Picking up Glass, and initial positive and negative thoughts

I had Glass on for a bunch of the day, taking it off sometimes when it felt weird to have it on my head – and it did indeed feel weird to have it on my head, but not as weird as i thought it would be. I did notice glances in my direction of people and i could hear the question “what the fuck is on that guy’s head?” running through their brains. it was a little uncomfortable because i really do prefer to blend into a crowd, but it was also pretty amusing.

After playing around with the device for the day, there are several glaring positive and negative things about it, and it’s for this reason that i wanted to write this entry now while those were fresh in my mind. i’m going to talk about them in a somewhat random but linked order.

Positive #1: The act of taking pictures and video is simple, instant, and covert.

There are two basic ways to take picture and/or video using Glass.  One is vocal.  You tap the side of the device or you do the “activation head-angle thingy” to put it in “ready” mode, and you give it the core command of “okay glass, take a picture.”  The other is physical.  There’s a button on the top of the core technology that’s an instant “take picture” button if you press it, “take video” button if you hold it.  When you do that, it takes the picture instantly – you don’t get a preview window to then adjust zoom or focus or light or anything before the picture is taken.  You activate the function, it instantly snaps the photo or starts the video.  For photos, it then gives you the screenshot of the finished photo.  For video, you start to see in real time the video playing back as it’s recording.  Video defaults to 10s, but you can hit the button again to record for longer – there’s about 12.5 gig of in-house storage.

Most of the time i took a picture by hitting the button, and while it was initially strange for it to happen so quickly with no chance for prep, the instantaneousness and covertness of the photo snapping became my favorite feature of the device.  One of the big philosophical issues i can have with picture-taking is the logistics of such things taking precedence over Actual Experiencing.  The implementation of photo-taking on a device that pretty much uses your actual vision as the viewfinder makes photo taking a super fast and non-disruptive process.  The best example came from this picture:

20130710_141006_187The story of the picture is that we were passing by this booth, an example of many scattered along the boardwalk of Venice Beach.  I noticed as i was passing that there was a sign on it that said “No Photos!!”  You can see it in this picture.  I hadn’t even looked at the art in question – i just saw the sign above it, and i had an immediate knee-jerk reaction.  In my head, i thought, “there’s no way that this guy is going to know that i’m taking a picture with Glass on.”  I reached up and looked in that direction, hit the button, and snapped it.

And the process of reading the sign, deciding i was going to take the picture, and then snapping it took less than five seconds.  I didn’t have to even slow down in my walking pace to do it.

The covertness of it for me is an attractive feature not simply for the “sneaky” situations but mainly for what i’m going to call “natural capture”.   Everyone has some sort of reaction when they know that their picture is being taken.  Whether it’s a pose with a big grin or a slightly visible reluctant grimace or anything in between, people do something, and that instantly changes their energy and therefore the energy of the photo that’s being taken.  I used to be the same way – i used to hate having my picture being taken if i knew that it was being taken, but i didn’t have issues with it being taken if i didn’t know it was happening.

There’s something about capturing a person unawares who is absolutely and ignorantly un-self-conscious that i find very appealing and that is something that i feel is very rarely captured.  Glass is new enough technology that a lot of people don’t recognize it and have any clue that a photo or video is being taken, hence they are much more likely to act like themselves.

So i can live with the lack of preview for the instantaneous aspect.  But that has a side effect cost of high inexactness of the frame of the picture.   This is something that i could probably get a feel for over time if it weren’t for the first negative of Glass:

Negative #1: The Adjustable Glass Display and the camera should be on separate pieces.

The Google Glass display is a tiny glass screen that you see when you look in the upper right hand corner of your vision.  In order to calibrate it to where your vision naturally lies, you have the option to rotate the display in or out to a small degree.  That’s pretty great for the context of making the display flexible for all sorts of wearers with different head shapes.

However, the Glass camera used for photo and video-taking is on the same piece as the Glass display and therefore if where you rotate the Display to your liking is on a slight angle from your face, that means that the orientation of the camera itself is on a significant angle away from your straight-ahead visual frame.  When i was first experimenting with the camera, i ended up taking a picture of the wall at the set up table, and because the display was on this angle, the picture i took was a noticeable number of degrees to the right.  In my actual vision, i would have had to look out of the corner of my eye to see Pat sitting at the table, but the camera angle put the edge of his body into my picture, much to my surprise and confusion.  It would be much better if the camera could be in a fixed position that related to how Glass fit my straight-ahead vision.

That said:

Positive #2: The Glass display screen is very non-intrusive.

I wasn’t sure what i expected from the Glass display as it related to my normal vision and was pleasantly surprised that the Glass display did not obstruct my vision at all.  If i have it on and i’m looking around normally, i don’t see the screen in my vision hardly at all whether off or on.  I have to make a conscious decision to look up at the screen, a process not unlike rolling your eyes up to look at the ceiling without moving your head, to notice the screen at all, and when doing that, the screen is very crystal clear and blends in with the background of what i’m looking at.  This has the somewhat negative side-effect that ti’s obvious to someone who’s looking at me when the screen is on or off, and if they were to look closely enough they could even see what’s being displayed.  I say somewhat negative because a part of me feels like i don’t want someone to see when i have the display on at all, but ultimately i think the idea is that the device is not actually meant to be covert.  It’s probably a good thing that people can tell whether or not Glass is active if you’re talking to them or doing anything at all.  If i truly wanted to be sneaky about taking pictures or video, i would buy the Hammacher Night Vision Camera Watch instead.

Every now and again, i find that the background of the display isn’t contrasting enough from the display itself and i put my hand behind the screen to give it a clearer backdrop.  It makes me kind of wish i had an option to have a black background or something behind the display so that it’ll always be clear, and to avoid the display screen being too distracting to someone i might be interacting with.

Negative #2: Google Glass is not collapsible and is incredibly awkward if it’s not on your head.

This is probably my biggest complaint about the device – the fact that you can’t collapse the sides and put it in a compact form like regular sunglasses or glasses.  If i have Glass with me, i simply do not want it sitting on my head the whole time, but the fact that it’s not collapsible makes it awkward to put down on a table or put inside my pocket.   Yes there’s the microfiber-with-hard-clam-shell bottom pouch that came with the device, but that’s also big and bulky and not the sort of thing that easily fits in my pocket which means that it’s something i either have to carry or put into a bigger shoulder bag.  I hate having to carry things not in my pockets, so right now it pretty much forces me to wear it on my head, either in its functional form or on top of my head.

i’m thinking that the best solution for this might be to jimmy-rig some sort of neck strap for the device, sew something on to the bag itself that acts more like a shoulder strap, or find some sort of small purse-like bag that could go around my neck or shoulders.  Neck strap is more convenient, but also makes the device visible regardless of whether i’m wearing it or not, and some of the reason for me wanting to store it is to put it away and not have easy access to it or for it to have high visibility.

Mendel Lee

I'm a composer, musician, and music educator residing in New Orleans, LA.

2 thoughts to “Picking up Glass, and initial positive and negative thoughts”

  1. I don’t think the Siri thing is necessarily a Glass issue. It does the same thing when I access siri through my car stereo.

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