The last company I ever expected to ask me to remove my Glass before heading into a conference was the company who sold them to me, but thats exactly what happened today.
Privacy was a huge topic when Google first announced Glass. The idea of a camera mounted on the head was unnerving to many, and caused serious debates about whether or not some organizations would be banning Glass altogether. Glass product director Steve Lee has spoken at length about the recording capabilities of the headset, and has successfully curbed the negative opinion that formed at, and prior to, launch.
Given how hard the company has worked to paint Glass in as positive a light as possible, to create an air of exploration and expression through Glass, it was more than a shock to hear the woman standing in front of me at the check-in desk this morning ask me to remove the computer from my face and store it until after the presentation.
Google officially acquired Motorola some time ago, but the first phone that was built from the ground up with influence from Google is being officially announced today. The Moto X press briefs are happening throughout today are building up to the official 3pm announcement of the phone, and I was slated for the 8am meeting with several of my colleagues. As I picked up my badge, I was given strict instructions about recording or sharing any of the presentation until after 3pm (ET). I agreed, as I always do, and shuffled to the left to pin my name tag to my shirt. The woman behind the desk paused for a moment and continued to stare at me, as though she was waiting for me to do something. After I had finished clipping my badge on she spoke again, and the words were jarring enough to cause several people around me to stop and stare.
Ill need you to remove your Google Glass during the event, please. Theres to be no recording during the presentation. You can put them back on after when youre in the demo area.
I did as I was asked, and when questioned for a reason the woman behind the counter repeated herself. After a moment, someone else wearing Glass entered the room, and she was asked to do the same. Fortunately for her the protective case for Glass was right inside her bag, so storage was no problem. I was not nearly as prepared, so Glass hung from my shirt like a pair of shades during the presentation. After we were escorted out of that room, I was allows to put them back on my head and continue along my experience at the Moto X event.
There are so many reasons that this doesnt make sense. First off, a fully-charged Glass headset can only record 45 minutes of video before dying, during which the unit becomes quite warm to the touch. Furthermore, the 5MP camera for Glass isnt nearly as high quality as whatever technology Motorola would be using to record the presentation. Its also quite obvious when someone is recording video, and in the small group I was a part of it would have been all too simple to single me out and ask me to stop should I have decided to directly violate the agreement I had made only minutes before in the waiting room.
I then recalled a recent early hands on meeting that the likes of Robert Scoble and Leo Laporte were invited to, and it was quickly discovered that the meeting was to grant these and other special people early hands on with the phone. The reason it was leaked out that the meeting was about the Moto X was because of Google Glass. Robert Scoble had accidentally glanced down at someone with a Moto X while recording Daria Musk perform live at the event. Its likely that no one knew he was recording, because he was never facing anyone but the musician through the majority of the event.
So there you have it, a knee-jerk reaction if ever there was one. In the weeks I have been wearing Glass I have been to bars, private meetings, public restrooms, and even an adult entertainment store while wearing Glass. At no point during my experience with the wearable device have I ever been asked to remove it. The worst I get is usually, Hey, you arent recording are ya? and once I confirm that I am not and have no intention of I am allowed to go back to whatever I was doing.
The big question, obviously, is what happens next? If Google demonstrates that they dont trust the users of their own product to behave, why should anyone else behave differently?
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