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Living With Glass: A Trip, A Conversation, and A Party

By Will Smith

This installment takes Will to Tennessee and leaves him pondering the social impact of Glass.

Another week, another plane ride. This time, I was traveling with the family on vacation to Tennessee. As was the case on my flight to Los Angeles the week before, the flight attendants were extremely curious about Glass, and I did another round of demos at 35,000 feet on my flight from San Francisco to Chicago. I can only imagine that having access to always-on information about their schedule, flight status, and even the current time zone would be extremely handy.

Taken with Project Glass. This was the best of 7 or so shots*

Speaking of time zones, the trip to Tennessee marked the first time I left PDT with Glass, and I was pleasantly surprised that the clock automatically updated when I arrived in Chicago. I assume Glass used a combination of Wi-Fi access point names and my Google Now information to know I was at O’Hare. However, I didn’t have the same experience when I landed in Knoxville. The first thing I noticed on landing in Knoxville was that Glass’s clock hadn’t updated to eastern time automatically, instead they alternated between Pacific time and central time. Needless to say, when you’re traveling with a jet-lagged baby, uncertainty surrounding the local time didn’t help.

I can understand why the Glasses would be confused, I was staying places that were far enough off the road that their generic access point names probably wouldn’t be picked up by Google’s Street View cars, even if their last drive-by had happened in the last few years. Still, I’ve never owned a device that didn’t allow me to manually change the time. This is a fairly major shortcoming of Glass, in my eyes.

As for the people in Tennessee, I experienced the same mixture of curiosity, fear, and trepidation I found throughout California...very few strangers asked to try the glasses.

As for the people in Tennessee, I experienced the same mixture of curiosity, fear, and trepidation I found throughout California. People asked how I liked them, what I used them for, and if I was recording them. Even more quickly than before, suspicion and nervousness turned into questions about how they worked. Very few strangers asked to try the glasses.

As before, I took many more pictures than is typical. All told, I shot a couple of gigs of video and around 500 pictures in about a week, on Glass alone. Full disclosure, we were in Tennessee to introduce the baby to relatives who can’t travel, so we were constantly assaulted by a great many photo-worthy encounters. The good news is that my framing when wearing Glass has improved, I’ve even found more of my first and second shots are actually usable as I get more accustomed to the Glasses.

I still haven’t solved my photo management problems, but I’ve learned that it isn’t a good idea to use Google+ to sync photos from Glass to my computer over the Internet. After I connected Glass to my computer with a USB cable, I realized that the photos I’d downloaded from Google+ were all much more compressed than the videos grabbed directly from Glass. While this is less convenient than some sort of cloud-based sync, it’s definitely simpler than downloading dozens of images from downloaded zip files and adding them to my library manually.

Another photo that includes my finger, but at least this one is framed reasonably well even if it's underexposed.

As I’ve used Glass more, battery life has become less of an issue. As the new has worn off of Glass (and I’ve reduced the number of people whose Twitter messages pop up on Glass), I’m finding that the battery will easily last a full day of normal use. When we were traveling and an 8-hour day extended to 13 hours, I had to charge mid-day. Aside from that, I easily got through a full day of wear.

On that note, I find that as I become more accustomed to Glass, I wear them in some very specific circumstances, and not in others. I tend to wear them when I’m out, potentially doing something interesting, or will need quick access to information. They’re great on days that I have a bunch of meetings, when I’m out doing something interesting, or when I’m in a strange or unfamiliar place. They aren’t too useful when I’m going back and forth to the office or on any day when I’m not planning on doing something interesting. No one wants to a blow-by-blow update of your trip to the copying machine in the office, but when I had a BBQ with a bunch of out of town friends, it was great to unobtrusively snap photos and video of the goings on.

I would never want to wear such an overt piece of technology at anything more serious than a high school graduation.

I wish Glass was less obtrusive. I know, I got the orange ones, which makes them more obvious, but even if I had picked one of the more discrete colors, wearing Glass draws attention. While I would have loved to have the easy ability to take pictures at a friend’s wedding, I would never want to wear such an overt piece of technology at a wedding, a christening, or anything more serious than, let’s say, a high school graduation.

I wonder if social acceptance of Glass depends solely on people’s discretion. If clueless people wear glass into doctor’s offices, fancy restaurants, weddings and funerals, and other inappropriate places, I think society as a whole will reject them.

One other note, the first OS update for Project Glass since I picked up my pair came out last week. The updates are supposed to be seamless—plug them into power while they’re connected to Wi-Fi and wait for the update to hit—but something is broken and I have to swap them out. As a result, I won’t have an update for next week, but I should have a replacement pair in time for our trip to Comic-Con next week.

*If you want to see the rest of the pictures, they're on Google+. Apologies for posting a picture of my kid.