Kimberly Graham owns seven pairs of Glass, the smart headset that Google stopped selling in January 2015.
“It’s my doomsday stockpile” she says gleefully. “I’ll be the last person on earth who is still able to wear a usable pair of Glass — it’s my mission!”
Graham stands with several other Glass owners at Google’s IO developers’ conference, where the company first revealed the device with a dramatic live sky-diving demo in 2012.
After that bold unveiling, Glass never made it to the mainstream. People criticised it for its high price, software problems, potential privacy issues, and general nerdiness. Today, even at the biggest Google-centric event of the year, Glass wearers were so uncommon they stood out.
“We’re a rare breed these days,” Graham laughs, adding that when she sees other Glass owners they will usually say hello or give each other a knowing nod. “Glass is like a special badge.”
Allen Firstenberg, another attendee who actually wrote a book about developing for Glass back in 2014, says that he had spotted about ten other Glass users at IO and knew about 20 others, globally.
“I still use mine on a daily basis,” he says. “I wear it pretty much any time I’m out of the house and not working.”
Firstenberg, Graham, and several other Glass owners we spoke to, still believe the headset is unrivalled in its utility for things like hands-free photography or getting directions while driving.
“I do a lot of cycling and it’s a lot safer to take a picture with Glass than holding my phone out with one hand while riding a bike,” explains attendee Chris Watchman.
And at this point, they’re all used to the lingering stares, raised eyebrows, and tendency of strangers to stop them to ask questions or take a picture: It comes with the territory when you’re wearing a face computer. They also don’t care about the assumed dorkiness — to wear Glass these days is to wear it with pride.
“People have even told me that they think it’s fashionable!” attendee Katarina Crea interjects.
Most people don’t actually recognise it as Glass, either, Graham says. When she picked up her badge at the beginning of IO, the person checking her in certainly had no idea.
“‘You’re gonna have to take that Microsoft HoloLens off your face for the photo,'” she mimics. “And that’s at a Google event!”
While donning Glass in 2016 is a conversation starter for people, Google itself has refused to discuss its plans for the future. It stopped supporting the current hardware and software, and hasn’t acknowledged reports that it’s working on an enterprise version of the device, even when a pair leaked on eBay earlier this year.
“I hoped they would announce something, but I didn’t really expect it,” Graham sighs. “I always hope though. I’m an eternal optimist.”
Each person said that they’d likely buy a new consumer device if Google released it, but they’re not holding their breath. For now, the attitude of a loyal Glass lover is to just try to get as much use out of it as possible until the hardware wears out.
“It still has value to us,” Firstenberg says. “We’re gonna keep using it as long as we can.”
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