Category: Thirty Decibels


7 things I’ve learned #throughglass

Now that I’ve revealed the 5 reasons I care about Google Glass, it’s time to keep this discussion going.

If using Glass has taught me anything, it’s that people want to try it.

At festivals, conferences, outdoor shows, or even just while walking down the street, people approach in pairs, groups, or solo. Their eyes widen, and they ask: “Is that it?” I nod, they smile, and a conversation begins.

“What are you seeing right now?” they ask, ogling the eyepiece above my right eye, not noticing its darkened state.

“Right now, I’m looking at you. So I see you.”

“Oh, but are you recording everything? Should I not say anything incriminating?” A giggle then, ranging from innocent to slightly disturbing.

Through a smile, I answer, “The battery life isn’t huge, so no – I don’t waste it.” I wink or I don’t wink, depending on my mood and the attractiveness of the guy asking (yes, it’s usually a guy).

After the friendly ribbing, I try to summarize what I’ve learned – for the non-disturbing folks, at least.

I'm the star of many people's first #throughglass pics.

I’m the star of many people’s first #throughglass pics.

Sean Hemeon and I, in someone else's #throughglass pic.

Sean Hemeon and I in another first #throughglass pic.

1. Glass isn’t what you’d expect.

Since I picked up my Glass on May 29, at least 30 people have tried it. And whether by telling me (as more than half did), “This is much less intrusive than I thought” or by putting it on wrong (placing the display directly in front of their right eye rather than above and aside), it turns out the vast majority were surprised at how Glass actually fits and feels. Its display is meant to look like a 25″ screen from 8 feet away. Is that intrusive?

2. Glass is “of the moment.”

I mean, look at it. The hardware’s very design is an on-your-face hint that Glass is about NOW. (And I love the now.) It’s best for receiving important info right away and sending your own without much feather-ruffling. Rather than retreating into the rabbit holes of your smartphone, you can remain in the world.

“Glassware”

  • Texts – via Bluetooth from your phone
  • Gmail – Priority Inbox message notifications
  • Google Now – quick info and alerts based on your calendar events, location, etc
  • Facebook, Path, Tumblr, Twitter – notifications and sharing
  • New York Times, CNN, Elle – news alerts, as they’re pushed out

3. Glass helps you consume content AND create it.

Along with surfacing “of the moment” content to take in, Glass has impressive on-board tools to help you create and share content of your own:

  • 5MP still camera (for 2528 x 1856 photos)
  • 720p HD video camera
  • Voice-activated photo and video captions (per app capabilities)
  • Near-instant automatic photo enhancement, within Glass
  • Sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Path through wireless connection or your phone’s data via Bluetooth
  • Auto-backup to Google+
  • 12 GB onboard storage
  • Battery life: 45 min continuous video or 3-4 hours off-and-on usage

4. Glass can tell stories.

For video that documents a moment, an event, or a conversation, Glass blows any smartphone camera out of the water. I recorded my first Glass video on Google’s campus in Venice, CA the day I picked up Glass. Here’s what I’ve observed since then:

  • Glass’s onboard mic sits inside the frame, more protected from outside noise. As a result, self-narration comes out ultra-clear.
  • Framing is set-it-and-nearly-forget-it. If anything, you only need a quick look or two at the display while shooting.
  • When someone’s looking at your camera, they’re also (mostly) looking at you. So, once your observers get past their initial Googley-eyed state, you can record a pretty solid interview. In my first days with Glass, I was reminded of Errol Morris’s Interrotron, which allowed interviewees to look at the face of an interviewer rather than at a camera. I’d love to know what Morris thinks of Glass.
  • Recording is hands-free. “But GoPro video cameras do that, too,” you might think. Indeed, they do. But Glass is so much smaller and way cuter. And a GoPro certainly can’t do the other stuff mentioned in this post. As WIRED Gadget Lab’s Matt Honan points out, Glass could easily kill GoPro the same way smartphones put point-and-shoot cameras to rest.

A few tests I recorded and edited:

5. Glass can educate.

Since Glass has the hands-free video advantage, and since it can also connect to a live Google+ Hangout (where others on the call will hear your voice and see what you’re seeing), I believe Glass offers a whole new window on education. Using Glass, you can share anything from “How to apply long-lasting lip liner” to “How to fix the engine of a space shuttle” and everything in-between.

