The $1,500 Question: Why Am I Paying Google to Beta Glass?

GoogleGlass_15Let’s start with the obvious.  I am a hopeless technophile and I need help.  I’m not a role model, I’m a cautionary tale.  I’m the people your parents would have warned you about if they had any idea how the future turned out.

The most recent proof of these truths is my – successful – application to be a “Glass Explorer” in Google’s project – Glass – to develop a wearable device that resembles a pair of glasses without lenses that projects a tiny image into the user’s right eyeball.  Think of it as computer that can be controlled with voice, gestures and taps with a display that sits in your field of vision. This project has been talked about for years and Google has offered various glimpses of the technology as it has developed.

In recent months, however, the glimpses have become almost continuous as the Googlers get closer to actually launching Glass.  There was an 50-minute presentation at the recent SXSW festival that is technical in some parts, but gives a nice inside-looking-out introduction to the interface and there’s a high-production-value promotional video on the Glass site.

google-glass-modelAll of which has served to set the table for the next stage.  In February, the company launched a contest seeking 8,000 beta-testers who would be willing to pay $1,500 for an early-model Glass, travel to New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco – on their own dime – for a still-unknown group event and to participate in a details-to-follow beta test of the device to see how real people (I use the term advisedly in my case) will use Glass in the real world.  The uses identified so far include hands-free photography and video, heads-up display of useful information – directions, weather, etc. – and a voice-driven, Siri-like access to the Internet and other services.

I was one of the thousands of crazies who entered via Twitter or Google+ with the following entry:

Glass entry

If you watch the promotional video, you’ll understand the hashtag.

I’m not sure how many others raised their hands, but my 140-character entry was apparently good enough to make the cut because about five weeks later I got a reply:

Glass reply

Nothing from Google since then, but somebody at Stanford did an analysis of many of the winners, ranging from Neil Patrick Harris (5.53 million followers on Twitter) to yours truly (0.0007 million followers to Alex McAlpin (aka “galacticboy2009”) of Trenton, Georgia with 0.000007 million followers.  There are about two dozen people in Minneapolis who’ve been tapped, many working in communications-related professions.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with Glass (and – full disclosure – I’m not 100% sure I’ll be able to participate depending on the specific terms of the program; for example, if the device transmits data I don’t want to share or if the event conflicts with something at work or if – shockingly – I come to my senses and realize I’m insane to spend $2,000 (device, airfare, food and lodging) for a piece of hardware that I’ve never even touched.  I do know, though, that I’m very excited contemplating the possibilities.

locutusofborgSo, I throw it open to the Crowd: what would you do with Glass?  Would you do it at all?  Is it the next step in making computing power more accessible and useful as an enhancement to our life or is it the next step toward becoming the Borg?

Either way, I suspect resistance is futile.

– Austin

57 thoughts on “The $1,500 Question: Why Am I Paying Google to Beta Glass?

  1. PM says:

    the next step in the inevitable boomer march to debt?

    But I’ll be happy to read all about it! I love vicarious thrills!

  2. Minnesotan says:

    You have to admit, when a company can hold a contest where the winners are giddy for the “opportunity” to pay $1,500 for the prize, plus airfare to go pick up the prize – they’ve got the world on a string.

    Good luck Jon. Be sure to take those glasses off before crossing the street or getting in your car!

    1. Actually, one of the circumstances I’m most interested in testing is driving. Always-progressive West Virginia has reportedly introduced legislation to ban Glass-like devices from the roads, but I think there’s a case to be made that having information like turn-by-turn directions in a heads-up display is actually safer than having it down on the dashboard. Fighter aircraft and some commercial aircraft employ a similar system.

      Look out Twin Cities. Cyborg on board.

      – Austin

      1. Having just written that, it won’t surprise me at all if Google bans use while driving as a condition of the Glass Explorer program. And,,to carry the thought to the next logical conclusion, they might even be able to enforce that restriction by disabling the device when it detects via its accelerometer that it’s moving above a certain speed.

        It would be bad PR for the company if Glass was blamed for a couple of car accidents. So sayeth the PR guru.

