Since Google's Glass project was first announced, and since people have been openly wearing Glass in the wild, the whole subject has been bloated with hype, exaggerated claims, fear, contempt, ignorance and confusion.
I've been wearing Google Glass nearly full time for a week now and I'd like to give you the truth about what Glass is really all about.
Most people don't know anything about Google Glass and don't care. A few know all about it and still don't care. I've been accosted several times by people who've heard about it and want to try it on or want me to explain what it does and how it works.
There's a little paranoia, but less than I expected. I've been asked: "Are you filming me right now?" But no one so far has been rude to me or accusatory about privacy.
Ultimately, wearing Glass in the real world administers a Rorschach test to the public. People see a dream or a nightmare depending on their personality, their experiences with life and their beliefs and feelings about technology.
People who fear technology fear Glass. Those who love technology love Glass.
Without any understanding of what Google Glass does, how it works or what it's like to use Glass, most people focus on the appearance. I've heard them described as "cool-looking" and "futuristic" or "creepy" and "ugly."
I've been surprised also by mild hostility from a small minority of tech-savvy people on the social networks. They see in Glass a coveted geek status symbol. (You currently have to be "selected" for the program, and it's very expensive—with taxes it costs more than $1,600.) I've been asked "what makes you think you're better than the people who don't have Glass?" and received negative comments about a few pictures I posted of myself wearing them, implying that my intent was to show off and make people feel bad.
Because Glass is so new, and because people notice it and can have emotional reactions to Glass, it can feel weird sometimes to wear Glass in public. I still do it. But sometimes I feel self-conscious about it.
Even when you wear Glass all the time, you rarely actually use it.
In fact, you can't. The battery life wouldn't last more than two hours or so of constant use.
I suspect that people believe that wearing Glass means you've been assimilated into the Borg—that you're constantly plugged into the machine and are in direct mind-meld with an artificial intelligence entity of some kinds.
Glass is on your face "just in case," for the most part—just in case you want to take a fast picture or video, get a quick answer to a question or in case a message or notification comes at you. It's common to wear it for hours without it ever turning on.
The tiny display on Glass doesn't go in front of your eye, but above and slightly to your right. That means, you have to look up and to the right to see it.
What you see is a cards interface, with the default screen showing the current time.
Scrolling to the right takes you back in time to screens and cards and pictures based on strict reverse-chronological order. Scrolling to the left takes you into the future—upcoming directions, appointments and, when you get to the end, settings.
To move through these cards, you generally scroll using the touchpad on the outside of the headset.
When you're with a small group of people and you're looking up and to the right while repeatedly swiping Glass with your finger, well, it's a little awkward.
The truth is that Glass doesn't really do anything that a phone can't do. And a smartphone can do a million things that Glass can't do.
The hardware technology is only bleeding edge because it's all so small and light. It's impressive on those grounds. But it raises the question: What's the point of duplicating smartphone functionality in a low-resolution, low-battery powered version?
The best answer is to make a comparison between a laptop and a smartphone. Your phone does pretty much the same things your laptop does, but with a smaller screen, keyboard and so on. So why do you use your smartphone so much and why do you find it so valuable and fun to use?
The answer is that a phone goes with you everywhere. It's more instant and immediate to use.
So what a smartphone is to laptop, Google Glass is to a smartphone.