Google Glass preview expected to draw 3,500

Oct. 04, 2013 @ 07:35 PM

With a tap of a finger to the right side of Google Glass’ eyeglass-like frame, a small screen comes alive above your right eye.

“OK Glass,” you say, before giving the device a voice command to search the Internet, take a picture, shoot a video or give you directions.

If untouched or unprompted, the screen goes dark.

The device is meant to be a “hands free, heads up” technology, said Danielle Murdoch, a “Glass guide” for California-based Google Inc., who gave demonstrations of the product in Durham on Friday.

Google Glass has the capabilities of an Internet-connected smart phone, she said, but it’s meant to allow users to interact more with other people. Instead of staring down at a handheld device to get or send a text message, the user taps the side of the frame on their face or voices a command.

“The idea is we want technology where you can use it, but it doesn’t have to distract you from your normal life,” said Devin Buell, lead Glass guide.

Not yet widely released for sale, consumers are getting a look at the device in downtown Durham on Saturday.

There were 3,500 people who sent RSVPs for the event at Bay 7, a space at downtown Durham’s American Tobacco campus, to test the product for the first time.

Company spokesman Wilson White said the product is expected to go on sale next year, and probably will have a lower price point.

“Given the spirit of technology and innovation that exists here, we thought it would be a great first stop,” White said of Durham.

Google recently named Durham, with its American Underground office hub for entrepreneurs, was named as one of seven cities in Google’s new technology hub network. In addition, he said Google has a data center in Lenoir, and there are also about 30 people working in a design office in Chapel Hill.

“It’s a tech hub, and Google has a reputation of investing here in North Carolina as well,” he said.

In the room where the Google Glass event will be held, mirrors and displays are set up to showcase the technology in different colors.

The device is made with a bendable, titanium frame and has adjustable nose stems, Murdoch said. It’s not yet designed to hold prescription lenses.

It has full Internet-search capabilities, but to get driving directions, Buell said the user also must have a smartphone within 35 feet that has the MyGlass app on it.

To explain the product, guides like Murdoch were brought in from New York and San Francisco, White said. The guides also staffed product orientation locations for the first 10,000 people, of which 2,000 were developers, who were part of the initial pre-release of the product, he said.

To be so-called “Google Explorers,” the initial users had to submit an application and pay $1,500.

One of those early users was Amy Roberts, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doctoral candidate in nutrition. She said she doesn’t wear the device daily because of all the curious bystanders.
“The thing [that is distracting] is at dinner, other people asking questions about it,” she said. “Which is nice, but we don’t want it all the time.”

Roberts is co-founding a start-up business called Healthy Bytes that is working on nutrition software specifically for Google Glass.

The company already has developed a prototype of the app that’s designed to give personalized recommendations for healthy meal alternatives at restaurants, and to track food intake.

Where other diet and fitness technologies become a “diary of past failures,” the company’s other co-founder Lance Cassidy said that Healthy Bytes’ app is meant to help people make better choices.

“It’s the perfect ubiquitous delivery,” he said of Google Glass. “It’s always on your face.”

Cassidy said the device is slim and seamless, but ultimately he believes the design must change to appeal more widely to consumers. He said he thinks most people don’t want to send a message that they’re always looking through a screen.

“I think Google has to go through this iteration to call attention to the product,” he said.

Roberts said she expects Google Glass to look “pretty different” when it comes to market.

“It’s definitely very futuristic, but I enjoy wearing it still,” she said. “I really love the photo (capabilities).”