RIP Google Glass Explorer Program (2012-2015)

Shortly after leaving work last night, I received this email:

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My feelings were bittersweet. I’ve been a Google beta tester for a long time, so I know that products and communities I love (*sniff, Google Wave*) might go away with little notice. But I also know that when they do, they often reappear in better, more useful forms (hello, G+!).

I also know that many of the Explorers who joined with the first wave in April 2012 no longer wear their Glass in public. Either because the initial high wore off or because they live in communities where the backlash has been paranoid witch-hunt level (looking at you San Francisco).

I was among the last of those invited to join the Explorer program, so I only got my first set last March. I’m well aware of the physical limitations — I’m on my third set. But I still see so much potential in the technology. For a moment I felt a little adrift. “What does this mean for us?” asked a friend. Google’s email didn’t tell us much past the fact that they were shutting down the community forums on Jan. 19.

Then I found this:

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So Google Glass no longer will bean experimental division, they’ll be their own independent part of Google. That’s promising. I still have a lot of questions: Will they sub out our sets for what they develop as the end consumer product for free? Will we get a sneak preview? Will communities for us to gather and share still exist? If I get my prescription frames filled will they fit with the new headset? Will functionality and Glassware apps stop working?

But I don’t feel as anxious anymore. Another feeling has replaced that: anticipation.

I’m curious: What are your thoughts? How do you feel about the Explorer program ending next week? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Dear Google: This is what I’d like for Christmas

Some people believe in Santa Claus. I believe in Google Glass. So, Google, on behalf of me and the rest of the true believers, this is what I want for Christmas.

#1: More interaction with your Explorers

I love being an early adapter. I enjoy talking with the Glass Guides assigned to take care of my customer service needs. I’ve submitted wish lists in the Glass chatrooms alongside fellow Explorers. But I’ve noticed something kinda weird: There’s next to no feedback or input from you. When I beta-test other products, I have frequent discussions with engineers and designers about what’s working, what’s not and where things could go. At the very least, there’s an infrequent newsletter to tell me what’s, well, new. With Glass, I’ll get the occasional social encouragement, but no news bulletins, no release updates or notifications when things I’ve hoped for or suggested have launched. I kinda have to stumble upon new Glassware. The only news I read about you seems to be written by haters. Next year, I’d love to see more communication from you to your Explorers. After all, we’re your biggest fans. We’d love to know what you’re excited about, what you’re working on and where you’re going. Because we want to be part of it and help spread the word.

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# 2: Hardware upgrades

I’m on my third set of #teamcotton frames. There’s an external piece of foil that tends to warp near moisture or when exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations (like my body after a workout, sadly). I love that Google’s sent me new sets to replace the broken ones because I made a big $1,500 investment in the technology. But every time I unbox and see that piece of foil I know that Glass isn’t ready for prime time yet and I really want it to be. So here’s hoping your engineers find a better solution!

Evidently, this little guy is the reason why most people get new sets of Glass. Extreme heat, sweat or a sudden change of temperature all can warp this orbital pod foil.

Evidently, this little guy is the reason why most people get new sets of Glass. Extreme heat, sweat or a sudden change of temperature all can warp this pod foil.

# 3: Software fixes and app upgrades

Listening to news stories on Glass rocks. Having the audio or video freeze sucks eggs. Uploading interviews I do at conferences directly to YouTube is amazing. But Twitter’s defection from the Glassware store leaves a huge hole. I really miss it, even though half the time the voice recognition made my innocent captions NSFW. I can’t say I don’t get frustrated by GPS drops or apps that don’t register my gestures, but I am an optimist. Please, please tell me that people aren’t going to let 1.0 versions languish and that at least a handful of Glassware developers (and your team) plan to keep improving what they do for Glass.

For some reason, I can give myself a concussion nodding up and DuoLingo still might not read my gesture correctly!

For some reason, I can give myself a concussion nodding up and DuoLingo still might not read my gesture correctly!

#4: For you to tell your story better

What, ultimately, is Google Glass for? Do you ever want to offer it commercially? Or do you prefer to share the technology so other people can create the wearables mass market while you keep Glass an upscale option for training, education and corporate use? Unlike other members of the press, I don’t think Glass is dead. But you certainly don’t seem to be trying to communicate, create or even control your own messaging. I’d love to see a mission statement emerge next year that clarifies what your vision is for Glass. Otherwise, I’ll be stuck with nothing but stories written by people who staunchly refuse to understand how it works, and that’s a drag.

