September 1, 2013

Pros and cons of Google Glass

The favorite feature of three early users: The ability to shoot photos and video without using your hands.

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE The Associated Press

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Sarah Hill, a Google Glass contest winner, tries out the device. “This is like having the Internet in your eye socket,” Hill said. “But it’s less intrusive than I thought it would be. I can totally see how this would still let you still be in the moment with the people around you.”

Photos by The Associated Press

Michael Liedtke
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Reporter Michael Liedtke models Google Glass at a Google base camp in San Francisco.

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"I was wondering if Glass would feel like a burden or part of my hiking equipment. It actually feels pretty cool," Levy said. "They are totally fine on my head and don't block any of my view. When you see something interesting, you can immediately have a camera on it. I really enjoy being able to capture those images."

Glass' ability to take hands-free pictures and video has raised concerns among privacy watchdogs who believe the device will make it easier to secretly record the activities of other people. But Levy is convinced that what Glass can do isn't much different than what many people already do with their smartphones. To prove his point, Levy used his iPhone to record a conversation he was having with a friend who was railing against the privacy risks posed by Glass.

"I recognize that Glass can make people uncomfortable, but I have to say the privacy issues are a specious concern," Levy said. "If I have a phone in a restaurant, I can get a picture of just about anybody I want with it. So what's the difference between a phone and Glass?"

Lee regularly has Glass with her when Maddie is around other babies and said she hasn't heard any privacy objections from other parents. That could be because she has been careful about following the social cues around her. If she sees other parents snapping pictures of their babies with their phones, Levy has donned her Glass. If no one else is taking pictures or video, though, she leaves Glass in her bag. 

Some analysts question whether Glass will have mass appeal once it hits the market. Skeptics who have seen the early participants walking around wearing Glass believe the device will eventually be remembered as a geeky curiosity that never lived up to its hype, similar to the Segway, the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters that remain an anomaly more than a decade after they first went on sale. 

Angela McIntyre, a research director for Gartner Inc., believes the retail price for Glass will have to plummet to $200 to make a significant dent. Early testers had to pay $1,500 for the device, though Google hopes to bring that price down by the time of its mass-market release next year. 

Even then, McIntyre believes smartwatches, another type of Internet-connected device starting to appear on the market, will win a bigger following than Glass. "Most people are just more used to putting technology on their wrist," she said. "It's less intrusive and obtrusive to wear a watch that can serve as a second screen to your smartphone." 

In a recent report on wearable computing, Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps predicted Glass will appeal largely to "young, socially connected tech optimists" and professionals, such as surgeons, construction managers and even farmers, who could use the device as part of their jobs. She defines tech optimists as people "who see technology playing a positive role in their lives." 

Hill figures it's still way too early to envision all the different ways that Glass will be used. 

"We are guinea pigs using the Model Ts of a new age in computing," she said. "They don't have heated seats or radios or all the amenities that they will eventually, and we are still learning how to drive them." 

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Google Glass offers video recording, photo and Internet capabilities while worn like a pair of glasses.


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