garden.

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As you might expect, we were closely guarded by the Glass team from wandering off to any other part of the Googleplex.

So don't get your hopes up about sneaking into the infamous "Google X" facility during your visit.

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There is a tiny user guide included in the box for additional questions. But in true Google fashion, some of the answers are serious...and some are tongue-in-cheek.

For example, the Q&A pamphlet acknowledges that not everyone should use Glass (i.e. some people might experience eye strain and/or headaches), but it also answers the obligatoroy question: "Is it OK to go scuba diving with Glass?"

As you might have expected, the answer is, "Uhhh... no."

For reference, the Glass team said that the headset is somewhat water-resistant (there are bound to be tears when sharing some of those priceless memories recorded with Glass, right?), but liquids could also seep in and lead to corrosion.

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All in all, it was a fairly seamless process getting set up with Google Glass -- with the exception of the fact that Google bumped my appointment slot back by four days at the last minute.

Check back on ZDNet over the next two days for plenty more about my experience with Glass, including the "non-nerd's guide to Google Glass" -- if such a thing is even possible.

Photos: James Martin, CNET

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