I tested this theory as well. Please enjoy the results!

6. Glass makes augmented reality make actual sense.

Many others have noticed this already. Because Glass is the first unobtrusive, head-mounted display, it’s poised to catapult augmented reality into actual reality for a mass (or more mass) audience. Some even call Glass an “augmented reality head-mounted display” (as this early article does). I wouldn’t go that far, because as yet the device does not “perceive” what’s seen through the lens in order to layer information over it. Yet.

That said, Google has banned display advertising on Glass. And though I’ve worked in the ad industry for 14 years, I heartily agree with the ban. Glass becomes much more a part of its wearer than any other technology, and that must not be taken lightly. With Glass, I feel the new digital adage “mobile first” doesn’t go far enough. With Glass, I believe apps must be “helpful first.”

7. Glass turns regular people into celebs – and celebs into fanboys/fangirls.

This one will take a little explanation: in short, I’ve been working with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the past several weeks to create social media content promoting this fall’s Primetime Emmys. Prior to this, I’d only seen the first part of this point (regular people as celebs) come to life – when I wore Glass to an outdoor festival in Chicago this summer. Several groups of people approached me there, or just gasped and whispered to their friend, “That’s Glass!” Nope, not kidding.

The other half of my point (celebs as fanboys) came true, more or less, on my second day at the Television Academy. That evening, a director and crew shot a Primetime Emmys promo piece that will soon appear on United Airlines flights. Hosting this piece was Kunal Nayyar, whom you may know as Raj on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory. Using Glass, I shot a fair amount of behind-the-scenes footage and stills (G-roll, I’ve coined it).

Kunal Nayyar tries Google Glass

Kunal Nayyar tries Google Glass

During a few minutes of downtime, Kunal asked about Glass and tried it out. A few moments later, he was called back to the set. After a few takes, when the crew had to reset for a new shot, Kunal raced back to try Glass again. He put it on, and I coached him through his options. He said, “Okay Glass, send a message.” Because Glass is linked to my personal Google account, it listed my contacts. Using his voice, Kunal sent a message to my friend Laureen and another to my friend Dave. After that, he accidentally started a Hangout with one of my Google+ circles – about 85 people. (Oopsie – sorry, circle friends.) After Kunal was called to set again, we chatted a third time – and I “Glassed” the whole thing. To see that video, click the SxSW tile below!

Our SxSW session idea: “And the Emmy goes to… Google Glass”

In just a handful of weeks at the Television Academy, we’ve seen what Glass can mean for interviews, access, and a new, more inclusive POV on the television industry. We all feel it’s worth talking about, so we’ve proposed a session at SxSW Interactive. (UPDATE: Less than 15% of the proposed sessions were picked up for SxSW 2014 (ouch!), and we weren’t one of them. No worries; we’re just getting started. Look out, 2015.)

⬇  Click this to see the proposal!  ⬇

Vote_My_Session

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5 reasons I care about Google Glass

1. I’m a nerd. (Duh; have we met?)

Thus, of course I was attracted to Google’s #ifihadglass program: a chance for a few thousand consumers (read: NOT developers) to get an exclusive sneak preview and beta tester status for Google Glass wearable technology and its “Glassware” apps/platform. Up to that point, only developers who’d attended last year’s Google i/O conference had gotten a chance to preorder it.

2. I’m a techthusiast.

I took Computer Science classes in high school, but my techthusiasm didn’t fully develop until I began to work for digital marketing firm Critical Mass in 2007. As a Senior Copywriter there, I’ve gotten the chance to brainstorm websites and apps for clients from Pampers to United Airlines, and even a project for Google. Dreaming up these solutions made me realize how smart and helpful technology could be. This work also showed me that I could help shape its future. Awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

My first #throughglass pic

My first #throughglass pic

3. I make up worlds with different technologies – for fun.

In 2009, I wrote the first draft of my young-adult speculative fiction manuscript 30 Decibels. The technology in the story stems from a separate set of circumstances: in a future society, only some people can talk and the rest have to whisper. These “Whisper Rules” took effect after social media-triggered food shortage riots killed half the world. Tech and social media are as regulated as possible, and each person’s volume signifies their level of access. Whisperers use a few devices for text-based messages while Leaders still have all the networks and devices we do – and more.