So Google, what do you think? I’ve been a very good girl ….

Google Glass streamlines social moderation during presentations or webcasts.

Love your superfan, @PYMLive

Better living through Google Glass

The MusiXmatch glassware app helps you identify song lyrics.

Yes, Google Glass has an app that allows you to identify songs on the radio so you can sing along.

One of the benefits of wearing Google Glass every day is you quickly discover ways in which it’s useful. Otherwise, you may fall into the trap of just using it to document your life pictorially. In my last post, I shared some of my favorite ways to use it at work. Here are some of ways in which I use Glass personally.

  1. News feeds. Many newspapers and media outlets now offer Glassware apps. If you are a headline junkie, subscribe to The New York Times, Mashable or Guardian and you’ll get an RSS feed of titles with images on your Glass. If you want full stories, CNN, Umano and Marketing Land give you headlines with the option of hearing the full stories read to you as you drive, walk about or go about other business.
  2. Directions. Have an appointment? Look something up on Google Maps before you left work? Your Glass will give you the option of getting directions via car, transit or footpath. Because prompts appear above your eye, you don’t have to search for your phone to see where to go. And the screen isn’t live the whole time, just before you need to take action do you get the next instruction, so it’s less distracting than Garmin or in-car navigation systems that never shut up.
  3. Suggestions on things to do. Glassware apps offer guidance on local events (Google Now), cool things nearby (Field Trip), even full-on self-guided tours (GoGuide). Load up your favorites and explore.
  4. Calendar. I’ve synched my Google calendar to my iCal and made it my default so now any appointment I create will show up as a prompt on my Glass. If someone in your G+ circles has a birthday, you’ll also see a reminder on that day and be able to send them a special message just by using taps and voice prompts.
  5. Shopping lists. This is one of the first requests I made in the Google Glass Explorers chatrooms. When ShopX became available I downloaded it immediately. Now, before I go to the grocery store, I say “Ok glass, take a note with ShopX” and list out what I need to buy. By the time I pull into the Kroger parking lot, my list is sorted by category and available to me on cards I can check off or add to whenever the need arises.
  6. Workouts. My favorite is Zombies, Run! (You can read my review here.) But LynxFit and Strava offer more programs. So whether you’re an avid cyclist, runner or are just looking to get in shape, Glass has fantastic options that range from self-motivated timers to personal trainers.
  7. Digital notebooks. Who says you need paper and pen to write? Do you love to journal? Memoirs and Path Glassware apps let you create a string of personal memories you can capture and transmit with Glass. If you’re more of a note-taker, Evernote synchronization means that you’ll never lose a random thought again. Video Voyager lets you pin 10-second videos in virtual space for other Explorers to discover. Poster Boy does the same thing for public photo sharing.
  8. Being social. Ok, so you will take a lot of photographs and videos with your set of Glass. But instead of having to upload things via mobile, you can instantly caption and share to Twitter, G+, Tumblr or Facebook using Glass. Although be forewarned: The audio capture can be unreliable, especially in noisy or outdoor locations, so be prepared to cancel that caption before it goes live. (I’ve seen some pretty funky translations of innocuous phrases I’ve uttered that ended up being NSFW.)
  9. Figuring out song lyrics (finally). It’s a constant source of amusement to my husband that I don’t know what the lyrics are to any song (especially my favorites). Enter the musiXmatch app! Now I tell Glass to recognize a song and it pulls up a lyric sheet for me. It’s the little things. 🙂

If you’re interested in learning more about how I use Glass and reading reviews of Glassware apps, please subscribe to this blog. And let me know what you’d like to hear more about!

Twitter notifications are displayed on Google Glass.

It’s fun seeing that friends are sharing #yaypym love while I’m out for a jog.

3 amazing ways you can use Google Glass at work

Google Glass streamlines social moderation during presentations or webcasts.

I love being able to see tweets on Glass while on conducting Hangouts on Air webinars, because then I don’t need a second screen to moderate social feeds during broadcasts.

