Google Glass devices have been available to beta users since April 2013 when the first early test units were distributed for use outside the company, but the devices continue to have a mixed reaction from the general public.
Glass devices have received some serious criticism while being used in public, including outright bans in some bars, restaurants and other businesses, as well as privacy concerns from some people who just don’t like the idea of Glass wearers recording them or viewing them using the devices.
With those issues perhaps affecting and clouding public perceptions of Glass, Google has launched a list of the Top 10 Google Glass Myths to try to counter some of those concerns.
The list, posted on the Google Glass Google+ page March 20, came about because Google is apparently getting a bit testy about some of the “myths” and negative things reported about Glass, including concerns about privacy when the wearable devices are used around other people.
“Myths can be fun, but they can also be confusing or unsettling,” the post states. “And if spoken enough, they can morph into something that resembles fact.” To fight the perceived myths that have arisen in the short life of Glass, Google has decided “to tackle them, just to clear the air,” the post states.
Here is Google’s Glass Myth list:
“Myth 1: Glass is the ultimate distraction from the real world. Instead of looking down at your computer, phone or tablet while life happens around you, Glass allows you to look up and engage with the world. Big moments in life—concerts, your kid’s performances, an amazing view—shouldn’t be experienced through the screen you’re trying to capture them on. That’s why Glass is off by default and only on when you want it to be. It’s designed to get you a bit of what you need just when you need it and then get you back to the people and things in life you care about.”
“Myth 2: Glass is always on and recording everything. Just like your cell phone, the Glass screen is off by default. Video recording on Glass is set to last 10 seconds. People can record for longer, but Glass isn’t designed for or even capable of always-on recording (the battery won’t last longer than 45 minutes before it needs to be charged). So, next time you’re tempted to ask an Explorer if he’s recording you, ask yourself if you’d be doing the same with your phone. Chances are your answers will be the same.”
“Myth 3: Glass Explorers are technology-worshipping geeks. Our Explorers come from all walks of life. They include parents, firefighters, zookeepers, brewmasters, film students, reporters, and doctors. The one thing they have in common is that they see the potential for people to use technology in a way that helps them engage more with the world around them, rather than distract them from it. In fact, many Explorers say because of Glass they use technology less, because they’re using it much more efficiently. We know what you’re thinking: ‘I’m not distracted by technology.’ But the next time you’re on the subway, or, sitting on a bench, or in a coffee shop, just look at the people around you. You might be surprised at what you see.”
Google Fights Back to Defend Google Glass Against ‘Myths’
“Myth 4: Glass is ready for prime time. Glass is a prototype, and our Explorers and the broader public are playing a critical role in how it’s developed. In the last 11 months, we’ve had nine software updates and three hardware updates based, in part, on feedback from people like you. Ultimately, we hope even more feedback gets baked into a polished consumer product ahead of being released. And in the future, today’s prototype may look as funny to us as that mobile phone from the mid-80s.”
“Myth 5: Glass does facial recognition (and other dodgy things). Nope. That’s not true. As we’ve said before, regardless of technological feasibility, we made the decision based on feedback not to release or even distribute facial-recognition Glassware unless we could properly address the many issues raised by that kind of feature. And just because a weird application is created, doesn’t mean it’ll get distributed in our MyGlass store. We manually approve all the apps that appear there and have several measures in place (from developer policies and screenlocks to warning interstitials) to help protect people’s security on the device.”
“Myth 6: Glass covers your eye(s). ‘I can’t imagine having a screen over one eye…’ one expert said in a recent article. Before jumping to conclusions about Glass, have you actually tried it? The Glass screen is deliberately above the right eye, not in front or over it. It was designed this way because we understand the importance of making eye contact and looking up and engaging with the world, rather than down at your phone.”
“Myth 7: Glass is the perfect surveillance device. If a company sought to design a secret spy device, they could do a better job than Glass! Let’s be honest: if someone wants to secretly record you, there are much, much better cameras out there than one you wear conspicuously on your face and that lights up every time you give a voice command, or press a button.”
“Myth 8: Glass is only for those privileged enough to afford it. The current prototype costs $1,500, and we realize that is out of the range of many people. But that doesn’t mean the people who have it are wealthy and entitled. In some cases, their work has paid for it. Others have raised money on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And for some, it’s been a gift.”
“Myth 9: Glass is banned … EVERYWHERE. Since cell phones came onto the scene, folks have been pretty good at creating etiquette and the requisite (and often necessary) bans around where someone can record (locker rooms, casino floors, etc.). Since Glass functionality mirrors the cell phones (down to the screen being off by default), the same rules apply. Just bear in mind, would-be banners: Glass can be attached to prescription lenses, so requiring Glass to be turned off is probably a lot safer than insisting people stumble about blindly in a locker room.”
