my first photo taken with glass at the google glass chelsea basecamp

The Physicality of Glass

What the first moments of wearing Google Glass feels like - And how it’s helping some people to hear again.

Something I hadn’t realized about Google Glass until I picked mine up today is the physicality of the fitting. The folks at Google want your Glass to fit right, of course. They don’t want you walking around looking like the nutty professor, sure, but it also aids somewhat with the usability of Glass to ensure it fits you properly.

So it took about 20 minutes to fit mine properly. And for a good part of that time,I had two (very nice,helpful) employees fussing and tinkering with Glass to refine my fit. This isn’t an issue you experience, of course, picking up an iPhone, a tablet, a laptop. It’s much more personal. A person’s facial structure affects Glass, just like it would another pair of glasses, sure, but some adjustment is also necessary to ensure proper screen placement. You notice that one of your ears is lower than the other, so you have to twist Glass’s titanium frame this way and that to compensate for it. You’re reminded that your nose is a little larger (in my case), when you have to adjust the nose clips to fit you. An iPhone, you pick up. Glass, yes, it seems obvious, but you wear it. And you feel that.

Of course, presently, Glass’s form factor weighs somewhat heavily on the right-hand side. It’s not as heavy as you might think, but it’s enough that I’m sure it contributes to some difficulty in balancing it on your face. No doubt, future versions will be sleeker, lighter, easier to wear and balance.

Now, for something much more fascinating. Apparently, some people being fitted for Glass are hearing for the first time in their right ear. The Glass employee who fitted me (that’s her above) said some people who had become deaf in their right ears are now finding they can hear Google Glass on that side of their heads. How is that? Well, that thicker, right-hand side section of Glass it fitted with a “bone conduction transducer” - in other words, a speaker which transmits sound through the bone behind your ear. Since it doesn't cover your ear at all, Glass does this without blocking the environmental noise around you - avoiding a potential safety issue. (It may make wearing Glass while cycling or driving less dangerous than wearing headphones. Though glancing at the screen could obviously be a dangerous distraction, at least it’s near your line of sight.) Now, imagine the surprise and delight of those now able to hear in their right ear - at least via Glass. It’s another element that makes wearing Glass an extraordinary physical experience. One which reminds you that this technology is getting closer to us as human beings than ever before.

You can engage with Glass physically in other ways, too. You can tilt your head back 30 degrees to turn it on, a setting which is adjustable, thankfully. But I prefer just to tap the touchpad, a gesture which is much more unobtrusive - and prevents people around you from wondering if you have a crick in your neck or are suffering a Tourettic attack.

Aside from its physicality, Glass is personal in other ways, too. It’s connected directly to your Google account, so it’s permanently accessing your personal information - and ever contributing to the ever-growing digital archive, which comprises your life.

For now, Glass has a physical affect upon others, as well: As I was walking around lower Manhattan, a few people stopped in their tracks (quite literally), when they saw me wearing it. One girl not so subtly sidled up to me to take a photo with her iPhone. So, the corresponding physical response for me is to feel not a little self conscious. I won’t be wearing Glass all the time, and I won’t be taking selfies in the shower like Mr. Scoble. But if Glass and other similar wearable devices really take off (and inevitably they will), I’m sure we’ll look back on the current fascination (and sometimes fear) of such devices as being rather quaint.