My Year as a Google Glass Explorer

Today it’s a year since I received this email:



It’s fair to say it’s been a pretty amazing ride since then, with Glass providing the opportunity to view the world in a different way and connecting me with a whole new community of people around the globe.



I recently spoke about my year as an Explorer at the Wired for Wonder conference in Sydney, and I have summarised that presentation in this post.

What are the things I love about Glass, and how do I use it?

Glass takes great pictures, and it’s incredibly easy to capture images when it’s a one-tap process on the side of your glasses, rather than having to dig your phone out of the bottom of your handbag, or extract it from a velcro armband if you’re out running (I have what’s proving to be a somewhat delusional view that if I take enough pictures of beautiful scenes while I’m out running then eventually it will translate into a positive association where I actually enjoy running as an activity. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll keep you posted).

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It allows me to quickly capture moments that would otherwise be lost, like this shot at Oktoberfest where Stuart swung Sascha into a dance as a band went past; within a couple of seconds she’d scaped and declared that she’d thought nothing could be more embarrassing than having to dress up as a family in lederhosen and dirndls, but he had now taken it to even greater heights! I’d never of been quick enough with any other kind of camera to get this picture!


Glass delivers line-of-sight information, relevant to your surroundings. This is particularly useful when travelling, with the type of information you receive determined by the Glassware you have installed. Illustrated below are location based information on places of interest; I particularly enjoyed being told I was in King Herod’s Hippodrome on a trip to Israel earlier this year, with the option to have further information delivered aloud via the bone conductor speaker in Glass. It pops up with photo spots near by, and recommends places I might be interested in determined via Google Now.

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The hands-free capability of Glass also came in handy in a wide range of settings, from taking pictures of street art in Austin Texas while zooming around the city on Segways, to the four months I spent on crutches after an ill advised trampolining accident throughout the middle of the year.

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Real-time translation via Word Lens was incredibly useful in Germany, where I could look at a German sign and immediately have the English translation visible. The sign in the image below wasn’t critical information, but I was saved from more than one bad menu choice using this feature!


So what have the negatives been?

If your only knowledge of Glass comes from mainstream media articles, then I imagine you may well have a view that my year has been filled with negative comments, abuse from strangers, and accusations of recording or photographing people without their knowledge.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve never experienced a nasty reaction to Glass; many curious questions and looks, but I’ve always had a belief that, in return for the privilege of being in the Explorer program, I have an obligation to answer those questions, introduce others to the technology if they wish to try it and let people then make up their own minds in an informed way. After demoing Glass to countless people all over the world, by far and away the most common reaction is one of amazement as people ‘get’ why  line-of-sight information is different to looking at the same info on your phone, and that then usually translates into them telling me all the things they would use Glass for in their lives and jobs.

What I also have is a large collection of very unattractive close up photos of myself, taken by people who are trying out the features while I talk them through it!

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The only time I’ve ever being accused of using Glass as a spy device was in the most appropriate location of all, the Spy Museum in Washington DC, where excited groups of school kids thought they’d identified a real life spy! Let’s just say Glass is not exactly subtle, and if I wanted to take surreptitious pictures or video recordings of people (which for the record I have absolutely zero interest in doing) there are a whole lot of less obvious options very readily available.


My biggest Glass ‘fail’ came very early on, when I was still getting used to the tech and some of the software was in earlier developmental phases. I took the picture below of my family on Australia Day at the beach, and used the voice-to-text functionality to caption it ‘Happy Australia Day’ on Facebook.  I’m not sure whether my Aussie accent was part of the problem, but needless to say having ‘Hope you all die’ as the caption that actually ended up on Facebook generated more than a few ‘please explains.’


What does the future hold?

As the year has progressed without the anticipated widespread consumer release of Glass, inevitably questions have been raised around what the future holds.

My personal belief is the immediate future for wearables like Glass (as competitor products launch) that deliver and capture line-of-sight information is in enterprise solutions. The consumer-based applications I’ve outlined above are fun and I find them really useful, particularly when travelling, but I’m not sure they deliver a compelling enough proposition to engage the mass consumer at this point.

From an enterprise perspective though, the potential applications are limitless and often combine with a very strong business case. Interestingly, by far the most common ideas people have about how they would use Glass relate to their work, and what information they would like to have delivered  in this manner rather than social or lifestyle utilisations.

We’ve built a proof of concept app around the delivery of drug information to our pharmacists via Glass, and are also working on training and credentialing utilisations that we will implement as soon as Glass is formally released in the Australian market place.

One of the other less tangible but oh-so-valuable benefits of my year with Glass has been the people I’ve met as a result, both online in the Google+ Explorer community, and in person.  People have been generous in sharing their knowledge and experiences, and with our wide variety of backgrounds and geographic locations we’ve all enjoyed seeing the many different ways we’ve engaged with and experienced this new technology.

Regardless of where the technology goes from here, my year seeing life #throughglass has definitely changed the way I view the world, and I’ve loved every minute of it.


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