While other Americans were trampling each other for retail bargains on Black Friday, I was driving through the rain to Google’s Venice Beach facility for an appointment with a Google Guide named Sam, whose job was to introduce me to my new Google Glass wearable technology device.
We traversed a predictably whimsical courtyard (giant chess board, etc.) and a gourmet lunchroom (Sushi Specials!!) bereft of the 600 Google employees housed in the former Chiat-Day binoculars building because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The joint was empty except for Google Guards, Google Guides, and Google Explorers, the latter group being the one that includes me.
The Explorer program launched back in the Spring with a #ifihadglass contest. Some 8,000 folks were offered the chance to buy their own Glass (at $1,500) and, as Google put it, “Being part of the Glass Explorer program is pretty insane (good insane): let's face it, using cutting edge technology that changes every month requires a certain sense of adventure.”
I did not enter the contest, though I must say, I was tempted. A friend and colleague Shawn Hardin had told me privately that his next company, Mind Pirate, was developing a full-scale game and app platform for Glass and other wearable computing devices, premised on the conviction that this market will be huge.
Shawn is incredibly convincing. His research suggests that the wearable tech market, which includes smart glasses, watches and clothing, will grow to $18 billion by 2018, up from $1.4 billion this year, with more than 64 million units worldwide. He told me that 10 million smart glasses will ship by 2016, and not just from Google – many companies are jumping into this.
In the intervening months, I’ve joined the Mind Pirate Board of Advisors and helped formulate a new production lab program between the company and the Canadian Film Centre’s ideaBOOST media tech accelerator, which I advise. We launched that program November 21st in Toronto with five participants (SmokeBomb Entertainment, Imaginary Computers’ Sean McCracken, Normative, and Little Guy Games and the CFC Media Lab). It was an extraordinarily creative and energized experience, diving deep into the technology of developing for Glass, learning about Mind Pirate’s Calisto platform, and jamming with some insanely smart folks. It’s called Flow.
So, of course, I had to apply to the Glass Explorers program and I had to accept when my invitation arrived a few days after my return from Toronto. I plunked down my own dough at a decidedly non-Black-Friday price, even though I know that other, cooler wearable gear is likely to make this thing on my head seem quaint in a matter of a business cycle or two. I’ve got to hurry up and be cool.
So here I am again at the dawn of the Next Big Thing: a new and very disruptive generation of devices, applications, and services, to rival previous revolutionary platforms such as the PC, Internet, broadband, social media and mobile.
I’ve been in the land of tomorrow in the past. Somewhere in the closet I have, for example, Apple’s QuickTake camera (boo), a Newton (ugh) and several Palm Treos (yea). None of those turkeys lasted. In general, being on the bleeding edge is messy and time-consuming, since pioneering devices are never as useful as their progeny. Which is why it’s better to get them for free.
Still, I do like the idea of being first, seeing the technolust in the eyes of my fellows, though so far, most people have ignored me. As my friend Carol said, “I thought it was going to be Goggles.” No, Carol, Googles, not Goggles.
So far, I’m just learning the interface, which is kind of tricky. I’ve set up my account, learned how to take a picture and record a video, set up WiFi and navigate pointless Twitter posts on my eyelids. When I sent an email to my college roommate, I couldn’t figure out his reply, which was “Wow, Alice, is it really you?” until I read what I had actually sent:
hi Michael this is my first email response on Google glass
Sent Through the Looking Glass
Seriously, the Glass default signature is THAT?
Then there’s social etiquette of using the device – the Internet was alive with the story of an Explorer who got kicked out of a Seattle restaurant.
I’m more afraid that I’ll look like I’ve got Tourette’s or epilepsy as I twitch, tap and shout to my little friend in the screen inside my head.
I will be in Silicon Valley and New York City in the next week, which should give me plenty of experience to report here, and on the Explorers website. I figure I’d better hurry up and act like an early adopter before everybody gets these things, rumored to be in a matter of months.