A few months since being notified that I had been selected for the Google Glass Explorer program based on my #IfIHadGlass submission and three weeks after being messaged that my pair was ready so I headed to the Google Glass “base camp” in Chelsea Markets to pick them up. Google set-up this special loft space just for Glass keeping it separate from the building across the street emblazoned with a huge Google logo that houses their NYC offices. I arrived at Chelsea Markets at the appointed time, met one of my best friends outside who would be accompanying me as my +1 for the appointment, pushed through the hoards of tourists and onto the nondescript elevator. It opened onto a small reception area where you had to present the email confirming your appointment, your driver’s license to verify your identity and then sit on a couch for a few minutes waiting for your host. Through the open doorway you can see a two-story aloft style room with large windows at the far end and a floor dotted with around 6 stations where the Explorers are given their Glass fitting. After a few minutes I was greeted by Dana who would be my guide for the experience and fitting. She was a charismatic 20-something from California who, like every Google employee in the place, was wearing a pair of Google Glass.
The first stop was to make the all important decision of which of the 5 colors you want for your pair of Glass. It felt like picking the color for your new car thanks to the naming of colors which are Charcoal (black), Tangerine (orange), Shale (grey), Cotton (white) and Sky (blue). Black seemed like the only logical choice for a creative director so with that decision made we headed over to the fitting station.
Unboxing Google Glass
It is obvious that Google has clearly been taking notes from Apple on how to create a powerful moment when you unbox your new technology and see it for the first time. Dana ceremoniously presented me with a pure white box emblazoned only with a silver Glass logo. The lid of the box lifts off just like the box of an iPad or iPhone revealing a piece of semi-opaque paper covering the contents inside. You have to peel back this paper to reveal your pair of Glass sitting on a tray with a simple diagram pointing out some of the features of the hardware. Lifting out the tray reveals the microfiber carrying case, USB cable, charger and small envelope with a small list of FAQ questions.
The carrying case highlights one of the first aspects of the hardware design I’m not crazy about which is that unlike a traditional pair of glasses, there is no way to make Google Glass fit in your pocket. The Glass frame is a single, flexible piece of titanium but that unibody construction means that Glass can’t collapse into a smaller footprint and as a result the case is about the same size as the one I have for the noise canceling headphone I use when I travel. This makes it one of the larger and definitely the thickest mobile device I have in the collection I have to deign with.
The rest of the accessories have nice design touches like the USB cable and power block that are black on one side to match the color of my Glass and white on the other side. At first this looks like just a simple design decision but you later realize that it also is a guide to let you know which way the USB cable should face when you plug it into the power block which I always seem to get wrong with my iOS devices.
First Time Using Google Glass
After the unboxing they walk you through wearing Glass, how to adjust the display and the basic interactions to control the hardware. Getting Glass to sit at the correct vertical height on your face is more important than I thought as it has a sweet spot you have to find to be able to see the entire display top to bottom. Once that is adjusted correctly then you can pivot the display so you can see the right and left edges. The display is bright but it can get difficult to read if you are looking at something really bright.
Controlling Glass is done with four basic gestures on the strip between your ear and temple and consist of swiping forward or backward to move through the timeline, tapping to select and swiping down to go back. Other functionality is voice controlled mainly through waking up the device and saying “OK Glass” followed by whatever you want it to do like take a picture, record a video, Google something or start a Hangout. You can see the first photo I took during my fitting here and the first video I shot with Glass here on Google+. The fitting really only starts the set-up process as you need to add contacts, WiFi networks and apps through a web interface that controls all of the important aspects of the device. i will have more about the set-up process and apps in my next installment which will go into all my first impressions in-depth after I have had a chance to use them for a few days.
The one thing that I hadn’t heard much about which could be a turn off for the average consumer is that if you want to use Glass in the real world away from a known WiFi network then you need to have the data tethering featuring activated on your phone which will cost you an extra $20-$30 a month depending on your carrier. Obvious for the Explorers who are willing to spend $1600 for their pair of Glass this isn’t a big deal but assuming the consumer version is more affordable this may be a land mine Google is going to need to figure out to diffuse.
I’ve only used Glass for about 2 hours so far but to be honest I like them more than I thought I would and you can clearly see the potential of this technology. The only thing is that right now with only the standard device functionality and so few third-party apps using Glass feels like when I had an iPhone before the App Store when a cool new technology platform is more potential than reality. I am curious to see how and if this opinion evolves as I venture out into the world with Glass to really honor the namesake of this program and start exploring.