The most shocking thing I’ve heard from other Google Explorers is that they only use their set of Glass for taking photos and videos. Glass has so many other applications. But if you don’t wear them regularly, or if you feel awkward about wearing them in public, you may never discover the unexpected benefits. That’s why I’ve worn my set every day. These are the most useful ways I’ve found to use Glass at work.

  1. As a Bluetooth headset. Google Glass tethers to your phone via Bluetooth, but it didn’t occur to me that I could use them for hands-free calling until someone rang me at work. Aside from the novelty of being able to say “Ok glass, answer call,” I found it very useful to be able to answer the phone without having to drag it out of my purse, especially if I was typing or driving my car.
  2. To monitor social media. I frequently present at conferences and via webinars. Because Google Glass is linked to my Twitter account, I can see when people send me @messages. This is awesome for receiving live feedback and eliminates the need for a second screen to look at the social chatter. A whole host of Glassware apps are being developed specifically for conference speakers to connect with their audience and get real-time feedback. I haven’t tested those out yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
  3. To listen to music. I’m easily distracted, so when I’m feeling pulled in a million directions, nothing helps me focus as well as putting on my headphones and listening to music. Problem is, if I have to open iTunes up or search my phone for a playlist, I often forget to turn the music on. Also, my back is to my office door, so if I do have music going on the headphones, not being able to see people as they enter has given me a shock more than once. That’s why I really enjoy listening to music on Google Glass. The monobud doesn’t cancel out everything, so I can listen to music andand be aware of my surroundings. Before the Pandora Glassware was approved, I felt stymied by my lack of Google Play music. Now, I can just turn on Beastie Boys radio or whatever else I’m in the mood for and listen for hours before I need to recharge.
Since getting Glass, I mainly use my cell phone to help me apply lipstick when there's no mirror about.

Since getting Glass, I mainly use my cell phone to help me apply lipstick when there’s no mirror about.

Those are my three favorite work-related ways to use Glass. Are you an Explorer? Let me know how you use your set at work. An aspiring GlassCat? Feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comment section. I’ll be happy to answer then.

In my next post, I’ll share some of the everyday/personal ways I love to use Glass. Until then: Stay #glassy!

Which #glasshole glossy do you like?

One of my favorite conferences every year is the Social Media Tourism Symposium (SoMeT)  because, although it’s for destination tourism marketers, I always walk away with cool new tech tools and community-building ideas to share with my Plan Your Meetings readers.

Last year, Robert Patterson from MMGNY spoke on Google Glass and passed out signed 8×10 glossy shots like this one.

This signed #glasshole print inspired me to offer my own as an Indiegogo incentive.

This signed #glasshole print inspired me to offer my own as an Indiegogo incentive.

When I ran my Indiegogo campaign to get Glass, I said donors at the $50 and above level would receive a similar shot from me. A couple of weeks after I got Glass, I attended a conference in San Francisco where attendees could get professional headshots done during a break. I couldn’t resist getting one with Glass.

Here are the two he took. Which one do you like best: Option A or Option B?

The unexpected benefit of wearing Google Glass

There’s an old saying I recently saw updated for the 21st century:

“Dance as if no one’s watching. They can’t, because they’re all looking at their phones.”

Mobile devices not only have turned us into an always-on culture, it’s forced our collective gaze downwards. We don’t see life passing in front of our eyes because we’re checking emails and replying to tweets.

It's hard to see what's happening when you're always looking down. Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr.

It’s hard to see what’s happening when you’re always looking down. Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr.

It’s not only compulsive behavior, it’s annoyingly anti-social. And aside from my husband and the few others who refuse to give up their flip-phones, we’re all guilty of it. Visit my house on the weekend and you might find my 4-year-old daughter on an iPad, my 17-year-old son texting and playing on his laptop, and me looking at my phone while we’re all together in the living room, watching TV. “So, what’s happening in Tiny Town?” my husband likes to ask. And I laugh, but it’s a guilty chuckle because I know deep down something’s wrong. The intense way we focus on these second screens keeps us from each other in what should be our most intimate moments.

It's amazing how even toddlers and pre-K kids love spending time in tiny town.

It’s amazing how even toddlers and pre-K kids love spending time in Tiny Town.

My initial fear after getting Glass was that it would suck me even further into Tiny Town. But something even stranger happened.

I started looking up. I put away my phone. I spent more time being present.