        – Austin

        1. Jon: My pal Carr took me upstairs at the Times a couple weeks back to meet “the propeller head guys’ playing with this stuff. the step-by-step directional stuff could have a wonderful application to anyone sight-challenged … and … then … if/when they connect it directly to the optic nerve … .

          1. Minnesotan says:

            I know devices like the iPad have done wonders in working with kids with special needs. I would imagine there are some things the Google Glasses could do for them as well – along with people with other challenges such as you pointed out.

            It’s a little too “cyborgy” for me. The computers are taking over – run for your lives!

          2. I’m mindful of the big brother aspects of putting stuff in your head, but I’m pretty sure that if I live long enough, I’ll be in line when Apple introduces iCortex or when Google offers a subcutaneous “gEarPhone”.

  3. Sally Maenner says:

    Go for it, Buddy! You are my only hope (along with Laney) for staying cutting edge!

    Xxoo, Sally

    1. PM says:

      yeah, it is kind of pathetic when, in a conversation about technology, you always have to say: “Well, I know someone who…”

      otoh, if it wasn’t for knowing Austin, i might have to stay silent….

      “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
      ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

    1. Finally! An antidote to the boring meeting blues.

      Porn is, of course, one of the first uses any technology gets put to. The printing press, cameras, video cassette players, DVDs and – the big banana – the Internet where it’s been estimated that 12 percent of all web sites – in the world – are porn. According to one study I looked at (for the articles only, swear to God), just one of those sites – YouPorn – serves up 50 Gigabytes of video PER SECOND!

      – Austin

      1. And isn’t it amazing, considering the explosion in access to porn, that the long, much purported deleterious effects of it receive almost no sociological investigation or media scrutiny? According to the nuns who taught me, I should already be searing in hell for imagining what Marcia A. looked like in her underwear.

          1. Dennis Lang says:

            As always perceptive point PM. Lambert, no doubt attending a prestigious private Catholic school unlikley to have access to hot young coeds (except in his imagination of course. But, a nun!? Please Lambert, say it ain’t so.

            1. Dennis Lang says:

              Marcial A. And frmo my “fervid” period it was Barbara B, and lithesome, dimpled Terri L (sat behind me in most of my classes “L” of course) and Amanda B… I could go on. But now they’re all my age–that would be middle-age– and the image invariably loses some

            2. PM says:

              and a wonderful explication of the attraction of the porn industry to those of us who are middle aged….

          1. I did, and that was WAAY before the internet. Obviously someone somewhere from time to time cranks out a feature on the topic — usually in the confines of a publication like New York with a safely progressive audience. But tell me — considering the fire and brimstone we heard about sex as kids, and we’re still getting from arch-conservative fear-mongers — that there’s really any kind of corresponding response to the exponential increase in smut over the past 20 years.

            1. Jim Leinfelder says:

              So breezily glib. I feel lIke Erik right now. It’s not about offending supernatural deities; but, rather, psychology. And the psychologists who, in fact, do study it, and are probably no less progressive in their views than you, say, repeatedly, based on their research, that a steady diet of porn is demonstrably not going to help people looking for healthy, sustainable relationships, like, say, marriage. It’s a matter avoiding offending Jehovah, or, whoever, it’s a matter of living a happier, healthier sex life.

            2. Dennis Lang says:

              As I recall from an interview some time ago, Naomi Wolf had an interesting take that I think dovetails with the “New York Mag” piece linked earlier. The availability of modern high-def porn, a good deal of it beautifully—and economically–produced, diminishes ones interest in a real relationship that can’t possibly, consistently if at all, live up to the erotic charge generated onscreen. Expectations are changing. At least for those who consume it with some regularity. And from the staggering numbers generated from all demographics it would seem the appetite for it is insatiable. The greater the online presence the greater the desire for more of it.

              But this really is “drift” from Austin’s thesis here. Sorry.

            3. Jimmy: You seem to think I’m disagreeing with your point of view. I’m not. First, I’m saying that I’m surprised more isn’t made of the tremendous expansion in availability, and second, while I would suspect, as you and noted experts say, that it has a deadening effect on “normal” sexual relations, I’m waiting to see the studies proving that … again with a spike that corresponds with the growth in availability.

