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

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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

With a little help from my friends

My first thought was “Who the hell is Dave Moody?”

I knew a lot of Daves, but this name didn’t ring a bell. Yet there he was: My first Indiegogo sponsor.

It all became clear after a trip to Facebook. My friend Ray Hansen had shared my campaign and then shamed Dave into donating $25 after Mr. Moody comment-bombed his post. What started as a drunken lark actually continued as real support!

MUCH TO MY SURPRISE, GOOGLE GLASS COMMENTED ON MY CAMPAIGN!

MUCH TO MY SURPRISE, GOOGLE GLASS COMMENTED ON MY CAMPAIGN!

The campaign closed 25 hours later and, despite attracting four more donors, I raised less than 10 percent of what I needed to get Google Glass. But then I started getting phone calls. From friends, from work acquaintances, from my new sister-in-law. “Can we still donate?” they asked. Hell, yeah, I said. The next few days, I happily made the handmade art I’d promised my flirts, friends with benefits and lovers.

EVERYONE WHO DONATED RECEIVED A LOVE LETTER WRITTEN WITH QUILL PEN AND INK ON AN ANTIQUE DESK. (I ALSO SPRITZED THEM WITH MY FAVORITE PERFUME.)

EVERYONE WHO DONATED RECEIVED A LOVE LETTER WRITTEN WITH QUILL PEN AND INK ON AN ANTIQUE DESK. (I ALSO SPRITZED THEM WITH MY FAVORITE PERFUME.)

By the time the Indiegogo funds hit my bank account 15 days later, I’d raised a grand total of $850, roughly half of what I needed. A speaking engagement covered the rest.

Google threw in a free pair of Maui Jim shades. I opted to pay an extra $200 for prescription glasses frames.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to pick up my order in San Francisco, where I wanted to get fitted and oriented by Explorers. The one day I was going to be in town was the day Google Explorers were shutting down the store to prepare for a major party. Silver lining was I saved at least $100 paying Georgia sales tax instead of California sales tax and I got my Glass three days earlier.

I placed my order on Friday. On Monday, a suspiciously awesome-looking package arrived. Heart in mouth and digital designer at my heels armed with a camera, this is what I discovered.

I still have trouble attaching the sunglasses, but I’m obviously not that concerned with looking cool.

The cost of growing up

@JESSICALEVIN WAS THE FIRST EXPLORER I MET FACE TO FACE

@JESSICALEVIN WAS THE FIRST EXPLORER I MET FACE TO FACE.

The first time I met someone with Google Glass, it was at a tech conference in August 2013. She began by saying, “They’re really cool, but they don’t do much.” Over the next three months, I got the chance to try on a pair and talk to a few other Explorers, one of whom was already ready to put his away for good. But the heart wants what it wants. My heart wanted Glass. Even at $1,500 a pair.

When I was 21, I lived in New York, working for Condé Nast, doing graphics for SELF Magazine’s marketing department. My best friend, Phoebe, lived down the street and we often went out together. One afternoon shopping in Century 21, I was fretting over whether or not I could afford to get a skirt I liked. 

“How much is it?” she asked.

“$40,” I replied.

“How much do you make an hour?” she pressed.

“$25,” I said.

“So get it,” she said. “You’ll work it off in less than two hours, and you’ll wear it plenty.”

She was right. At the time, it was a huge purchase because I was used to thrift store shopping. But I was ready to start buying more grown-up clothes. I wore that skirt to pieces.

A few months later, I noticed a pair of heels in Vogue magazine. Working for Condé Nast, we got copies of all the magazines they printed monthly, so I often paged through them as I was waiting for a large file to load or for something to print. I don’t remember what I was waiting for that day, but I remember those heels and how they affected me. They were ankle booties, but the back of the boot was cut away, exposing the heel of the foot in a very sexy way. The look was edgy, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I was captivated by how something so simple could make you feel so daring.

Before I go on, I should explain that all through high school and college I’d been a Birkenstock/Doc Marten/duck boot/cleats/mouse slippers in public kind of gal — shoes either had to be comfortable or useful. But there was something about those heels. 

Over the next few weeks, I started seeing the shoes on mannequins in store windows. On the way to work from the Metro or on my lunch break, I’d stop to take in how the bootie’s strap bound the ankle, yet left the heel of the foot bare, unencumbered. I liked the shape of the shoe’s heel too: tall, slim, strong, rectangular. It was a nice counterpoint to the toe of the shoe, which was elongated, almost aggressive. On a few occasions, I even went into the shops to get a price, maybe even buy a pair, but the shoes were for display only.

One fateful day, as I was killing time before an audition, wandering aimlessly through Macy’s Herald Square, I found them in the ladies’ shoe department. I picked up the display model and admired its lightness. I fondled the soft black suede like a cautious lover. I probably spent five minutes under its spell before I peaked at the price tag, which was upwards of $200. All of a sudden, I got a giddy “what the hell” kind of feeling. I asked to see a pair in my size. They added three inches to my height, which felt amazing. The suede uppers hugged my feet like a blanket drawn tight against the wind (which only my heels could feel). It was delightful. They looked sophisticated, sexy. The salesman didn’t have to work hard. “When have you ever had a pair of real, grown-up shoes?” I asked myself. That’s what sold me.

20 YEARS OLD AND STILL KICKING!

20 YEARS OLD AND STILL KICKING!

Nearly 20 years has passed and I still love (and wear) those heels. But when I was a single girl, making my own money, paying my own bills, I never had to think about what things cost or how I’d pay for them.

I have a family now. My money isn’t only for my enjoyment or expenses. There are four of us to cover, so it’s like a being part of a very small socialist experiment where there isn’t much that I can truly call my own. That’s true of money as well as time.

Perhaps that’s why I was so determined to get Glass. Having a pair would allow me to capture my thoughts and experiences to archive or share as I wanted, without having to share the medium with anyone else, the way my kids lay claim to my paint and iPad. (Under 18s can’t wear Glass, I read, heart racing.) 

The idea of technology that would allow me to create and discover the world in a new way was intoxicating, freeing. I didn’t see Google Glass everywhere. They were as unusual as those backless boots were in 1999. When compared to how much I get paid per speaking engagement, they were as affordable as the Century 21 skirt.

Only problem was, I didn’t currently have the cash on hand.