VistaBee CEO Steve Reilly: Google Glass is Dead, Long Live Google Glass

I became a Google Glass Explorer on the 20th of December 2013.

After 13 months, 6 countries and 54 flights wearing Google Glass every day, I can truly say that I understand Google’s wearable device, how controversial and amazingly interesting a groundbreaking piece of technology this is.

Firstly let me say I’m a big fan of Google Glass, let’s just get that out there. I’m a fan not because it is a wearable computer, but for being a piece of kit that takes the internet, technology and a great point of view camera and kind of melds it with your brain.

The first month of wearing Google Glass was painful, actually physically painful as my right eye adjusted to wearing the Glass, much like an army helicopter pilot must feel but less cool. After a month wearing a computer/camera on my head started to feel normal, and I loved meeting strangers who stopped me in Tesco, on my weekly Easyjet flight to London and just about everywhere I went to ask “what is it like”, “is it any good" or “are you filming me?”.

I learned there are two types of people Google Glass gets attention from; 1. genuinely interested gadget gear heads who had a magical jaw dropping experience when trying it on, or 2. those who think you are filming them and feel uncomfortable.

Only twice have I felt uncomfortable by those were clearly upset by someone wearing this new type of gear. One employee in a German motorcycle dealership, when a technician must have been having a bad day and decided that I was invading his privacy and would "punch me" for this. In Gatwick Airport a fellow passenger likely a little tipsy from her long haul flight started shouting at me in the ticket hall randomly for wearing Glass, making the elephant in the room a little more obvious.

But overall people just wanted to try Google Glass, and were very gracious and polite, which was part of the fun. Around 200 people tried my Google Glass on, and around 1/2 of those were simply gobsmacked by the experience of wearing this new computer headset.

I always sensed there was an elephant in the room with Google Glass. I thought at first this was cool, how people would turn around once you had passed to do a double take, much like what a Z list celebrity feels like when walking down Hampstead High Street. But Google Glass did not make me a celebrity, there was a celebrity perched on my head.

New types of etiquette were quickly learned with Google Glass and this meant taking to propping my device on top of my head to avoid offending strangers. When I met other “Explorers” (which was never outside Google or Glass meet-up events) I felt uneasy at being looked at with a camera lens and started to appreciate the reasons why the aforementioned people felt uncomfortable.

Google Glass has really broken some huge boundaries, it feels like you are wearing a real life Star Trek device and has posed some great questions; is it ok to wear technology with a camera on your head in public and be connected all day to your social media feed. Is it cool or just plain weird to stare into the space just above peoples heads when you receive a notification?

We did some really cool firsts with Google Glass at work; the world’s first point of view chef video (we pitched Jamie but he turned us down only to do it later himself), the world’s first Google Glass trip to Morocco (great food), Monaco in a day (what amazing views but live streaming from a Penthouse 30 floors up was glitchy), and a family camel ride in the Canary Islands (capturing images of my two young girls on holiday was one of the best experiences and by far the greatest benefit of Glass for me).

I even somehow managed to get driven through the Gumball Rally with a Russian Supermodel in a Lamborghini much to the amusement of my lovely wife and children in the crowd and met some amazing people simply because I was wearing a silly looking computer on my face.

Over the course of 2014, a weird thing happened. According to one of the Google guys, I became Google Glass’s most active European Google Glass Explorer (or most annoying I'm not sure). This is probably as there simply weren’t that many of us “Explorers” and I liked a jolly so took every opportunity to travel with Google Glass and find a new angle to apply it to. Us Explorers are a scarce bunch in the UK and although the guys I met who participated in Google’s Beta programme were much cooler than me, they didn’t seem to encourage others to buy the developer version of Glass by their enthusiasm (which was generally huge).

And you don’t look cool. People aren’t staring as you look cool, you look strange wearing Google Glass, which is why they are staring.

But since early 2015 I’ve started to wear Google Glass less. I’m now happy to receive notifications again on my phone and haven’t been taking as many photographs with Google Glass. I wear contact lenses so having to wear Glasses is a bit silly, especially the Google sunglasses as they just don’t look cool on me.

The hardware also needs work. The current Glass design is bulky, battery is ok (last 3/4 of a day) but not great and I’ve had 4 pairs of our 5 replaced for small technical issues (Google service is amazing). Photographs do looks amazing, video streaming and video in generally could be much improved, but it is a prototype so you make do.

But Google Glass now feels a little dated a little over a year on from my first moments of joy of becoming an Explorer. It’s incredible to think that in a year technology has moved on so much that such an exciting and groundbreaking device can date so quick. My new Motorola 360 watch does the majority of things Google Glass does, Oculus Rift is much more immersive and Microsoft’s new HoloLens visor combine both Glass and augmented reality technology to make the ultimate wearable device and create a new platform of computing at the same time.

 

Google Glass has been an amazing experience, it’s challenged norms, allowed us and Google/other tech companies to learn what is possible. Now the Google Glass Explorer Programme is at an end, and a new Google Glass V2 developed (most likely for the commercial clients I hear), Google and their competitors can focus on developing a more socially acceptable device (with Tony from Nest/Apple of all people in charge now), which doesn’t freak people out so much and gives you a reason to stop staring at your screen whilst you take a trip along the road.

So thank you Google for the opportunity to be part of what was an incredible, sometimes scary, but never boring year. Google Glass is dead, long live Google Glass.

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