              Then we can move on to why it isn’t a topic of popular conversation, given the broad and heavy use that seems to be in vogue.

            4. Erik says:


              Jim, say what you will about me and my act, but it’s fairly often that my basic observation is demonstrated true. Which is, that despite the vocabulary and multiple clause sentences, this is not a guy with serious, meaningful insight. The insight and material understanding he does have is barely adequate for this rote counting horse trick of responding to serious conversation with cloying one liners and degrading stereotypes. He’s a clown.

              It’s nice to be acknowledged, but even without that I know I’m right and I know that most of you agree to an extent. Which is as much as I can hope for.

            5. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Well, while it may not be getting much coverage at MinnPost, it is getting pretty wide and deep discussion here and in Europe. Like porn itself, thoughtful discussion, if not the definitive final word on the subject you seem to require, is all over the web. It’s not obscure. It’s being talked about in the hallowed halls of, gasp, TED talks:

              Sorry for straying from Austin’s post about the glasses that will enable us to never be off line. But I didn’t bring it up, just felt mildly annoyed at the too-hip-for-the-room dismissal of it’s on-line ubiquity as at least a possible downside to digital media. I worry for its effects on young men and boys, who view it freely and with about as much self control as you’d expect. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to ask if there are dots to be connected between this subject and stories such as occurred in Steubenville.

            6. “Too hip for the room?” Are we even talking about the same point? To re-reiterate … if porn is as abundant as it appears to be today, compared with 20 years ago, and by any empirical standard it is vastly more abundant and accessible, where I ask again — AND THIS IS MY FOCUS — is the corresponding vast increase in deadening of sexual honesty, dysfunction, or however you want to describe the deleterious effects? You’re making a point that porn is bad for the soul and relationships, as though I said it wasn’t and (I guess) that I don’t care one way or another. I’m not sure where you got that.

              Show me the corresponding, exponential increase in dysfunction and I’ll concede that you “won” the argument.

            7. Dennis Lang says:

              See the beauty of an Austin post, it opens a window for conversation and contemplation never initially in his innocence anticipated. Anyway since a couple of you have picked up the ball, from an interview I did with a male porn performer for an article I wrote a while back. He had referred me to the Christopher Hedges book. I asked for his view.
              We’ve spent time here on the 2nd Amendment. Maybe the 1st Amendment is next. From the interview:

              Dear Mr. Hedges
              I was utterly engrossed in your book until I read the chapter where you address the porn industry. It was at that point that I realized your research was completely one-sided, self-consciously sensational and often misleading. If the purpose of your book was more than a rant on reality and illusion in contemporary life, then why did you completely disregard interviewing the performers who do not come from unfortunate backgrounds, and are not on drugs, those who have made a well-considered professional choice and actually enjoy their work? In my own experience bright, educated women like Kayden Kross come to mind. This is to say nothing of a prominent sub-text of female performers who feel the profession is liberating rather than exploitative.
              It’s evident that you bring with you a pre-conceived notion of the industry. Twenty-five guys masturbating all over a girl may be a sexual turn-on for some, not limited to the viewer, but to the performer as well. For some, it’s not. It’s all about perspective. No one is forcing the girl to sit and take that treatment (unless she has a pimp, which is another conversation entirely). She chose to be in that position, perhaps it’s the lure of the paycheck (and scenes these days pay less than what they used to), more likely only something she can explain. We travel a treacherous road don’t we, when we assume that something we may find disagreeable, even perverse, should be the same for the rest of the world? Can’t we allow people to accept their private proclivities without feeling that they’re a social outcast?
              Is there an element within the industry attempting to produce something more over-the- edge to shock the public? Yes. Is there exploitation? Yes. Except, unlike other industries that attempt to foster an illusion that you’re something special while you’re bored beyond imagination in your cubicle for eight hours a day, expendable and replaceable, this one has no pretense. You will have a good idea of what your shelf life is, what you’re up against, you can see that you’re being used for something, and accept it.
              Is the porn industry a wonderland? Not by any means and to imply otherwise would be to foster an illusion in the opposite direction, equally as false as the image you chose to portray.