Because Google Glass provides an overlay on what you see, you never fully look away from what’s happening in front of you. There’s no need to go digging through your purse for your phone when you want to take a picture, see who retweeted you or check your email. It all loads on the Glass for you to check at your leisure. There are still alerts, but only you (not everyone in the doctor’s waiting room) can hear them. With a swipe of your finger, you can choose whether to look at and respond to them immediately or dismiss them.

Yes, Google Glass has an app that allows you to identify songs on the radio so you can sing along.

Yes, Google Glass has an app that allows you to identify songs on the radio so you can sing along.

People ask all the time if it’s distracting to wear Glass while I drive. I actually find the directions are much easier to follow on Glass than when they’re on my phone because I never have to take my eyes off the road (and it can’t fall under my seat like my cell often does when I need it).

I think most people think that wearing Glass is like being exposed to a never-ending ticker of data. But the reality is the default display setting is off. And if there is an alert, it’s easier to ignore than a text message on my phone. I can answer calls hands-free using voice commands and the headset, so my hands never leave the wheel.

It may seem corny, but Google Glass fills me with a sense of optimism for the future. It’s hard not to feel better, though, when your eyes are always looking up at the world ahead of you.

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” ~  Dag Hammarskjold

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” ~ Dag Hammarskjold

The top 5 questions people ask about Google Glass

At a conference in San Francisco, they had a professional headshot station. I couldn't resist getting this shot made so I could appear to be a professional #Glasshole.

At a conference in San Francisco, they had a professional headshot station. I couldn’t resist getting this shot made so I could appear to be a professional #Glasshole.

Wearing Glass definitely makes a statement. And the general public is still divided on whether that’s a good or bad thing. Walking around with a 15GB face computer/mobile video camera above your right eye attracts a lot of attention and questions. But I’ve found they boil down to five main ones.

1. “What is that?”

I wear Glass every day, and rarely can anyone identify it by name. A teenager in Kroger and a RadioShack clerk are the only two people who asked right off the bat if I was wearing Google Glass. Everyone else wants to know what it is or asks if it’s “that Google thingy.” Once I confirm it is Glass, most people have heard of it and get excited because they’ve never seen one before. If I’m not holding up anyone in line, I’ll let them try it on or open the MyGlass app on my phone so they can see what I’m seeing. That’s the fun part.

2. “Do you work for Google?” 

Now that anyone with $1,500 bucks can become an Explorer, I hear this less often. But when I first started wearing Glass in public, everyone who engaged me asked if I was a Google employee. I wish. Although I suspect they had to purchase their own set just like everyone else. Now they just ask if I’m “in tech.”

3. “Are you filming me right now?”

To be honest, Glass only has 45 minutes of continuous battery life and you’re not that interesting. No offense, but I’m pretty self-involved and want to use Glass to record my thoughts and facilitate what I’m working on. 

Not that I’m not beaming data to Google constantly. But it’s my own personal data, not yours. I don’t think I was fully aware of this until I was emailing Glass support from a cab last week. Their response: Please don’t use Glass while you’re in a car. That freaked me out.

What should freak you out are all the cameras recording what you’re doing in public that you can’t see. Those are on 24 hours a day. And sending data to government databases.

4. “How does it work?”

It tethers to the hotspot on your phone or a local Wi-Fi connection so it can communicate with and back up your data to the cloud. The actions it performs are tied to apps you activate from within the MyGlass app that lives on your smartphone.

5. “What does it do?”

The short answer is: A hell of a lot more than it did a year ago. 

The long answer is: It depends on what you want it to do. Are you a fitness buff? You can download workout apps. You can use Glass to learn French, Spanish or Chinese. It can tell you about cool nearby attractions or events. You can have it read you the latest stories from Mashable or CNN. You can check stocks, take and share pictures on social networks, record vocal notes in Evernote, create shopping lists, upload videos directly to YouTube, view postcards left in space by other Explorers, join Hangouts, answer phone calls, post to Tumblr, get directions and much, much more.

The sad answer is: Most people still only use Google Glass to take pictures and videos. That’s why I wear my set every day. I’m curious about how wearable technology can make life and work easier. Those thoughts, app reviews and other observations are what I’ll share with you here.

So now you’ve gotten answers to questions other people ask. What questions do you have? Leave them in the comments below.