Date With A Google Glasshole: Cyborg Dating 101, A Report From The Field

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I am a pioneer (ahem, Explorer) tasked with testing the developer edition of Google Glass, arguably technology’s biggest quantum leap forward since the advent of the tablet. The start of Google’s epic annual conference this week will no doubt bring a critical mass of Glass-wearers into San Francisco, making its social implications more relevant than ever — especially come happy hour.

But since hardware benchmarks, unboxings and rigorous teardowns are so 2012, I to set out to review Google Glass with one noble (if amorous) goal. I wanted to wear the device on a full-fledged, real-life, real-stakes date and see what happened. Just for the hell of it.

Glasshole in the wild

Glasshole in the wild

The Plan Goes Like So

Sure, a romantic evening on the town wearing a Star Trek-remixed smartphone on your face might ward off your average weirdo, but I like to live well beyond the doldrums of social custom. Which is to say that my editors suggested the idea and I blame them for everything. They may have been joking – I’m not actually sure. Everything began innocently enough on our weekly over-caffeinated Skype call. The rest is history, especially the bivalves.

This is how it goes: I propose that a cute girl of interest (her name is Rebecca) accompany me to dinner and drinks… and mention my one wearable, Bluetooth-enabled caveat. As it turns out, she’s game for the experiment, curious about Google Glass and accepts my invite. Cue nerd panic.

Glasshole On The Half-Shell

My frantic pre-date self pep-talk logic goes like this:

  • Glass is more interesting than it is obnoxious.
  • My natural charm, good looks and modesty will provide a diversion.
  • Working theory: Glass will actually prove less obtrusive than a smartphone in a social setting.
  • Okay maybe I’m in a distinct minority, but I think Glass looks super rad.
  • Date has some warning and is partially familiar with Glass. Date has expressed positive possible romantic interest in prior social scenarios sans Glass.
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Don’t act like you haven’t read Tipping The Velvet

Pre-date risks, social, romantic and otherwise:

  • I own the only Google Glass in Portland (at the time of shipping, anyway). Here, it makes for a lot of awkward, enthusiastic and inescapable extended social interactions.
  • Date is a suspected technophobe.
  • Date could take privacy concerns very seriously and literally flip table, walk out of restaurant.
  • Date may think I am surreptitiously taking photographs of her (true) and get creeped out.
  • Normal date risks (bad hair days, epic failure) amplified by social risk of full documentation via Internet.

A Date With A Glasshole, Documented In Realtime

For dinner, we agreed on an authentic cajun place/oyster bar in North Portland with stiff drinks and plenty of exits.

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Taylor: Do you generally like technology? How do you use your mobile devices?

Rebecca: Sure, I like technology. That said, I’m not crazy in love with it. I do use my iPhone 5 almost constantly. I listen to podcasts and stream music all day at work. I text up a storm every 15 minutes… at least. I check my email, Instagram and Facebook every hour or so.

T: What’s the first you heard about this whole Google Glass thing?
R: I first heard about it about five months ago. I thought it would be a great for people who need to be available all of the time for work. But I knew it [wasn't] for me.

T: So what do you do for work? 
R: I am a vintage dealer and leather craftsman.
T: That’s pretty old school. You make like… non-virtual 3D objects? Whoa.

T: Were you nervous at all when I told you that we were going on a formal “date” with me wearing Glass and I was going to write a story about it?
R: I wouldn’t say nervous. A little apprehensive, but overall excited and curious.
T: A lot of people probably would have been weirded out. If I wasn’t already a major weirdo, I would have been weirded out. Cheers to that!

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Gumbo through Google Glass

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I swear the thing on my face ordered the third margarita

The Full-Disclosure Glasshole Date Debrief

A day after the date, I check in to see how she thinks things went. You know, for the story. At some point she called Glass abreakup-inducing cyborg face device,” so I was a little nervous about this part, I admit.

T: So, like, why did you agree to do that? Was it weird?
R: It was kind of weird. But the face that Glass was attached to is so damn charming. And it was promising oysters and tequila. Who could resist?

T: Fair enough. Flattery will get you everywhere.
R: I was also curious to see the general public’s first reaction to it. People looked for any excuse to come up and talk to you about it. It was the first thing our server asked us, remember? “I’ve gotta ask: What’s up with that glass visor thing?” Everyone sitting near us was staring. You might as well have been wearing a huge squirrel costume.
T: Next time I will wear my huge squirrel costume. That’s more of a date 2.0 thing, I think.

T: Squirrels aside, do you think there are rules around technology and date etiquette?
R: There are most definitely unspoken rules around dating and phones. And, yes, I tend to obliviously violate them.
T: Okay so maybe I got mad at you for texting back and forth with a friend while we waited for our entree. Was that hypocritical?
R: Well, yeah… at least a little. You were also on your Android phone too. We were both on our phones on that date – not just on Glass. I have pictures to prove it.
T: Oh. Er… my bad.

