Getting Glass

gglass

Google selected me as one of (the many) Google “Glass Explorers”, thanks to a tweet I sent saying how I would use Google Glass, namely:

What this means is that I will, presumably over the next few months, be offered the opportunity to buy Google Glass before most other people get to. Yay! But it is not all good news. I get to do this only if I shell out $1,500 and head out to L.A. to pick them up.

Fifteen hundred dollars is a lot of money. I’d be willing to spend a sizable amount of money for what I think Glass is. Indeed, although $1,500 is on the outside of that range, if it did all I wanted it too, I might still be tempted. But it is an awful lot of money. And that’s before the trip to L.A.

To be clear, the decision is mostly “sooner or later.” I’ve wanted something very like Glass for a very long time. At least since I first read Neuromancer, and probably well before that. So the real question is whether it’s worth the premium and risk to be a “Glass Explorer.”

As with all such decisions, I tend to make two lists: for and against.

For:

  • I get to play with a new toy first, and show it off. Have to admit, I’m not a big “gadget for the sake of gadgets” guy. I don’t really care what conclusions others draw relating to my personal technology: either whether I am a cool early adopter or a “glasshole.” I use tech that works for me. So, this kind of “check me out I got it first” doesn’t really appeal to me. I guess the caveat there is that I would like the opportunity to provide the first reviews of the thing.
  • I get to do simple apps: This is actually a big one. I’m not a big programmer, and I don’t have a lot of slack time this year for extra projects, but I would love to create tools for lecturing, for control, for class management, and the like. And given one of the languages they support for app programming is Python–the one I’m most comfortable in–I can see creating some cool apps for this thing. But… well, see the con column.
  • I could begin integrating it now, and have a better feel for whether I think it will be mass adopted, and what social impacts it might have. I am, at heart, a futurist. I think some people who do social science hope to explain. I am interested in this, but my primary focus is being able to anticipate (“predict” is too strong) social changes and find ways to help shape them. Glass may be this, or it may not, but having hands on early on will help me to figure that out.

Against:

  • Early adopter tax. There is a lot of speculation as to what these things will cost when they are available widely, and when that will be. The only official indication so far is “something less than $1,500.” I suspect they will need to be much less than that if they are to be successful, and while there are those throwing around numbers in the hundreds, I suspect that price point will be right around $1,000, perhaps a bit higher. That means you are paying a $500 premium to be a beta tester, and shouldering a bit of risk in doing so.
  • Still don’t know its weak points. Now that they are actually getting shipped to developers and “thought leaders,” we might start to hear about where they don’t quite measure up. Right now, all we get is the PR machine. That’s great, but I don’t like putting my own money toward something that Google says is great. I actually like most of what Google produces, but “trust but verify” would make me much more comfortable. In particular, I already suspect it has two big downvotes for me. First, I sincerely hope it can support a bluetooth keyboard. I don’t want to talk to my glasses. Ideally, I want an awesome belt- or forearm-mounted keyboard–maybe even a gesture aware keyboard (a la Swype) or a chording keyboard. Or maybe a hand-mounted pointer. If it can’t support these kinds of things, it’s too expensive. (There is talk of a forearm-mounted pad, but not a lot of details.)
  • Strangleware. My Android isn’t rooted, but one of the reasons I like it is that it *could* be. Right now, it looks like Glass can only run apps in the cloud, and in this case, it sounds like it is limited to the Google cloud. This has two effects. First, it means it is harder for the street to find new uses for Glass–the uses will be fairly prescribed by Google. That’s a model that is not particularly appealing to me. Second, developers cannot charge for Glass apps. I can’t imagine this is an effective strategy for Google, but I know from a more immediate perspective that while I am excited to experiment with apps (see above) for research and learning, I also know I won’t be able to recoup my $1,500 by selling whatever I develop. Now, if you can get direct access to Glass from your phone (and this would also address the keyboard issue), that may be another matter.
  • No resale. I guess I could hedge this a bit if I knew I could eBay the device if I found it wasn’t for me. But if the developer models are any indication, you aren’t permitted to resell. You are out the $1,500 with no chance of recovering this.

I will keep an open mind, and check out reviews as they start to trickle in from developers, as well as reading the terms & conditions, but right now, I am leaning to giving up my invite and waiting with the other plebes for broad availability. And maybe spending less on a video enabled quadracopter or a nice Mindstorms set instead.

Or, someone at Google will read this, and send me a dozen of the things as part of a grant to share with grad students so we can do some awesome research in the fall. But, you know, I’m not holding my breath. (I do hope they are doing this for someone though, if not me. If Google is interested in education, they should be making these connections.)

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