This morning I drove down to the American Tobacco Campus in Durham for Google’s “Through Glass” event, the first stop in a nationwide tour to let people get acquainted with Google Glass. The doors opened at 10, so I got there at 9:30 and there were already about 60 people in line, and that quickly grew to around 150 by the time 10:00 rolled around.
While I was waiting a man walked down the line in a nun’s habit carrying a cross with “godgoogledme.com” written on the crossbar in a confusing array of colors and italics. After a brief overview of the site, all I can gather is that “god googled me” is a $7.77 eBook “PhotoSpectus” (half photo book / half prospectus, duh) about how God, or in the site’s words, “GOD,” would use Google over Bing or Yahoo or (I presume) AltaVista because of the numerological significance of the number 7. It all looks very interesting, and maybe someday I’ll read it and write a post on it. Right now I’ll move on to the main event.
All in all, I was in line outside for about 40 minutes. At the sign-in table, where everyone was using a Chromebook Pixel, I gave my name and signed a media waiver, so look for my shining face in the next Glass ad you see. I was then led to wait in another line.
Once there were 10 of us, they broke us off and sent us to Sarah and Laura, who gave us a primer on what Glass is, talked about how it was designed at Google X, and what the basic controls are. Laura was holding a tablet that screencast what was on Sarah’s display, but sadly the Wi-Fi in the building was misbehaving, so the screencasting started out very lag-heavy and eventually gave out entirely.
After letting Sarah’s Glass take our picture, we were led to a mirrored kiosk with a dozen or so Glasses hanging on pegs, and we got to try them out. That’s when I took the selfie up at the top of the post.
- Frame: Very high build quality all around. The titanium frame has a lot of play, but feels very sturdy. The nosepiece fit pretty well when I put it on, so I didn’t mess with it, but apparently its fully adjustable.
- Touch area: Nice and slick, there was never a catch when I swiped. It’s pretty short, so the vertical swipes sometimes feel a little insubstantial when compared with the down-swipes I’m used to on my phone.
- Weight: Obviously it’s heavier on the right side where the battery and all the electronics are, but surprisingly not much more. Wearing it for long periods might not be ideal, but since I just had it on for 5 minutes or so, it wan’t a problem.
- Display: The prism that reflects the display back into your eye is movable, but not as much as I would like. I’m sure there are ways to fine-tune it, but for me it was just a little too high, so that the top of the screen touched the upper edge of the prism.
- “Speaker”: Any audio is played via a bone conduction speaker, but with the noise of the room all I could hear was a mild buzzing behind my ear. You probably have to fine-tune it for your head before it sounds right.
- Waking up Glass is simple, you just tap on the side. The home screen pops up right away with the time and a prompt to say “Ok Glass.” The screen is a decent size, roughly like holding a 5-inch smartphone at arms length.
- Saying “Ok Glass” brings up a menu of phrases Glass will recognize.
- “Google” starts a search, though with the lack of connectivity my search was futile.
- “Take a picture/video” brings up the camera and automatically takes a picture or starts recording a 10-second video. Hitting the camera shutter before the end of the video lengthens it, but I’m not sure what, if any, maximum length there is. Clicking the physical shutter also takes a picture.
- You can get directions, ask a question, send a text or email, basically do anything you can do with Google Now’s voice features. You can even make a call if it’s paired to your phone, but sadly that wasn’t part of the product demo.
- Swiping back and forth along the touch area moves through Glass’s history. Any pictures you take, directions you get, news stories, Google searches – everything’s in a long line extending behind your head into the ether. Swiping back once you’ve reached the end of the line moves you forward into any Google Now-esque cards you’ve set up using the MyGlass app.
- The fact that the camera is a little off to the side made it difficult to point the camera as precisely as I wanted. It was also angled slightly upward, but I think that could have been fixed by messing with the nosepiece.
- The contrast ratio of the screen was really good, and I was in a brightly lit room in the morning. I had no problem at all reading the text.
- I’m very impressed with how well it heard me in a crowded room full of other people saying the exact same phrases.
After my quality time with Glass, I headed upstairs where they had refreshments, a Glass photo booth, and some Chromebook Pixels with surveys alongside commemorative posters. The line for the photo booth was long, and the photo I got in return was pretty terrible, which is why I opted to leave it out of this post.
And as a final note, here’s a video of my minute-long walk from the door to the end of the line at 11:00. That’s a lot of people.