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My undivided attention

R: There are rules. No phones on fancy date night. It’s a time to connect with a person that’s important to you.

T: Oh, so you’re saying that I’m important to you? The truth comes out! Maybe this was all a ruse to get you to say that you liked me?
R: [Possibly creeped-out silence]

T: So, uh, let’s get down to brass tacks. Do you think Google Glass is going to turn us all into zombie cyborgs who don’t care about other humans? There are apps for virtual kissing, you know.
R: I think Google Glass is going to turn the people who are already predisposed to being zombie cyborgs into zombie cyborgs. I think it’s easy to own and use Glass with respect and class to the people around you. It really depends on the person wearing them.

T: What about how I used Glass during our date? Was it distracting or rude?
R: I thought you were super classy. You only talked to it (to send texts) when you needed to. And I love that you could take candid pictures of our experience, that part was great. But in the back of my mind I worried I didn’t have your full attention.
T: You did… I swear!
R: But the fact of the matter is there was a thing on your face that also had that attention. I had trouble seeing my way around it, literally. A phone in a bag wouldn’t get checked [until] the date is over. Not that mine was in a bag…

T: How much did you enjoy our landmark social experiment on a scale of 1 (total catastrophe) to 10 (impromptu marriage in Vegas)? 

R: I’d give the outing a 7. I definitely wouldn’t want you to wear it to my birthday dinner or anything. But it was a fun to see other people react to a thing that they really didn’t understand… especially during Happy Hour.

T: So how did you think the end of the date went? Did Glass affect that?
R: You mean when I gently lifted Glass from your face and with one careful motion and slid it into its specialty Japanese microfiber case with a hardshell bottom?
T: You had me at “microfiber.”

T: So, um, do you want to get drinks this weekend?
R: I would love to go on another date with you. But will Glass be coming?

Back To The Future

As for delicate, at-times technophobic Portland, I may have unraveled its gossamer social fabric in ways irrevocable. After drawing a lot of stares, I’m a little embarrassed to go back to the same oyster place in my North Portland neighborhood. (Which sucks, because they have a kick-ass special on Tuesdays.)

Still, my date — who I have taken quite a shine to — is game for further interactions in the three-dimensional world. (And I mean, how cute is it that she put up with all of this experiential tech-journo bullshit to begin with?)

I have to admit: The world beyond Glass does have its perks.


Confused about this whole Google Glass thing? Google’s official video is a pretty accurate depiction of the device:

[All photos by Rebecca Barron, who is a very good sport, and Taylor Hatmaker]


th21 100 readwrite logoThis story was originally published on ReadWrite, a place for news and analysis on all things web, tech and social media — and coincidentally a place where Taylor also writes things.

Want to see more good stuff from ReadWrite? Check it:

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Back in the day, Taylor Hatmaker was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle's tech sister site, Technostraddle, may it rest in peace. Now, Taylor writes about technology for ReadWrite.com and Entrepreneur Magazine. For Autostraddle, she writes essays, takes pictures of thing and draws comics on occasion too, if you ask real nice.

taylor has written 109 articles for us.

51 Comments

  1. Thumb up 17

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    this post is hilarious and amazing and YOUR DATE IS SUCH A CUTE DATE I HOPE YOU GO ON MORE DATES.

    but seriously, as someone who is really into tech but really petrified of google glass, this was an excellent read.

    i’m gonna make fun of you for wearing google glass at camp tho, fyi. there’s just no way around that.

  2. Thumb up 8

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    I think Google Glass has the potential to be super cool and useful, and also super creepy and weird. Mostly, it all comes down to how people use it. I seriously do not get when people who go out with friends or on a date text/use their phones for more than checking time or emergencies, though. Maybe I’m old? At 31?

    • Thumb up 1

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      as much as i’m a gadget addict, that definitely bothers me too. i think glass makes the process less disruptive… you have the peace of mind that you aren’t missing anything and don’t pull out a thing with a screen at regular intervals

    • Thumb up 0

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      i took pics for the purposes of the story (and i take pictures of everything always anyway, with any device), received a few texts and skimmed a couple of email subject lines… not a whole lot. just sort of briefly interacted with what came my way :)

  3. Thumb up 0

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    Ha this made me literally lol. Leave it to Google to put out something that is so cool and yet so very off putting. I mean seriously do you have to say “Glass take a picture” or can you take pics without people knowing?

  4. Thumb up 4

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    This is really cool, and your date is really cute! But I don’t think I would ever use this. Walking around with something on your face to text/take pictures with seems so unnecessary and distracting.

  5. Thumb up 4

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    I think the next gen will be even better and more mature, but your post(and a few others on the web) has me now sort of wanting to get one. I am sure once they integrate better with your prescription, or sun glass it would look a little less weird and obtrusive.

