Give Glass a chance: Google has a vision of a wearable future

Google wants you to know that Glass, the company’s wearable computing technology, is here.

Well, sort of here. For some people. And it may not work perfectly yet.

But welcome to the future and please enjoy this website, where you can see people using Glass to record videos, look up pictures of kitties, and video chat while flying an airplane.

You always wanted to do that, right? That’s why I never fly with you. You remember when we had that argument.

OK, I have a lot of Glass jokes to go through, but, by published accounts, the device and the way it’s integrated to supporting Google technologies are actually pretty cool. No more fumbling for a phone for GPS directions. No more fumbling for a phone to record a video or take a picture. No more awkward moments where your face just feels naked.

Of course, the current price is somewhat off-putting at $1500—not to mention having to jump through a bunch of flaming hoops like a trained poodle just to get a chance to get this early release version. But Google hopes to have Glass out to the general public for “less” than that before the end of the year.

Is this really that much stranger than wearing a Bluetooth headset all the time?

For those of you who scoff at the idea of people wearing these goofy looking things on their heads I have two words: Bluetooth headsets. Yeah, nobody likes to hang out with that guy (who, by the way, is married to “holds her phone a foot in front of her face and talks into it on speaker” lady), but he does exist. Also, I’m pretty sure they wore Google Glasses on Deep Space 9, so we know it’s going to happen.

But before such time as we are battling shape-shifting villains from the Gamma quadrant, it’s going to take a while to figure out this whole “wearable computing” thing. It seems to be coming whether we like it or not. If the thought of wearing computers give you hives, just hope you die before we get to “insertable computing.” That’s next.

I joke—some say obsessively, probably in order to cover up a deep-seated insecurity and fear of intimacy—but I believe Google’s fundamentally right: Technology is going to keep getting personal. I never got into Neal Stephenson’s work because I couldn’t relate to a future where people were so intimately connected with technology—yet we slowly seem to be headed in that direction.

If you believe the rumors of an “iWatch,” Google and Apple are taking different approaches not only to what kind of wearable products to make, but also to product development. While Apple slaves away in the kitchen and only brings out a plate of delicious sausages when they’re ready to be served with cold beer, Google wants you to help grind the animal lips and snouts. This isn’t the idle accusation of an Apple fanboi, either. (I should know, I make a lot of idle Apple fanboi accusations.) No, Google itself admits this.

“It’s certainly early days of the device—there will be bumps,” a Google spokesperson tells The Verge.

OK. That doesn’t sound like a device I want to take skydiving (as if I’m going skydiving or doing even half the things in Google’s Glass video), but that’s just me. Not to say that Apple has never shipped something before it was fully baked. Almost a year and a half after it was introduced, Siri is still supposedly a beta product. Puh. Leeze. But this is clearly more Google’s general modus operandi than Apple’s, as Ben Bajarin notes.

The one thing I do appreciate about Google is that they do their RND out in public.

Which can be better for developers, as it’s nice to get in earlier rather than later. Of course, what’s not nice for developers is spending time on something that’s not going to make it, but Glass doesn’t seem like Wave or Buzz or Notebook or that time Andy Rubin got really into Bikram yoga only to stop going after three months. (He still wears the yoga pants, though.) Glass is here to stay. Frankly, Bluetooth headset guy could use a fashion accessory update anyway.

Apple might not be working on a smartwatch, but other folks definitely are.

It’s easy and fun to mock Google Glass (if only it were profitable, too), but I can’t very well mock it out of one side of my mouth while talking up an “iWatch” out of the other side. For one thing, that seems hard. I don’t think my vocal cords are that well developed. But for another thing, it’s just disingenuous.

Look, we’re Apple fans. We like to root for the home team. But when you’re rooting for something you haven’t even seen yet, it gets a little silly. An iWatch may not even exist. If it does, we know nothing about what its capabilities might be. Right now, it could very well be at a similarly expensive and cheesy stage of development as Glass. 

We can speculate all we want—and people have already begun—but that doesn’t make it so. The folks at Google have put a stake in the ground, and good for them. Give Glass the same chance you’d give an iWatch.

Personally, I would think I’m more likely to try a wearable computer that’s more affordable and less obvious than Glass. Like, say, a watch. I’m not ready yet to live in the world that Glass forebodes. But I might some day. If everyone else is doing it.

(Um … you go first.)

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