You never really know what you might get into sitting on the corner stool of a bar in Manhattan.
Last week, I came across a man with a strange little contraption spanning his face at a nearby table. It turns out he was wearing a Google Glass prototype. It was 1 of the 150 prototypes that have been released on the East Coast.
With all of the hype surrounding it, I just had to try it and he gladly gave me a ten-minute lesson. And after a just few minutes with this contraption, I could only reach one conclusion: Google Glass is total dud.
Google Glass: A Pretty Odd Piece of Metal
The first thing I noticed with Google Glass is just the sheer awkwardness of harnessing this hunk of metal to my face. As noted elsewhere, the aesthetics will require some work.
"They're just like regular glasses," my guide told me. Except they aren't.
While the frames may feel like a pair of glasses, it's simply a metal frame that hugs your eyebrows. Above your right eye, a very small lens hovers. Whenever you shift your right eye upward, a small screen appears that was directed through my guide's smartphone.
The screen was grey with typewriter block white ink, hardly the next-generation experience I expected. But it is a prototype, so I was willing to excuse its simplicity.
After all, the first text messages weren't that different. And just last week, I texted my mother a 256-bit color image of wine country in Mendoza, Argentina that caught the sun's reflection off every single grape.
Next, my guide told me to test Google Glass' knowledge.
So I did.
But first, I had to tap the right side of the frames along my temple, and to awaken Google Glass from its slumber. With a tap, I started by saying, "Google Glass."
With that, the screen attached to the phone loaded, awaiting my question.
I asked a simple baseball question: "Who is pitching for the New York Mets tonight?"
Apparently, asking Google Glass a question in a crowded bar when you are not the person who owns the technology can lead to some consequences.
At one point, Google Glass typed "Who is bitching about your pets tonight?"
After 11 more tries, any many more hilarious interpretations, I finally was able to input my question.
More or less, the technology is supposed to improve over time and only recognize the voice of its own user, outside of a guest mode. But it was clear that Google Glass is a bit difficult to use in public, particularly in a bar or on the street in a place like Manhattan.
So, my first experience started and ended like that. Google Glass seems to be an easier way for people to settle bets at a bar – but then again, by the time I was done asking the glasses to pull up baseball statistics, I could have had them on my cell phone.
Not impressed, I didn't end up making any friends with the three nearby uber-New York bankers who were loudly flaunting this technology.
How Not to Make Friends in a Bar
By comparison, the three New York bankers and their techie pals loved Google Glasses-primarily for the boost it promised to give their love lives.
"Won't it be great," one of the men told me, "when you're able to come to a bar like this, and just by looking at someone you're going to be able to pull up her Facebook page and know right away if she is single."
I let that statement sink into my brain for a second, before my sarcasm began to leak…
"But you're still not going to talk to her," I told him. "If you're not talking to her now, how is Google Glass going to change your confidence?" I asked.
"Well," he said, somewhat thrown by my cantor. "Knowing if someone is single makes it easier to talk to them."
I didn't know how to respond to that one, but I had to ask.
"Would a woman really talk to a man who is staring her down from across the room while tapping his temple over and over again, saying "Google Glass, Google Glass, Google Glass?"
My instincts in 2013 say "No," but who knows what the kids will be into come 2023.
Our conversation fell apart after that, mainly because these guys were way too excited about futuristic dating technologies and not about the real functionality or possibilities of Google Glass.
Still, my brief encounter with Sergi Brin's next big technological push forced me to really think about what the merger of technology and privacy means in the future.
Will Someone Use Google Glass To Spy On You?
The good news is that if concerns about spying on individuals are on anyone's mind, Google is still years away from mass marketing that level of functionality.
But I will tell you that the concept of Google Glass' potential is the type of functionality that a libertarian in society should embrace yet fear.
Those who believe that human beings are capable of self-regulation and policing themselves need to have information about others in order to make it possible to hold one another accountable.
But at the same time, the possibility that everyone knows every little thing about us is terrifying.
At what point does discreteness and privacy matter. The general sense that I get out of society is that it's a very small population of people who want to have that level of access and knowledge about one another.
The only problem is, those are the people who are developing this level of technology. And the very idea that three guys in a crowded bar in Manhattan can't wait to pull up someone's Facebook page for the purposes of courtship (okay, not courtship at all), is perhaps scraping the barrel.
But that's my first impression of Google Glass, a tool that may end up being little more than a way for people to find out who in the bar is single or the answer to a useless baseball question.
I could have gotten the answer to that question in five seconds, just by using my phone.
For now, I'm underwhelmed. But that's easy when it comes to early prototypes.
I guess I just prefer to find out if women are single the old-fashioned way: Looking at her left hand.
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