            8. Dennis Lang says:

              Well, good point. No evidence of an underlying factual basis as to Austin’s presumed “innocence”. Merely opinion, however misguided, therefore not actionable in libel law, as I understand it.

    2. Dennis Lang says:

      Ah, the evolution of pornography in America from the airbrushed misogyny of glossy magazine spreads like Playboy, and smutty films sold in seedy shops to its proliferation in High Definition all over the Internet consumed by millions, frequently for free. Now Google Glass. Burden on the producers to keep up with rapidly emerging technologies of course. The marginal ones will be winnowed out but the future holds unlimited possibilities for self-gratification. And isn’t that’s what it’s all about?

      Exciting times we live in!!!

        1. PM says:

          Well, most predictions of the future apocalypse/cultural sewer/catastrophe/alien invasion/rapture have been pretty off the mark… far!

        2. Minnesotan says:

          I think “reality” TV shows have done more to put us in the cultural sewer than porn ever will.

  4. Dennis Lang says:

    Pornography, a subject for another time and post, but since De Rusha brought it up and we’re playing along….
    According to Christopher Hedges, author of Empire of Illusion, American civilization is coming apart at the seams, corrupted by deadening vices including the cult of celebrity, wrestling…and pornography. Pornography gets its own chapter.
    Do you folks agree?

    1. I’m not detecting any great fraying of the American experience I can attribute to the ubiquity of pornography – though I did just read Mr. Leinfelder’s New York Magazine story linked above – but maybe it’ll take a few years to become noticeable to old guys like me who are not as avidly consuming this sort of content as we once did (I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I’d grown up in an age in which a high-def video of anything you can think of sexually is a search term and a click away – and mostly free).

      I guess the drift of this conversation demonstrates a corollary to the “all tech gets used for porn” rule; all discussions about tech inevitably end up talking about pornography.

      – Austin

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Likely true. I can’t recall the subject of porn ever broached on the Minnesota Twins blog for instance.

        1. Minnesotan says:

          Speaking of the MN Twins, the quick turnaround on their announcement of the $15 to watch batting practice was quite interesting, to say the least.

          1. Dennis Lang says:

            Right Minnesotan, that less than elegant PR play was painful to observe, but still nowhere near the agony of watching young Hicks and Liam Hendriks. Then again the season may just be snowed out. And we’ll all be spared.

      2. Jim Leinfelder says:

        I’m not exactly the church lady, but I was taken aback by what some junior high kids referred me to, albeit under their breath, a few years ago.

        And all of free and as hard core and cynical as you care to click to. I honestly do fear for the effect it will have on their minds and expectations of women. Again, sorry, but it is media.

        1. I have said in many posts and in other forums that the combination of the Internet and near-ubiquitous connectivity constitutes the greatest, most reckless experiment one generation has ever conducted on its children. We have given our children the informational equivalent of a nuclear arsenal without any meaningful effort to control their use of this technology, to teach them how and when it should be used morally and appropriately and without any idea as to how it will affect them and the society around them.

          I hope we like the results because our first test subjects – the kids in their late teens and 20s who can’t remember a world without the Internet – are coming into their adulthood. Right behind them is an even more extreme experimental cohort: those 15 years and younger who have spent their entire conscious lives in a world in which anything – any pornography, any ideology, any entertainment, any lifestyle, culture, thought, event, cult, religion, political party, recipe for pasta or plastic explosives – can be found and accessed in the dark of their bedrooms, in the car, on the bus, at their desks, in the bathroom with a click. If you’re the parent of a child this age and you think you know everything your child does on line, I submit you are delusional.

          If you wonder about children who have grown up having never been alone, who have never had to work harder for an answer that the Google search results, who have been exposed to more people and cultures and mores in their first ten years than you’ve experienced ever, who have viewed – as John Mayer put it – 50 vaginas in the first hour of the day, who probably exchanged texts with people posing as others before their 10th birthday, who think Skyping with their cousin in India three nights a week is no big deal; if you wonder about how our kids are going to turn out when raised so differently from any previous generation, get ready because we’re about to find out.

