“Google Glass: A wink and a smile” by Mike DiGiovanni of Roundarch Isobar

I recently spoke about Google Glass as a tool for sharing at an Ad Club event, Media Innovation Day.
It was an honor to be in the great company of the other speakers. We had Megan Colligan, president of marketing and distribution at Paramount, talking about how social buzz translates to box office receipts, and Fred Graver of Twitter, speaking about how Twitter is helping Live TV make a comeback, among others. Also speaking, we had Lee Maicon and Nicco Mele. My general take away from the main theme of the event was that sharing and social buzz is a vital part of a complete digital marketing presence. Ignoring that for any sort of campaign is greatly limiting potential engagement. Glass has the potential to fit into that presence by allowing customers to casually engage with any brand that wins the user’s trust to be included in their Glass contact list.

I originally intended to write an overview of the event and provide some additional insight about the content. However, I quickly realized that my observations related to wearing Glass at the event were the most striking.

View of the audience from Google Glass

I was surprised to see how wide the experiences of the audience differed. Despite the seemingly massive media coverage of Glass over the past few months, there are still people who have not even heard about Glass. Others were well versed in Glass and it’s capabilities, but the majority of the audience had just a passing knowledge picked up through bits and pieces of Glass coverage in the media. Regardless of how familiar an audience member was with Glass, the majority didn’t have any sort of live experience with Glass.

Glass is such a different technology that you need to see it being used to really begin to think about how it has potential to change lives. On paper or in a static presentation, it’s not a compelling technology. Once you see it in motion or use it, it becomes much easier to think about it in terms other than just a smartphone or camera strapped to your face. I’ve talked to other Glass Explorers who have done similar talks, and we all seem to agree that a live demo is the way to go to immediately capture and engage the audience.

During coffee breaks and the cocktail hour I had groups of people waiting in line to talk to me and try on Glass. You could see light-bulbs go off in the head of anyone who tried Glass on. They put Glass on and they get this ridiculous grin as it blows away all of their initial assumptions, some of the Glass Explorers have come to call this “Glassface.” It seemed that no matter what industry or discipline you are in, a light bulb will go off. It might be a silly personal use like having a quick way to remember where you put an item, or it could be a much grander idea of how this could change your business; but almost without fail the person trying Glass on says “This would be great for …”.

Mike DiGiovanni and Mary Pasciucco giving a Google Glass demo

At the event, one of the questions I most often answered was do I really wear it 24/7? Of course, it’s not just something I said for the talk. HI repeated that so much that I began to think, maybe it’s time to try a day without Glass. It’s become second nature to check the weather, plane times, have my emails filtered, but would anything really change if I ditched it for a day? Coming into the event, I was feeling awful, losing my voice, coughing non-stop, just generally feeling pretty terrible. The next day my voice was pretty much completely gone, so voice recognition on Glass probably wouldn’t have been too doable. This seemed like the perfect day to ditch Glass. I’ve worn Glass every day since April 27, 2013 and decided to take a day off on September 20th, 2013.

My plan for the day was to take a cab to an early train at 6:11am, arrive home about mid-day and get on to work. With Glass, whenever I get in a cab I usually already have directions pulled up to make sure I’m not getting driven all over the city. I’ve heard way too many horror stories of people losing phones in cabs to ever take my phone out in one, so I was kind of in the dark here as I took a cab from the hotel to the train station. In the grand scheme of things this was just a minor inconvenience.

The rest of the day was mostly mired by small inconveniences, curiosity on the train’s location involved pulling up Google Maps on my phone rather than just asking Glass “Where am I.” Checking the weather back home was another minor inconvenience that would have been second nature on Glass.

There was one major change, that even made me re-evaluate the past day at the conference. I went right back to my old neurotic checking of my phone every few minutes. With Glass I had learned to trust that only important messages would make their way to Glass and I wouldn’t have to check or act on 95% of my notifications until I get some free downtime. There’s so few things in our lives that merit immediate reaction and Glass does a great job of filtering those interactions. But now I constantly was turning on my phone to see if I missed an important email or text message and once the phone was out of my pocket, in my hand, and unlocked I would start going through the unimportant messages, then because my phone is on and out, I might as well check Twitter and Google+ as well. For me the phone has always been a gateway to timewasting, and Google Glass has helped me cut a lot of that out by keeping my phone in my pocket.

I mentioned that this made me re-think the past day at the conference. As I started to think about how I went back to my old ways of always fiddling with my phone, I made the realization that I wasn’t doing this at Media Innovation Day or the award show that followed. If this event occurred a year ago, I would be one of those people glued to their phone while people were onstage speaking. There were definitely some audience members there, just like my old self, glued to their phone, half paying attention to the speaker, half paying attention to their phone.  This change wasn’t because I was glued to Glass, it was because I had the confidence in Glass to let me know what’s important and be able to quickly filter anything else out without being sucked into further interactions. It’s the complete opposite effect that so many thought that Google Glass would have on society. At first thought, many think that Glass is giving us an even more absorbing, immersing, distracting experience. It’s truly not and stories like this need to be shared to alleviate the fears that Glass is bringing us into an always on, but mind turned off world. Glass is a fix for that world that we already broke with smartphone usage. It takes our most common distractions and repackages them in a way that gives you peace of mind.