I probably have five hundred photos of people with one finger held up intently at eye level. Not flipping me the bird, thankfully, but swiping backwards and forwards through the touch-sensitive frame of Google Glass, the semi-controversial new piece of tech that beams information into your retina from a tiny screen positioned above your right eye. You can ask Glass for directions and a map pops up near-instantly in your frame of view. You can use an augmented reality app that translates printed text into English (or any number of languages) on the fly. You can browse the internet. Check the weather. Shoot video with the press of a button and even take photos with a conscious blink of an eye. (You calibrate the device to recognize when you’re winking.) Google seems to recognize the challenge in convincing the general public that the device is more than a novelty, and to that end, they’ve been on a rolling road show of sorts, setting up demo events in cities across the country and inviting the curious get a first-person view through Glass.
I’ve shot events for Google’s Seattle and Kirkland offices before, so my name got passed along to the New York and Mountain View-based PR folks organizing the most recent tour stop, a three-day showcase at SoDo Park. They hired to me to take candid photos of people using the device, and on the third day I got to try Glass for myself, wearing it all day and taking shots with its wide-angled 5MP camera. The device’s ability to surreptitiously capture photos and video has been troubling for those concerned with privacy issues, and I’ll admit it was both convenient and a little creepy to be able to trigger the shutter hands-free with nothing but a deliberate blink of my right eye. (In the settings menu, you can calibrate Glass to recognize when you’re consciously winking and not just blinking, although this feature may not ship in the eventual consumer edition.) I think the issue is more about etiquette than legality or ethics—it’s just as easy and lawful to snap discrete photos with your iPhone—but this sense of possible invasiveness is definitely one of the biggest hurdles Glass and other wearable tech faces en route to acceptance. All that aside, I had a great time covering the event, and I think I got some solid shots of the awe people seem to experience when they try Glass for the first time.