Why I Gave Up Google Glass: form, function, and fashion

May 29, 2014, 3:57 pm

I’ve enjoyed using Google Glass. It connected me with faculty in new ways—from pedagogical experiments and brainstorming about research and instructional needs, to serving on panel discussions and informal talks about applying technology in new ways.


Faculty panel @ Virginia Tech talking about Glass.

I has been interesting watching Ralph Hall (Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs & Planning) build a Glass Community at Virginia Tech. As new invitations to purchase the hardware become available, this group actively recruits faculty and staff from around campus to join the team.

Here is a paper from our emerging tech folks.

And here is a video of Ralph and I talking about our experiences:

I’ve enjoyed this experiment but I’ve decided to give up Glass. There are three main reasons: form, function, and fashion.

The real issue for me is that I don’t wear glasses for my vision. Whenever I wear Glass it feels strange and awkward—not because of the design but because I am hyper-conscious / hyper-aware that there is something on my face. It is distracting. I don’t feel comfortable wearing a watch either so I’ll likely be one of those guys who says: I’m just not into wearable computing. I love the concept and the technology, and I hope wearable takes off, but it is just unnatural for me right now. After eight months it still doesn’t feel normal.

When I play around with Glass it is awesome but when I apply it to my real life, not so much. The features are interesting: camera, monitor, speaker, video-conferencing, web access, texting, voice commands — all in a head-mounted display. It is fun to experiment with Glass and to demo it for people. But it fails me at work.

Half of my day is spent in meetings or one-on-one conversations, while the other half is on a laptop drafting documents, planning renovations, and addressing emails.

There is not a lot of need for Glass is this environment. It would be rude to tap on a touchpad while someone is talking. Or to be giving voice commands when I should be listening. In other words, Glass makes it very obvious that you are not paying attention. You can’t be discreet.

On a positive note, I’ve found Glass to be very useful when I travel for work. It makes navigating new cities easier and often sparks serendipitous encounters with restaurants or local sites. It is also a good conversation starter.

When Glass emerged there was a sense of exclusivity. Google was smart to limit the supply and drive up demand. It felt like an exotic product. When I first encountered Glass last summer it was like something from PARC (the early era) and that I was venturing into the next frontier of computing.

But now the rarity aspect is gone. Anyone who wants Glass can get it. Google is making it increasingly more available and I expect it to be in Best Buy and on Amazon in time for holiday shopping.

It is great to see enthusiasm and interest for wearable computing. More people using Glass will drive the development of more apps and also improve the hardware and experience for all.

The downside is that it is becoming less about computing and more about fashion. This is my “that band was cool until they sold out” rant. The tipping point for me was when a student asked if she could take a selfie of herself wearing my Glass. I asked if she wanted me to demo the software and she declined; she only wanted a photo op and didn’t care about what it could do.

For me Glass was always about the technology and the conversation within my community about applying it to teaching and learning. But there are increasingly more discussions online about color selection rather than about performance. And that’s fine. It’s what you would expect when a product goes mainstream. Glass has shifted from early adopters into early majority and the conversations are changing. It’s time for me to move on and talk about something else.

I’ve decided to donate my Glass to my library’s technology lending program. I want to make it available to anyone who wants to try it out. If demand is high (for something besides selfies) I’ll purchase more sets.

The technology is intriguing and I am hopefully that wearable will be the next big thing– it just doesn’t work for my needs right now. I am curious to see what my community will build with it.

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