  6. Thumb up 3

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    Warning to everyone who will ever want to hang out around me: I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a cyborg in 100 years. I’ve wanted the internet in my brain and jacks in my ear since I was a young teen. Nothing can keep me from Google Glass (once it’s affordable. I also look forward to the day you can direct it with your eyes and blinks instead of your voice.) Though I promise not to be a creeper with it.

  7. Thumb up 4

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    I’ll probably be asking you A Curious Question at camp, but what are the built-in features that indicate to people around you that you are recording/taking a photo? As someone who’s paranoid of the male gaze, I’d like to know when to spot a perv.

  8. Thumb up 0

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    When it comes to mobile devices, all possible technology, and life, I’m a massive laggard, but I like reading about it all, especially when memorable phrasing abounds (“Date is a suspected technophobe”). If I ever spot someone wearing Glass I’m sure “glasshole in the wild” will come to mind (lovingly, of course, maybe).

    Remarkable pioneering.

    Sent from my phone. Not really. (http://bit.ly/17ChMyy)

  9. Thumb up 3

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    As someone who both enjoys using manual typewriters and ipads, who plays with HSMM-Mesh yet eschews cell phones, I’m deeply ambivalent. The Glass interface itself is something I’ve yearned for since the ancient miniseries Wild Palms had a character with exactly such a device. But the fact of the thing intelligently listening to you (and non-consensually to people around you), not to mention perpetually video monitoring, all while plugged into the amorphously authoritarian Cloud, invokes obvious dilemmas around privacy and the technic mediation in society. As is, I would not deploy this device in my life. The cult of technophilic novelty creates boundary issues. Technological advancement is fine, but we should be more communally circumspect over whither, when, and how.

  10. Thumb up 0

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    This makes me happy. Skynet rules, Res dr..f..t…rules somewhat less. The reason i won’t have a Glass – i won’t do anything involving voice. My vocal cords are damaged from constant screeching age 3, no pitch control – and i am of non-dominant ethnicity and these things are notoriously bad with accents. Proper neual interface here please.

    What i could add on a critical level – we are approaching a new war…for some of us it is an old war, except this time it is the final confrontation. Watch how people find eye displays ‘creepy’ and the first word they coin for a person using them is a slur. This is so Deus Ex. Cyberenhanced vs natural, machine vs animal. I could go at length as to how the ‘creepiness’ is due to the device’s interference with the animal pack dominance dynamic signalling conveyed by eye contact. Accidentally, children hate kids with glasses for the same reason.

    Also augmented reality is the more promising aspect of this, not internet. So when i don’t like my date i could just select another skin for her – and proceed with the one-nighter. Kidding…you hope. :P

  11. Thumb up 3

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    Oh far out, great article, but I hate this idea so much. My ultimate nightmare is cyborgs!

    I also just can’t get over how rude it seems! I think we are getting used to ruder behaviour w/r/t technology (checking phones in social settings etc), and then something like google glass is the next step in terms of distracted social interactions.

    • Thumb up 0

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      from my experience in the last few weeks, it’s felt like the opposite, but i’m having a hard time convincing people of that!

      it looks weird (and that bit is socially disruptive) but people will get used to seeing them around — in cities like SF they already are. but as far as checking a device, it feels way way faster and significantly less interruptive than pulling out a phone screen and swiping at it! if i do need to check something, i can get back to my social interaction way faster and more fluidly.

      you get a little ding in your ear (other people can’t really hear it) so you can wait on any incoming texts, emails, etc. for an appropriate time too.

    • Thumb up 2

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      I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been scrolling through the comments, waiting to find someone who is as sceptical as I am, just so I don’t feel so alone in not being as excited about it as everyone else. I know that the first thing people will call you, if you don’t immediately get on these tech trends is a technophobe, which seems very dismissive and makes me, a very tech advanced person (I am professionally a web designer at that) majorly uncomfortable.

      But, the more she says that it is less intrusive than a hand held phone, the more confused I get about how she comes by that notion.

      In my thinking, if you have a phone in your pocket and you care enough about the people around you and the social interactions going on in the present, you can silence it, you can turn it off, you can ignore it.

      Now, how does one ignore a thing that is on their face? How do I as the person sitting before them feel knowing that at any moment they could be reading an e-mail ‘quickly, in passing’ that is projected right before my speaking face?

      Maybe it is all hard for me to grasp and be excited about because I’m already a little jaded by how we use technology. Perhaps I am a closet technophobe?

      My unpopular two cents.

  12. Thumb up 0

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    With this I will never have to leave my house again! (Possible exaggeration).

    I’m a bit wary, considering I’ve noticed that myself and my friends spend more and more time with our noses in our smartphones, but hey!

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