Steve Reilly, Europe’s most active Explorer, gives his verdict on the late, not much lamented Google Glass
I became a Google Glass Explorer on the 20th of December 2013.
After 13 months of wearing Google Glass every day, in six countries and on 54 flights, I can truly say that I understand Google’s wearable device and appreciate what an amazingly interesting, controversial and groundbreaking piece of technology it is.
Firstly, let me say I’m a big fan of Google Glass – let’s just get that out there. I’m a fan, not because it is a wearable computer, but because it is a piece of kit that takes the internet, technology and a great point-of-view camera and kind of melds it with your brain.
The fist month of wearing Google Glass was painful, actually physically painful, as my right eye adjusted to wearing the Glass, much like an army helicopter pilot must feel – but less cool.
After a month, wearing a computer/camera on my head started to feel normal, and I loved meeting strangers who stopped me in Tesco, on my weekly Easyjet flight to London, in fact just about everywhere I went to ask “What is it like?”, “Is it any good?” or “Are you filming me?”.
I learned that there are two types of people Google Glass gets attention from:
- genuinely interested gadget gear heads, who had a magical jaw-dropping experience when they tried it on; and
- those who think you are filming them and feel uncomfortable about it.
Only twice did I feel threatened – once when an employee in a German motorcycle dealership decided I was invading his privacy and would “punch me” for it, and once in Gatwick Airport when a fellow passenger possibly a little tipsy from her long-haul flight started shouting at me in the ticket hall for wearing Glass.
Overall, though, people just wanted to try Google Glass and were very gracious and polite about it, which was part of the fun. Around 200 people tried my Google Glass on, and around half of them were simply gob-smacked by the experience.
Elephant in the room
I always sensed there was an elephant in the room with Google Glass. At fist, I thought it was cool, the way people did a double-take as I passed; that’s what it must feel like to be a Z list celebrity walking down Hampstead High Street, I thought. But Google Glass didn’t make me a celebrity; the only star that mattered was perched on my head.
New forms of etiquette were quickly learned with Google Glass, including propping the device on top of my head to avoid offending strangers. When I met other Explorers (which was only ever at Google or Glass meet-up events), I felt uneasy being looked at with a camera lens and began to appreciate why other people felt uncomfortable.
Google Glass has really broken boundaries; it feels like you are wearing a real life Star Trek device and has raised some important questions – Is it OK to wear technology with a camera on your head in public and be connected all day to your social media feed? Is it cool or just plain weird to stare into the space just above people’s heads when you receive a notifiation?
We did some really cool fists with Google Glass at work – the world’s first point-of-view chef video (we pitched Jamie, but he turned us down only to do it later himself); the world’s fist Google Glass trip to Morocco (great food); Monaco in a day (amazing views, but live streaming from a Penthouse 30 floors up was glitchy); and a family camel ride in the Canary Islands (for me, capturing images of my two young girls on holiday was one of the best experiences and by far the greatest benefit of Glass).
Somehow, I even managed to get driven through the Gumball Rally next to a Russian Supermodel in a Lamborghini, much to the amusement of my lovely wife and children in the crowd. Time and again, I met amazing people simply because I was wearing a silly looking computer on my face.
Europe’s most active Explorer Over the course of 2014, a weird thing happened. According to one of the Google guys, I became Google Glass’s most active European Google Glass Explorer (or most annoying, I’m not sure which). This is probably because there simply weren’t that many of us and I like a jolly and so took every opportunity to travel with Google Glass and find a new angle to apply it to.
We Explorers were always a rare breed in the UK and, although the guys I met who participated in Google’s Beta programme were much cooler than me, their enthusiasm (which was generally huge) somehow didn’t seem to encourage others to buy the developer version of Glass.