Google Fights Back to Defend Google Glass Against ‘Myths’
“Myth 10: Glass marks the end of privacy. When cameras first hit the consumer market in the late 19th century, people declared an end to privacy. Cameras were banned in parks, at national monuments and on beaches. People feared the same when the first cell phone cameras came out. Today, there are more cameras than ever before. In ten years there will be even more cameras, with or without Glass. 150+ years of cameras and eight years of YouTube are a good indicator of the kinds of photos and videos people capture—from our favorite cat videos to dramatic, perspective-changing looks at environmental destruction, government crackdowns, and everyday human miracles.”
The Glass myth defense list by Google is interesting, according to several IT analysts eWEEK interviewed.
“This should be a lesson on why not to release alpha products broadly,” wrote Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, in an email reply to eWEEK’s inquiry. “Basically you lose control of the product’s image and long before you are ready a good chunk of your audience has decided the thing is crap. Steve Jobs is laughing from his grave at Google for this. They basically killed the magic and now are trying to dig out of the hole they created.”
What Google should have done, wrote Enderle, was wait to release Glass into the hands of the public—even with beta testers—until it was more developed. “The more traditional practice of waiting until the product is cooked so that it leaves a good impression initially seems to work far better, but these guys are engineers and clearly don’t get how humans heads work,” wrote Enderle.
The myth-busting effort could ultimately turn out to have the opposite effect, he wrote, because “there is a good chance they are still doing as much damage as good given the product folks are ‘myth-busting’ the early development versions. For a company that lives off advertising dollars, you’d think they’d understand more about marketing than just how to spell it.”
Charles King, the principal analyst of Pund-IT, agreed, arguing that “any time a company feels the need to explode ‘myths’ about its products or services, they’ve fallen behind public perception. That’s certainly the case with Google Glass and the company’s relative passivity in light of often negative news stories and opinion pieces has been difficult to parse.”
At the same time, King wrote, “some of Google’s points are well-taken–that Glass is not inherently injurious to privacy or security is clear to anyone who has investigated the technology. But the company has also done a poor job of positioning Glass as something more than a rich geek’s play toy. Glass Explorers may inhabit ‘all walks of life,’ but here in the Bay Area, Glass is seldom, if ever, seen outside the confines of Silicon Valley or the ‘Silicon Alley’ startup community in San Francisco.”
Dan Maycock, an analyst with OneAccord Digital, said that Google has been very open about the fact that Glass is still evolving in beta form and is not a final product. “When it is ready for prime time, I think they’re going to have answers to this stuff,” said Maycock. “I think for them it’s going to be about getting people used to the concept of something like Google Glass and getting them used to it being used in public. They’re not going to give up on it. They’ll continue to tweak and refine it.”
Maycock said his company acquired and bought a Glass device about a month ago and has been experimenting with it. “I definitely have run into a lot of these points [on the myth list] along the way,” he said. “You get a lot of questions from people in public about privacy and about the $1,500 price.”
Google Fights Back to Defend Google Glass Against ‘Myths’
There have been several high-profile incidents involving the digital eyewear in the last six months.
In January 2014, a network administrator from Columbus, Ohio, was removed from a movie theater and questioned by federal authorities over concerns that he was using the Google Glass on his head to film a bootleg copy of the movie being shown in the theater.
That followed the case of a California driver who was cited for speeding and for driving while wearing Google Glass in October 2013.
In the movie theater case, an agent from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations unit went to the man’s seat in the darkened theater and asked him to come along for questioning. Eventually, the man was freed when he was able to prove that he had not used Glass to capture the film illegally. While he was detained, he was subjected to detailed questioning about his activities in the theater and about his use of Google Glass.
In the case of the ticketed driver, Cecelia Abadie, 44, of Temecula, Calif., was cited in October 2013 as she drove home from San Diego, but her case was dismissed in January, when during her trial, a judge ruled that the arresting officer had not observed her actually using the head-mounted computer.
Concerns about Google Glass and the law had surfaced even before both of these cases. Reports from around the nation have occasionally made headlines when bars, restaurants and other public facilities have posted signs inside their establishments banning the use of Google Glass inside due to privacy and other issues.
Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development; it was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.
Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.
At the same time, Google Glass is also gaining some acceptance in the marketplace, even before its official launch to consumers, which is expected sometime this year. In January 2014, Google announced a deal with eyewear and vision insurer VSP Global that will cover a portion of Google Glass frames and prescription lenses for its insurance customers.