          As I said, I hope we like the results. Early returns are mixed as far as I can tell.

          – Austin

          1. PM says:

            Personally, I am not too worried. Things will be different, some better, some worse. Some people have a tendency to focus on the negative, some focus on the positive. I happen to think that humans and human society are pretty malleable and adaptable.

          2. I won’t argue, because I can’t. But, quite frankly, I’m amazed that at this point in The Great Transformation we see so little, relatively speaking, in the way of the dysfunctional rot that was supposed to be attached to all this unfiltered, unmediated “information”. Somehow, simultaneous with the all the gross ingestion, there is some factor moderating the worst reactions.

          3. Dennis Lang says:

            Yes, fascinating subject. Personally, having come from an era of three television stations and huge rotary phones–in any color as long as it was black–we’ve lived through a stunning evolution in communication–but nothing it would seem as cataclysmic as the present. One of the lingering images I took away from a class taken at St. Thomas in the Fall is that entering the classroom, no one is talking to each other; faces buried in Ipads or Uphones, whatever they are, one monitor or another. Not sure what to make of it but have to believe the instant access to unlimited information has potential for great good in the world (even as you wrote so poignantly a while ago our beloved newspapers as a foundation of democracy and shared information are leaving us).

    2. Bruce benidt says:

      I’m with Hedges. Clearly porn has negative effects on individuals and society. Less measured and, wrongly I think, less worried about is starlet and “other lives” porn, openly available all over TV and at grocery checkouts. I fear for the minds, souls and spirits of people who follow every burp and fat-wobble of a Kardashian.

      We’ve always been interested vicariously in the lives of people “above” us — movie stars, politicians, tycoons. That’s bad enough — so often those people are vapid and shallow. Now starlet porn has groveled down to the level of people who offer nothing more deep or creative or informed than any gaggle at a Burger King. Reality TV has brought into our lives other lives of noisy desperation. Those who breathlessly follow the “I went to the mall and bought…” quality of human endeavor don’t have much time left for the beauties and deep pains of the larger world, and seem to have little going in their own lives. This is the wall-screen family of 1984 come true to a power of 100.

      When you spend so much time following other people’s lives, especially Real Housewives of Fridley lives, how much life force do you have left for growing your own?

      Kardashian mags (Taylor Swift, Mick Jagger, all the same, although at least they have talent) and reality TV are empty calories for the soul. Fun to eat Frosted Flakes for breakfast now and then, but a steady diet leaves you obese and toothless. Ain’t that America?

      1. Well, there is another interesting debate. Not that both can’t be bad, but if you had to choose one social malady to rid the planet of would it be the consumption of vast amounts of irrelevant, erroneous “information” or … porn?

        And speaking of obese … what did the scale say this morning?

        1. Dennis Lang says:

          Of course, we wouldn’t rid the planet of any of either. Free to express, free to consume. (Although legislating the availability of personal killing machines–from another conversation–is another matter.).

      2. Dennis Lang says:

        It does seem to at least be some part of America. Right, likely it always has been, just more visible in the the digital age, the appeal of lives more glamourous and desirable then our own. The American dream is living and we don’t have the part of it that Tom Cruise or the Kardashians or countless others of wealth, beauty and position have–however they attained it–often simply made by modern media. So we tune in wherever we can find it. The audience is there, it’s growing, and being fed.

  5. PM says:

    Say, Jon:

    you going to make Chapter 2 of you online autobiography available on Google Glasses? Nice to get some of those interactive features involved, don’t ya think?


  6. Dennis Lang says:

    “New Yorker” arrived in the mail, including article: “O.K. Glass/Confessions of a Google Glass Explorer”. My first thought–Austin’s been published in the “New Yorker”! Yeah, that’s something. Alas no. So where’s the anticipated follow-up to this post? Or did I miss it? No big deal. Just asking.

  7. Ellen Mrja says:

    Austin: So, the answer to your question percolated to the top (bottom?) pretty quickly here. Porn. How disappointing. (Thanks, JIm, for remembering that to – oh, about half of the population – porn is not a harmless adult fairy tale. I sincerely appreciated your comments.)

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