It was 2am, my eyes were focused on the road directly in front of me and my hands were firmly planted at 10 and 2. I was definitely getting tired as the 9 hours of traveling (and the 2,500 miles prior to that) started to wear on me. As we crested a small hill on I-70, KC finally came into view. The Tech Trek was quickly coming to a close and we were all anxious to get a good night of sleep in our own beds.
I captured some of the events that had happened along the way but up to this point hadn’t really reflected on what the trip meant to me. Seeing “home” in the distance brought a sudden rush of energy into my system and the events of the last 7 days ran through my head. We packed every single day full with meetings, sightseeing and general shenanigans…my body could feel that. It’s probably why it’s taken another full week for me to process what this road trip really meant to me.
As I’ve encountered co-workers and friends, a narrative has started to shape up. There’s so much to share but I think I can boil it down into 3 key observations of what I witnessed on this unconventional “business trip.”
Part One: Bleeding Edge Technology
I wasn’t originally invited up to the top floor to receive Google Glass with Chris, but apparently my status as a “Sprint Employee” intrigued one of the Google staff and I was told to come up. There were large guys standing at the entrance with Google polo shirts on, one of the “o’s” was shaped like a deputy sheriff’s star…all the same they were extremely friendly and showed me into the pop-up store. It was modern, sparsely furnished with wood and steel tables, each of those holding a Chromebook Pixel and a fitting mirror to see how you looked with Google’s wearable computer on your face. Through the picture windows along the side of the room you could see the Bay Bridge spanning out across the water and a couple demo stations stood nearby giving me the opportunity to try on a pair of Glass for the first time.
I had read a lot about Google Glass and to be perfectly honest, wasn’t completely impressed with the functionality. That being said, a podium with a bunch of non-working samples of Glass awakened the squealing Google Geek within me and I was already thinking through how I could explain a $1,500 purchase like this to my wife. Fortunately for her, Glass is only available to a limited number of people and I didn’t make that exclusive list. I tried them on for the first time and felt instant tech euphoria. One of the employees could sense this emotion and walked over to ask if I wanted him to take a headshot for me…I did and I instantly posted it to Facebook.
While my geek-out was going on, Chris was sitting at one of the modern tables working with a Google Glass fit specialist. She was walking him through the hardware and beginning to introduce some of the the software functionality. I turned around to watch him initially struggle with they very specific syntax of the voice commands. Through trial and error, a number of questions and a few technical difficulties Glass was up and running and we had worn out our welcome with the Google team. We were the last ones in the location and the Googlers were clearly ready to go home.
We hit the streets, reunited with the larger crew and went in search of pizza (every member of the Tech Trek taking their turn trying on Glass and taking a picture of themselves wearing it so they too could post to Facebook). Within 20 minutes, we had our very first Glass Gawker. After parking our car outside of the pizza joint, someone stopped Chris on the street to ask if he was wearing Google Glass. Chris did a quick demonstration for the guy and we headed on our way. This became extremely common in public places…even in downtown San Francisco where there is arguably a higher saturation of Glass than any other part of the country.
We interacted with a number of people over the course of the trip to get their reaction. There was really no standard…everyone fell into different parts of a quadrant:
As we traveled on, the composition of people’s thoughts didn’t change as much as the frequency of gawking. The further we travelled from the Bay Area the more we would catch people stopping and staring. At one point I enjoyed following our camera man Spencer, as he captured reaction shots. People would walk by Chris and, immediately after passing him, look at each other with puzzled faces or do a double take. It was a lot of fun to watch.
Finding communities like Venice Beach where we could put Glass onto people doing amazing things like dunking a basketball or boxing produced great results. We all agreed that video and photo capture is probably the current “killer app” but that means Glass in its current form is little more than a pricey Go Pro camera that sits on your face.
It’s clear that Glass has a long way to go and the promise of more invasive applications like “Winky” or deeper exploration into Augmented Reality may justify the concern of the people who sit on the “freaked out” end of the spectrum. The product is definitely a 1.0 or Beta version and has a long ways to go before its utility is proven in the general market.
In part two, I’ll talk contrast the tech communities from California back to KC, stay tuned!