just one more geek in a sea of austin techies

December 16, 2013

Google Glass in Austin #GadgetGeek

Austin was Google's third stop on its nationwide Glass tour which aims to get Glass into the hands of more than just a priviledged few, if only for a short period of time.  Google is attempting to reach out and build enthusiasm among a consumer base that still doesn't quite know what to make of the product.

If the event in Austin was any indicator, Google is on the right track:  the event was well-managed with just enough time for every attendee to see live demos, play directly with Glass and ask plenty of questions....

A well-managed event
Staff showing Glass integration
with Android tablet (via Bluetooth)
Google chose Brazos Hall for the Austin showing.  Just two blocks from the Austin Convention Center, Brazos is a pleasing, open interior space that also features a large-but-cozy rooftop deck (closed for the Glass event, though).  RSVP holders lined up outside early for the start of the Glass event on a chilly December morning.  Google proved it was ready for the early turnout by serving hot cocoa, mini quiches and spanakopita to those waiting in line.  Once inside staff quickly checked in coats, checked off attendee names and split RSVP holders into groups of 8.  Staffers prepped us for hands-on test drives by performing live demos, providing basic use instructions and answering questions while servers continued to ply attendees with hors d'oeuvres.

Everyone got 1-on-1 time with Glass
Groups were taken to one of several different stations where each person was outfitted with Glass.  Several staffers were on heand to assist each group to make sure everyone was up and going as quickly as possible.  One staffer immediately approached me and asked to adjust the fit of my pair -- apparently the nose rests were too narrow for my, ahem, prodigiuos schnoz.  Once the nose rests were adjusted Glass' display landed nicely in the upper-right area of my field of vision.  The display was comfortably viewed but did not dominate my line-of-sight.  I was actually a little surprised and pleased with how easy it was to ignore the display.

Voice command not wholey reliable
One of the staffers admitted that, currently, Glass' voice-recognition does not have an option to key only to a particular voice.  This means someone could lean in close and issue verbal commands to your Glass device.  Loudly commanding "Open Google Wallet" is likely to get the attention of most Glass wearers in the immediate vicinity, for instance.  I was tempted to do exactly that but the open floorplan, hard surfaces and resulting level of hubbub and sound reflection in Brazos Hall made it difficult to be heard clearly from more than a couple of feet away.  My own Glass device had difficulty recognizing website names but, because of the noise, I was unable to determine whether the issue was the recognition software or external noise.  I assume noise was the greater factor since most my own Android devices tend to do quite well with voice recognition.  On the other hand, Glass had no trouble at all recognizing my commands to "Take a picture" or successfully answer simple questions such as "What is the capital of Louisiana?"

Crowd Control
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Austin stop of the Glass Tour was the crowd:  there was none.  Google did an admirable job with its RSVPs and group management.  There was never a moment when attendees were not engaged -- before, during or even after the hands-on Glass demo.  Photo booths were provided so attendees could get both digital and hard copies of themselves wearing their favorite color of Glass.  Food and drink were provided to those on their way in while exit surveys and commemorative posters waited for those on their way out.  There was even a small lounge area provided for those who were finished with their Glass demo but were simply not yet ready to go.

To get an idea of how crowded it wasn't, check out the quick panorama shot I took (with my Galaxy S4 phone - not Glass, unfortunately).

Click to open large panamorama photo of the Austin Glass event.
One of the post-demo survey questions asked if I wanted to be added to the list to buy Glass ASAP.  I answered, "When it comes down in price."  I'm thrilled gadgets like Glass are becoming viable but, for the money, there are still a few other gadgets I'd prefer to get my hands on first.

Hey, Google:  Knock off a few hundred and add facial recognition coupled with a snappy CRM solution and we'll talk...

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