Google Glass Taken for New York Subway Ride by Sergey Brin

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-01-22

Google Glass Taken for New York Subway Ride by Sergey Brin

Google co-founder Sergey Brin took a pair of Google Glasses for a ride on a New York subway train Jan. 21, and the appearance of Brin and the still-in-development invention caught the attention of a "hardware hacker" who recognized him and posted a photo of the sighting on Twitter.

"Yeeeah ... I just had a brief conversation with the most powerful man in the world," posted Noah Zerkin on his Twitter page. "On the downtown 3 train. Nice guy."

Zerkin, who identifies himself as a "wearable computing and augmented reality enthusiast/hardware prototype" on his Twitter page, apparently works at The Supertouch Group in New York, which claims on its Web page to "focus on the interface point between human behavior and creative computing."

Zerkin, 32, who lives in Brooklyn and describes himself as a hardware hacker and hardware prototyper, detailed the sighting of Brin in a Jan. 22 post on his blog, Integrated Realities.

"Last night I ran into Sergey Brin on the subway ride home," wrote Zerkin in his post. "I got on the downtown 3 express train at Times Square. Almost got into a different car, but switched to the next because there were some people exiting slowly from the set of doors at which I was standing."

Zerkin wrote that he's "already encountered a couple of people wearing [Google] Glass" through his work with augmented reality technologies, so when he saw the eyewear on a fellow passenger across the train aisle, he knew that it was in fact Google Glass.

"So I looked up and there was a fellow wearing a Glass unit," wrote Zerkin. "Cool. I've been to Google NYC for a tech talk (a great one about Street View) and I see Googlers on the subway periodically, so it wasn't that much of a surprise. But … that guy sure looks a lot like Sergey Brin."

Zerkin said he asked the mystery passenger if he could take his photo on the train, and the man agreed. That's when Zerkin realized that it was Brin sitting across from him in the train.

"I asked how the project was coming along and how he liked where it was right now," wrote Zerkin. "Of course he told me that he loved it and that it was coming along really well."

Still, he was skeptical, wrote Zerkin. "Somehow, though, I just didn't trust my own eyes enough to believe it was really Sergey Brin sitting across from me. I mean, I've seen the dude's private jetliner with my own eyes while working out at NASA Ames [Research Center] in my previous job. What would he be doing on the subway? Aside from the fact that he has a ginormous corporate facility and an apartment here."

That's when Zerkin told Brin about his own work on augmented reality technologies, he wrote. "Anyhow, I asked if he was part of the core X team and he said that he was. He told me that there are about 100 other people outside of X who have prototype devices."

Zerkin wrote that he wasn't at the Google I/O event in June 2012, so he's not eligible to obtain a pair of the first Google Glass Explorer Edition units that will soon be available to developers who were at that event. Attendees at the conference were eligible to buy the first Google Glass units for testing for $1,500 a set.

"I told Mr. Brin that I know a few people who are eagerly looking forward to the Glass Foundry events," which are two upcoming and recently announced hackathon events in New York and San Francisco where developers will be working with Google Glass to continue their evolution.

Google Glass Taken for New York Subway Ride by Sergey Brin

Eventually, Brin departed the train in the midst of their conversation when the train arrived at the 14th Street station, wrote Zerkin. "I bid him 'take care' and that, as they say, was that. I took out my phone. Looked at the pictures, and thought 'yeah ... that really was Sergey Brin, you dummy ... couldn't you have thought of something intelligent to say? Or told him that you've been working on building a wearable human interface device accessory specifically suited to HUD applications?"

In a phone interview, Zerkin told eWEEK that the sighting of Brin on the train was "just sort of a serendipitous happenstance" and was absolutely not staged as a publicity stunt.

And in the excitement of seeing Brin wearing Google Glass and getting to talk with him about the product, Zerkin, who specializes in the development of gyroscopes, magnetometers, accelerometers and other motion and orientation sensors, didn't even think to hand Brin his business card, he said with a laugh.

"While I had immediate regrets that I didn't identify myself and give him my card, I'm not sweating it at this point," said Zerkin. "I was in all honesty star-struck, and also I'm not very good with faces. But I figured here's a guy wearing Google Glass so I certainly had grounds to engage with him. I don't know why I just didn't come out with it, like saying, 'You're Sergey Brin and I work with augment reality, too.' I'm actually glad that I didn't. It might have been rude to blurt out his name on the subway."

So does Zerkin hope that his chance meeting with Brin on the subway train and the ensuing 15 minutes of fame he's experienced since posting his tweet will ultimately result in an offer from Google to try out a Google Glass unit that he missed out on by not attending Google I/O?

"That would be wonderful," said Zerkin. "I would love that. I would certainly love to get my hands on it. I have tried. At least they know who I am now, and if they want to talk with me they could certainly reach me."

The Google Glass project is an eyewear-mounted computer that will have a wide range of innovative features when it hits the consumer market. The Explorer Edition versions of Google Glass for developers are expected to become available early this year, with consumer versions expected at least a year later.

Google Glass features an Android-powered display, a tiny Webcam, a GPS locator and an Internet connection node built in to one side of a pair of glasses. The glasses are lightweight and may or may not have lenses.

According to Google's patent application for Glass, which is listed online, the glasses use a side-mounted touch-pad that allows users to control its various functions. The glasses will be able to display a wide range of views, depending on user needs and interests. One potential view is a real-time image on the see-through display on the glasses, the patent application states.

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