4. Glass seemed so familiar…

30 Decibels is set in the year 2123, and the tech is well removed from ours. Or so I thought. See for yourself, with a quick excerpt where main character Ava sends a message to her best friend:

Maybe I should warn Michele. I hold down a button on my specs ’ponder and sweep my eyes left to bring up a list of who’s around. After selecting “Robby,” I type the rest using gestures along my left temple. My movements are well-versed enough that most people probably don’t notice – including Robby – but my heart races anyway. Holding down all the buttons sends my message:

FIGHT W/ROBBY.

More on ‘ponders (“transponders”): To create messages, you’d use your voice, mouth movements, or combo of touch, eye tracking, and location-based info. Security “scentsors” identify you by your unique smell, so your ‘ponder only retrieves your data when you’re the one wearing it.

As you can probably guess, when I first read about Google’s plans to introduce Glass, I geeked out. Sure, the “specs ’ponder” described above works a little differently – for instance, Glass’s user interface doesn’t use an eye-tracking interface (yet), and gestures are made on the right side rather than the left. But, I’ll be honest; I sure felt smart.

5. Google picked me (nerd-girl Margo!) to try it.

My #ifihadglass entry, submitted via Google+ in February, wasn’t groundbreaking; I listed a few primary ways I’d use it on a regular basis: hands-free navigation while riding my bike (my only wheels), recording new ideas on the spot (also hands-free), and showing my son what my Los Angeles life is like between visits back to Chicago. Frankly, I expected nothing to come of the entry.

On March 27, Google invited me to be a Glass Explorer.

Hearing the news set my heart on overdrive, not only for all the ubernerdy reasons above and because I wanted to get my hands on Glass, but also – admittedly – because it meant the judging panel may have considered me savvy with the social medias… the Facebooks, Twitters, YouTubes, the G+es. I’d heard the selection process would consider applicants’ influence through social networks. (Note: A few peculiar Glass invites early on triggered speculation about Google’s judging process, but most of that has been cleared up.)

My career as a copywriter in the digital space often has me thinking in the languages of social media and branding, at levels ranging from mom ‘n pop to conglomerate. I can’t guess how many research abstracts, insight briefs, and articles I’ve read on the subjects in my 14 years of ad & marketing experience.

The philosophy I try to follow with self-branding is to spend only the time with it that’s enjoyable, and no more. Case in point, to SO many people, I am the WORST EVER blogger because I don’t write posts at least once a week. Sue me; I’m too busy writing for other brands – United, HP, USAA, for instance. (Now; if only I’d put that writing into blog posts. Sure I’d get into HUGE trouble with work clients, but man would I look prolific!)

An invite to Project Glass meant my online “presence” may’ve had an impact – and that made me glad and proud I’d taken personal branding (at least semi-) seriously. Professionally, receiving the invite was a bit like receiving the ultimate LinkedIn recommendation – from effing Google! Pardon my effing French.

I picked up Glass at the Google office in Venice, CA. The experience is well-documented here, in the LA Times. Fair warning: nerd-girl appears throughout the featured video.

Google Glass through the eyes of an early adopter [LA Times]

Google Glass through the eyes of an early adopter [LA Times]

Read the follow-up post: 7 things I’ve learned #throughglass.

Like 68,928 other people, I backed the future: Pebble.

Well, the future is running a tad late.

Pebble’s Kickstarter project promises a glimpse of Tomorrowland: a watch you can customize with apps that access your smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. It will be the first “smartwatch” that works perfectly with both Android and iPhone. The Pebble is much smaller and lighter than similar devices, but the stand-out differentiator – for nerdies like me – is its high-res ePaper display. That means this thing will look totally sharp in direct sunlight. Hear, hear (if you hadn’t already)!

