Category: Travel

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.


  • 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!  ⬇


If I seem like a shy writer, it’s because I’m in the midst of moving this week from Chicago to sunny Los Angeles. My work with Critical Mass leads me there, and I couldn’t be more grateful. LA holds a lot of opportunity for folks in the field of digital content. My head spins and my heart swells. But mostly the spinning.

I’ll post an update very soon after the move. Feel free to ask questions in the comments! I’ll be happy to answer.

If I could describe SCBWI’s (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’) annual international conference in one word, I’d call it:


But what can you expect from a group, 20,000+-strong, as they cap off their 40th year?

This was my first SCBWI-LA conference, and I only wish I’d stocked up on sleep beforehand. I was in for some serious inspiration.

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Arriving late on the night before the festivities, I was wired enough that of course I didn’t get a proper night’s rest. Of course!

The first day began with a wonderfully honest and engaging run-down of writing advice from Bruce Coville. His first tip? Marry rich.

I took to heart another piece of Bruce’s advice: “Scare yourself.” Take on projects that rattle your nerves. You’ll grow immensely. He followed that up with “Stop scaring yourself” – meaning, don’t talk yourself out of taking action. I believe every writer struggles with this at one point or another. This sort of self-sabotage paralyzes everyone who’s ever wanted to write… but just hasn’t yet. A story’s in there. Just put it down. And “Don’t be afraid to show your heart,” as Bruce put it. “Don’t be sentimental, just honest.”

The conference was full of honest voices, including authors Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, Libba Bray, Donna Jo Napoli, David Small, Gary Paulsen, and Nova Ren Suma, agents Marcia Wernick, Barry Goldblatt, Tina Wexler, Michael Bourret, and Tracey Adams, publishers Julie Strauss-Gabel, Alessandra Balzer, Jennifer Hunt, Allyn Johnston, Debra Dorfman, and Beverly Horowitz, plus the SCBWI’s own exec director Lin Oliver and its president Stephen Mooser.

More than one of my favorite authors shared that they’d started writing to escape a sour marriage. Writing had given other authors refuge from personal demons. For one, writing became therapy in lieu of mental health coverage. Author David Small, whose vocal cords and ability to speak had been severed for 10 years following a neck surgery, rather appropriately quoted Vargas in his rousing talk: “Life is a shitstorm. And when it begins to rain, the only umbrella we have is art.”

If you want to write, trust me (and everyone who’s done it before): The story won’t be good right away. If you don’t believe me, take it from Judy Blume, whose book Summer Sisters didn’t truly emerge until her 23rd draft. Twenty-three drafts. So just put the words down, to start. Writing’s a little like recovering from alcoholism. Take it one step at a time, and through some steady work, you’ll get stronger. You’ll show your best self. (Yes, I take liberties with metaphor.)

Here’s my favorite part of attending SCBWI-LA: Wherever I looked, I knew I’d find someone just like me, toiling away on that thing they love. That story they have to tell. If they’d made the trip to SCBWI-LA like me, that means they’re just as serious about telling it. And I find so much hope in that. Don’t you?

I blame J.J. Abrams

The first clue were the three helicopters hovering above my neighborhood this morning as I left my building. Next were the trademark blue “City of Chicago” sawhorses lining a street corner on my way to the Montrose brown line el stop. Once I was just west of Ravenswood Avenue, I experienced an oddly brown mud/ice concoction underfoot. I saw some activity in the street ahead as I entered the station, but I focused on getting my train. I’d hear something about it at some point, right?

On my way up to the platform, a girl was taking a photo with her camera phone from the first flight of stairs. “Whoa,” I said. Here’s why:

Side view of Montrose 1-22-08

Top view of Montrose 1-22-08

A water main had broken along Montrose, East of Damen, at about 1:30 this morning. The water was shut off at 7, and there’s a big clean-up job ahead. Several cars that were parked along this stretch were submerged or towed away.

My coworker Tim took both of these photos. He’s calling it “Crater Day.” I blame J.J. Abrams for devising this elaborate publicity stunt to remind Chicago to see Cloverfield.

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