A few weeks ago I received an email invite to the first NYC Google Glass Explorer Social. I was pretty excited. Being a Glass Explorer I often wonder what other Explorers are doing and how to meet them. Enough of us put this sentiment out there in the digital space and it seems Project Glass got the message. But, ironically, on the day of the event I found myself a little apprehensive. I started thinking, “what type of people are going to be at this thing? Is everyone going to be wearing Glass? Will it be weird?” I wondered just how “social” an event full of techies in Google Glass could be?
August 28 – the day of the event – was a dreary day in NYC too. It was rainy, cool and muggy all at the same time. This only added to my list of reasons not to attend. Plus I was supposed to be attending “Bitchy Drag Bingo” at LIPS – a restaurant in Midtown East that features top-notch drag queens – a la the Team Awesome Meetup Group. Although choosing between a Glass Explorer Social and Bitchy Drag Bingo may sound like a #firstworldproblem, I was torn. I’m an introvert; I knew I would only have enough “social juice” to make it through one event or the other.
Ultimately, at the behest of one of my co-workers who was convinced the Glass Social (let’s just call it that) would be a great networking opportunity, I made a last minute decision to attend. Here’s the long and short, it was okay. It was hosted at Project Glass headquarters on the 8th Floor at Chelsea Market, which is the same location where they provide the fittings. The space felt much the same, the Glass display cases were still up, and Project Glassers wore the same tees and skinny jeans (tees must be tucked in at all times) as they always do. I think it’s cute that they want to associate a fashion aesthetic with Glass, even if it screams late ’90s early aughts GAP.
When I walked in I noticed that pretty much everyone had their Glass on. And it wasn’t as weird as I thought it might be. The crowd was fairly diverse, and there were sufficient mirrors for Glass Explorers to take their requisite selfies (that’s me below).
Just as I was entering a room with large video installations I ran into an old classmate from Columbia who introduced me to another Columbia grad and programming educator. We chatted about our work and experiences with Glass. As we walked from one side of the room to another I activated video to capture the stroll. I stopped filming just as we found a nice perch from which to observe the scene and chat some more. But with that tap on the Glass came a somewhat awkward moment when one of them asked me if I was filming. The discussion inevitably went in the direction of privacy issues. His argument was that Google Glass creates a power imbalance between the haves and have-nots. Mine sort of echoed Matt Honan in this Wired Magazine article on The Google Glass Backlash; which is to say, sure, but ain’t nothing new under the sun.
Grammy award-winning DJ and engineer Young Guru provided the soundtrack for the evening, and free drinks and hors d’oeuvres were plenty. The hors d’oeuvres were not that great though, which was surprising, I really expected them to be awesome. I’ll be honest, the anticipation of delicious hors d’oeuvres fueled my last minute decision to exit the subway at 14th street rather than continue on my merry way to the Upper West Side after a long day at work. @ProjectGlass, you guys sort of let me down there.
One highlight from the event was running into Laura, the Project Glasser who originally fitted me. She’s always so enthusiastic about the humanistic affordances of Glass. I asked her what her most rewarding moment had been so far and she told me about a recent fitting with a deaf person who was able to hear for the first time while wearing Glass. She said that because of Google Glass this person and their partner would be able to have natural conversations with each other without needing to be face to face or use sign language. Using Glass, one of them could be in the kitchen and the other in the living room, and they could respond with their voices to visual messages displayed through Glass. I think many people who are born deaf have speech problems that could prevent speech to text from being effective. Still, it’s a heart warming idea and if it works that’s fantastic.
All in all, It was a pretty cool start to what I hope becomes a recurring event. It would be nice to add things like giveaways and maybe up the hors d’oeuvres budget a bit (just saying, food is kind of a big deal). While the DJ was cool, a more visual musical artist might work better for this demographic. We’re Glass Explorers after all, we want to see moments worth capturing! Daft Punk would be an excellent choice.