Joe was great: sitting me down, letting me open the box, carefully lifting out my new, orange, Glass and ensuring i was connected to the WiFi. When i first arrived at Glass Basecamp, the half dozen casually dressed staff (Explorers? Helpers?) were sat outside in the sun, relaxed, sporting different coloured frames on their faces, a small corner of San Francisco in central London. The environment was safe, relaxed, friendly. It felt rather like joining a young and particularly good looking club.
At one point, Joe and I stepped outside (for a better 3G signal). A small urchin ran up to us, staring at our faces with his snot encrusted face, “What’s that” he demanded, pointing at the slick white Glass that Joe was sporting. He explained that it was Glass, that it cost a lot of money and that you could buy them in his shop. Sorry, his Basecamp. Youth looked reasonably unimpressed. “Look, i’ve found a skull in a hedge” he declared, brandishing said item to faint looks of horror from the two of us. “What is it?” he asked. “A cat“, i declared. “Or possibly a triceratops“. Best to hedge your options. And that was that.
Apparently the sight of two fully grown men sporting some of the most sophisticated wearable technology in the world warrants around eight seconds of attention, but no more. And it’s certainly trumped by a skull.
Half an hour later, after a self conscious walk through the city, i stopped at a cafe. The monosyllabic and somewhat surly girl behind the counter suddenly stared straight at me. I’d unintentionally taken a photo of the cakes (it’s a ‘feature‘ of Glass that you can very easily take accidental photos by touching the frame anywhere). “Is that Google Glass?” she asked. “Yes“, i said, “want to try it“, which she did, asking me a hundred questions on how to use it with Facebook. Girl behind me in the queue then chipped in, asking to have a go. Her australian accent seemed to confuse the device, causing us much amusement as she shouted at it in the cross eyed way i’ve been sporting myself since picking it up. Queuer number three then wanted a go.
GoogleGlass is sociable technology in the most clear cut sense. I appear to be making friends fast.
My next meeting necessitated a ride on London’s antiquated and notoriously crowded Tube. Never a hotbed of goodwill, i was rather reticent about wearing the Glass down there, but i guess you have to be bold sometimes. The close proximity as we stood, rammed in the carriage, being thrown against each other, meant i was particularly aware of the camera on my face being prominent and pointing directly at people. I could feel a lot of people glancing at it (the orange frames not exactly hiding me), although i may have just been more aware of it than usual.
On the escalator on the way out, i heard two separate people comment to their friends “there’s someone wearing Google Glasses“.
Walking into the bar, which, it has to be said was a little pretentious, the doorman asked me “connected to the world are you?“, but we soon got into a chat about it, in a good humoured way, although i could tell they were teasing me.
Somewhat to my surprise, the biggest reaction was on Twitter, with many of my friends there raising comments, questions and concerns around Google, around privacy, around the social acceptability of the camera and so on. In fact, i felt a little as thought i’d stumbled into a bees nest.
This was unexpected: I think my blind excitement at Exploring had led me to consider the technical challenges and practicalities, whilst never once stopping to reflect on whether what i am doing is right, or how others might perceive it. By the end of the day, i felt decidedly self conscious and even took my Glass off when i arrived at my home station, feeling rather exhausted by all the attention.
My expectation of Glass was as a tool to support uninhibited curiosity, a core skill for the Social Age. I was prepared for the conversations it would provoke, both online and in the real world, but i hadn’t expected to have to confront the taboos so immediately and directly.
My expectation was that my challenges would be technical (and believe me, they still are… i still can’t seem to share photos…), but my experience of day one was largely about Social aspects and largely felt intimidating.
My purpose is to use the glasses to explore new ways of curating and sharing: today, i’ve created a video around the process of doing the drawing with the blog (although i don’t seem to have managed to share it yet…). I’m interested in adding layers of context around the formal content. I certainly see it as a tool to support my building of narratives, not being particularly interested in using it for games or to read the news. It’s definitely primarily about sharing for me: both the good and the bad.
As i reflect, my feeling is that this is an interim technology: clearly wearable technology will be dominant soon, and clearly cameras will be part of that. But equally clearly, there needs to be an evolution of social habits and an evolution of the technology.
As i said to someone on Twitter, if Google (or anyone) comes up with a killer application we desperately want to use, the social aspects of acceptance will simply fall into place. We’re not there yet though.
The social issues around cameras and privacy are not caused by Google: they are simply bought to prominence by the prevalence of mobile phones and cameras that silently and simply capture whatever we like. Indeed, in practical terms, the Glass camera is not suited to voyeuristic snapping at the light of the display is clearly visible when it’s active and it’s a widescreen, panoramic view. Mobile phone cameras are far more versatile, but it’s the location of the Glass camera, next to our souls, next to our eyes, that really betrays it. People have no apparent issue with GoPro cameras mounted on cyclists heads and, indeed, GoPro videos make you a social hero when they go viral.
As i’ve said before, we are years away from practical and widespread implementations of Glass or other wearable tech in learning, but we are on that journey. Already i can capture and share. Once that ability is integrated into wider learning journeys, uptake will accelerate.
In the meantime, i’ll continue to narrate my own experiences and see how long it takes before that which stands out becomes simply the norm.