The team had projected they’d be shipping Pebbles (including my chosen color, “Arctic White”), by last month. Unfortunately, manufacturing is still underway. The Pebble, in "Arctic White"

After I finally get my Pebble (by mid-next year, they’ve assured), I plan to check texts from it, see who’s calling, control my favorite Pandora channels, keep stats on running and bike-riding, see my notifications, and probably a bunch more cool stuff – hands-free.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Pebble is the Open SDK the company will offer alongside it. That means smart people everywhere (shouts again, to my nerdies!) can develop apps for the Pebble. When I heard this, my mind bee-lined to the implications for my young-adult speculative fiction novel Thirty Decibels. In the story, both classes (Whisperers and Leaders) use devices called ’ponders – they’re within eyeglasses, contact lenses, desks, mirrors, and windows, but they’re primarily worn on the wrist like a Pebble. A ’ponder makes use of more native technology than a Pebble, but I bet we’ll soon see these developments. I believe Pebble’s SDK and its open-source philosophy will make it possible.

Pebble’s Kickstarter project has ended, but you can still pre-order Pebble.

Are you a developer interested in building a Pebble app? Let’s talk. Drop me a line by leaving a comment below or clicking my picture on the top right corner.

Check out these choice quotes about Pebble:

“Kickstart [a] nice e-paper watch! Your Backer, e pluribus unum!”
– William Gibson

“Smartwatches haven’t really caught on with mainstream buyers – but that might change with Allerta’s new wrist-worn creation”
– Wired Gadget Lab

“Proven track record…Incredibly useful product”
– Forbes

I can’t stop smiling right now. So many of my favorite things came together yesterday: the writing community, the revising craft, helping others, and one simple exchange at the speed of social networking. And in the end, I have something to show for it. It’s just a seed right now, but soon a community of writers and non-writers will grow to help each other better craft the written word. Introducing:

Readers Aloud

Readers Aloud is an open exchange project, pairing willing voices with revising writers or others who need read-aloud versions of written work.

Writers, join the group to take your manuscript to a whole new level – HEAR your latest revision from a reader’s voice. More than you ever could before, you’ll pick up on subtle, nuanced changes you should make.

How Readers Aloud makes it happen:

1. Those who want something read aloud leave a post on the wall describing their project (genre, word count, etc).
2. Volunteers comment on the projects they’d like to lend their voice to. Every little bit helps – even just a chapter. More commenters can chip in, crowdsource-style.
3. Writers and volunteers decide amongst themselves how to exchange text and audio files.
4. Give what you get! If you get help with your read-aloud project, help someone else with theirs – anything from a chapter to a whole book.
(Non-writers can post projects, too!)

I’m excited to help my fellow writers – starting with the group’s co-founder, author Kat Yeh. Kat’s work-in-progress will be the FIRST Readers Aloud project. After all, it helped inspire the group (see the story below)!

Enter our Charter Member Contest!

Join Readers Aloud (for free, of course!) and leave a comment below. For every comment from a new member, I’ll read aloud & record 250 words of Kat’s book. So challenge me – if 200 new members leave comments, I’ll read the whole thing!

Writers, get a chance to win!

Writers with a work in progress: tell me in your comment. We want to help! If you’re our randomly selected commenter, we’ll read aloud and record three chapters of any WIP to give your revision a boost.

To qualify, join the group and leave your comment by 11:59 CST on Monday, July 9. The winner will be announced July 11.

And do your writing community a solid – send your writing buds to http://bit.ly/ReadersAloud. Building our numbers will make it easier for all of us to get read-aloud help!

So… where’d this group come from?

My author friend Kat Yeh asked a question of her Facebook friends last night:

Does anyone else read their manuscript aloud during revision?

Kat wanted to know if she was the only one talking to herself. Of COURSE not! (Gosh, you’re silly!), the internet said. Harold Underdown, legendary editorial consultant and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, commented,

“It’s a technique I recommend. Even better is to have someone read it to you.”

Many other writers echoed this, in the 37 comments Kat’s thread collected. At one point, she lamented that her manuscript was probably too much for one reader to take on – 53,335 words. So, my unthinking brain (it does that sometimes) typed “Crowdsource it!” in the comment box. But then I thought, Yeah – I could read her a chapter and record it. That’s easy! 10, 15 minutes tops. So in another comment, I offered to read a chapter. And then the two of us got to talking about the idea of an exchange… And that’s how Readers Aloud was born.

Become a charter member and read aloud with us. Add your ideas or general comments about the group below. Our brains are storming with thoughts on helping non-profits, starting a monthly best-of podcast, approaching acting schools and sketch troupes… The read-aloud sky is endlessly blue, and we welcome your thoughts!
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