These high-tech specs with a built-in computer have the geek world abuzz, but wearing them in polite society requires decorum. Here, an open letter to very early adopters.
By KEVIN SINTUMUANG
Mary Evans Picture Library/Alamy; Google (Glass)
DEAR GOOGLE GLASS WEARER,
Congratulations! You’re one of the privileged few who’ve scored a pair of Google Glass, the futuristic eyewear that puts a tiny, voice-controlled, Wi-Fi-enabled computer on your face. It’s the most anticipated gadget since the iPad, iPhone or iAnything, really. And the best part? You members of Google’s “Explorer Program”—mostly app developers and supernerds—will be testing Glass in the wild months before the general public will get to wear it, fingers crossed, at the end of the year.
Soon you’ll be able to view emails, text messages and maps on a translucent screen hovering in the upper-right corner of your peripheral vision. Breaking news alerts will appear right before your eyes. You’ll snap photos just by saying, “OK Glass, take a picture.” In other words, you’ll be able to perform tasks everyone else has to do with their grubby hands and filthy smartphones—what Neanderthals!
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Google says there will be thousands of you Explorers wearing Glass around town over the next few months. I’m jealous, even though it looks dorky. (Just go to the “White Men Wearing Google Glass” Tumblr for proof.) I’ve spent some time with Glass here and there, mostly asking Explorer pals if I can try theirs, and every time, I almost cried when I had to give it back.
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I’m looking forward to the day when Glass is so ubiquitous that wearing one doesn’t make you look like a cyborg. But, at the moment, I’m a little concerned. New technology has a way of bringing out our rude and annoying side—just think of the guy who walked into you while composing a text or the woman in line at the dry cleaner who was shouting into her cellphone. And because Glass is a wearable device that calls attention to itself, you early ambassadors have to be on extremely good behavior. I’d hate for you to squander any goodwill toward Glass before the rest of us have a go at it. Here are some basic rules of etiquette for you—and future Glass wearers—to keep in mind:
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Yes, it’s fun to wear a voice-enabled computer on your face. Just remember that we can hear your every command
Always remember: You have a camera on your head.
And there’s no way for others to tell whether that camera is on or off. Sure, people might notice the tiny screen near your eye sparkling when they look closely. But that could be anything from a text message to an episode of “Parks and Recreation.” Naturally, people are going to be spooked out about whether or not you’re recording them.
How do you assuage their fears? Don’t say, “Well, there are probably cameras recording you right now that you don’t know about,” or “It’d be easier for me to secretly snap a picture of you with my phone.” That all may be true, but still—you have a camera on your head. It’s practically a third eye. People have every right to feel uncomfortable. Acknowledge that.
Tell them that it was a mistake for Google not to put a red light indicating that a photo or video is being taken, and that you hope there will be one in future iterations (even though evil folk may find a way to somehow disable the light).
Be courteous and take the device off in locker rooms, public bathrooms, business meetings, movie theaters and anywhere else where wielding a camera would be improper or offensive.
But, you ask, won’t that be difficult when Glass is outfitted with prescription lenses one day? Good question. Let’s hope Google or a third-party company invents some sort of artful lens cap for the camera.
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Use voice commands only when you need to.
One day, Glass might become as ubiquitous as mobile phones and it won’t be that weird to hear the phrase “OK Glass”—which lets the eyewear know to listen for a command—before a request for a weather update or the Mandarin translation of “Two beers, please.” But ask yourself: Can I do whatever I’m about to do with Glass more politely by using my smartphone? It’s OK to ask Glass for directions or to quickly respond to a text while walking alone down the street. But if you find yourself dictating long emails or using Glass to tweet whenever you think of something funny, that’s just overkill.
Don’t use Google Glass to make phone calls in public.
Yes, it’s basically the equivalent of a Bluetooth headset. Yes, people talk on Bluetooth headsets all the time. But it’s still annoying.
Give it a rest sometimes.
You know how that guy with the Bluetooth headset became Bluetooth Headset Guy, the most grating tech villain in existence today? It’s because he never took his headset off. (And, yeah, talking loudly to thin air didn’t help either.) I know, this slightly defeats the purpose of having a heads-up display and camera that’s always at the ready. But for most of your day, try to go for the normal-human look.
A model clad in Google Glass during Fashion Week in New York.
Also, it’s annoying to talk to someone who keeps glancing up and to the right every 10 seconds. Turn Glass off when there’s someone in front of you.
Don’t be creepy.
All it’s going to take is for one Glass wearer to record or photograph someone or something that shouldn’t have been filmed to ruin Glass for everyone. Let’s not incite lawmakers or angry mobs. Stick to photographing kittens, consenting friends and those totally amazing pancakes from your favorite brunch spot, OK?
Let people try it on.
You’ll probably get sick of people asking you if they can have a go with it, but be gracious. Once people see how Glass is essentially a glorified hands-free headset/wearable camera, they’ll get on board. If enough of us embrace your new headgear, that will chip away at Glass’s social stigma—which is the only way something this crazy-seeming will be accepted en masse.
Happy, uh, Glass-ing? Let’s hope you don’t ruin modern society and the tenuous rules of tech etiquette as we know them!
—Mr. Sintumuang is the editor of GQ.com