My totally excellent Google Glass adventure

Getting a glimpse at my Google Glass Credit: Photo Credit: Tomma Henckel

Last Saturday was not a typical weekend day for me. My wife and I rose early and started a long journey to the Google Glass office in New York City to pick up my very own pair of Google's interactive glasses.

First, how I ended up doing this: In February, on a complete whim, I entered the #ifihadglass contest. I simply had to tweet what I would do if I had Glass with the appropriate hashtag. I said I would keep an online diary. I guess that was enough, because when Google announced the lucky few, many celebrities among them, there was also me. 

It wasn't as simple as just being chosen. There was the little matter that I had to actually buy the device for the tidy sum of $1500. Plus, I found out later, I had to go to New York, Los Angeles, or Mountain View (Google's corporate headquarters) to pick up my device. When you throw in taxes plus the cost of the trip, this was beginning to add up and I was beginning to have doubts.

As I wrote in April, you have to admit it's a pretty ingenious marketing plan.

After some hemming and hawing, I decided I couldn't let this opportunity pass, and I paid the money. That's how I found myself driving down I-95 on a Saturday morning heading to pick up my Google Glass. Our plan was to drive to the Rye, New York, train station where we knew we could park for free on weekends, then take a Metro North Train to Grand Central and head into the city from there.

After a nice lunch at the South Seaport and a walk by Ground Zero, we got in a taxi and headed to the Google Glass office in Chelsea Market. My appointment was at 4:00. We arrived at 3:50 and, after a bracing cup of coffee, headed up to The Google Glass office on the 8th floor.

Credit: Tomma Henckel
Glass Guide Beau Hanley explains the device to me.

I checked in, but they were expecting me and gave my wife and me both nice Google Glass visitors passes. After a brief wait, we headed in. My wife brought her camera to document the experience. We were told that was fine, but they didn't want us taking any video.

We were led into a large open space -- think of a loft with several stations set up with counters and stools. The counters each had a Chromebook Pixel on them -- I would later learn this was to be used for configuring the Glass unit. 

After introducing himself and offering us drinks -- we each asked for sparking water-- our Glass Guide, Beau Hanley, began the process of introducing me to my device. First we were taken to a display where I got to choose my color: white, black, blue, orange, or charcoal (although I'm sure Google uses fancier color names).

I chose a neutral charcoal, although as my wife pointed out later, it would have been better for documentation purposes if I had taken a brighter color. 

We returned to the counter where Hanley ordered my device and soon it was delivered in shiny black bag with Glass written on the outside in white letters. The bag was just big enough to hold the box with Glass and the sun glasses and windscreen accessories. A lot of thought clearly went into the packaging and how everything fit just right.

Credit: Tomma Henckel

Hanley shows me around the device.

Next it was time to open the package and see my Glass. There was a lot of anticipation, and Google really did a great job of making the whole experience special -- from the packaging to the training to being treated royally.

I spent about the next hour or so learning the ins and outs of the device, including how to set it over my glasses so I could see the display, how to configure it on the Pixel with my account, and how to use the touch pad to maneuver through the different screens and generally navigate the device.

There were a couple of issues -- not show stoppers, but they did and will continue to have an impact on my experience.

The first is that I wear glasses. You can maneuver the device so it fits in front of glasses, but it's a challenge to make sure the display is completely in front of the glass where I can read it.

Credit: Tomma Henckel
Hanley shows me how to navigate the device.

Second, I'm an iPhone user and the Glass app is only available on Android. That means there's a lot of functionality built into that app that I'm not privy to. For instance, you can get on your wireless network from your Android app, which I'm told is much easier to use than the web interface, and you can show what's happening on your Glass display on the phone and then take screenshots -- something I would very much like to do. My plan is to borrow my son's Samsung S3 and at least see what I'm missing.

I don't want to get into my overall thoughts on the device just yet because I'm still very much in learning mode. My guide Hanley recommended learning to use it slowly, starting for an hour or so each day and working up from there because it takes getting used to this style of computing and it's a bit stressful for my eyes. I'm hoping that will pass as I use it more.

Before I knew it my time was up. I repacked my Glass and left with my Glass bag. In the lobby, I returned my badge and said good-bye.

Hanley asked me if I wanted to wear it on the street, but I wasn't quite ready to do that. But I will soon try it in public. We took the elevator downstairs with my Glass bag hanging at my side and headed out into the city to do a bit more exploring before the long drive back home.

One thing I noted as I left was how carefully Google designed a whole adventure around simply delivering Glass to the owner. The packaging took a page from the Apple playbook where holding the product is part of the overall experience, not just an afterthought. There was careful attention to detail every step of the way, and the desire to make sure I was leaving prepared to get the most of my device. That they created a whole space and a team of trainers just to deliver the product tells you they were looking to give their early adopters a special experience -- and to a large degree they succeeded. 

Whether they will be able to continue to deliver a similar level of service at mass market remains to be seen, but they certainly took great care to make sure that us early adopters felt good when we left the building and took our Glass out into the world.

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