google glassThanks to Somo Global for the chance to try Google Glass, even if we left with a few more questions than answers - as you will see...

Why do we desire new technology?

It's obviously not because we need it - not really. Anyone with a history of early-adoption has a drawer of half-used, but perfectly functional, products, ordered on launch day and forgotten shortly after. We buy machines, but we're not machines.

No, in tech, as in so much else, anticipation is more than half the fun.

And it is intoxicating, that delusion. It makes us light-headed. It is why we follow gadget news, turn up to press events, watch live unveilings from LA at two in the morning, and install dodgy betas of half-baked OS redesigns.

From the outside, this quest to acquire fresh, transformative tech looks like exactly that - a mission of acquisition, alone. And to look at the names of the reviews sections of some websites or magazines, or the queues outside Apple Stores, you might even think of it in terms of lust. A magpie chasing reflections in the murk. And maybe it is that, on some level.

Even so, it's impossible not to feel - at least once, twice a year - a deeper excitement, perhaps even the half-whispered expectation, that this or that device, just announced, un-reviewed, untested, is going to be the thing that will not just to improve your life, or bolster your status, but actually solve some key aspect of being alive.

And you can boil that down further, I think. Because when you anticipate a new technology or device, it's not the moment of purchase you fantasise about. It's not two weeks down the line, when it's a slickly-integrated part of your new post-device life.

It's the first few seconds that you - that I - imagine.

The shore of the new world. And then one fine morning-

And then Google Glass - and the moment you first pick up a pair, and adjust the little prism screen, and wait for it to change everything.

google glass


I had waited for my first time with Glass for longer, and with more nervous energy, than most products. That includes both your run-of-the-mill phones and games machines, and those more transformative (and rare) leaps-forward that occasionally come along.

I'd waited for at least a year since the device was announced, of course. But also far longer than that. Becuase Glass, as others have said, is a device that was dreamed up far before it was ever possible to actually build one.

The popular sci-fi antecedants are obvious, but the idea goes further back, too, to make-believe friends and genies-in-the-bottle, to an outside voice of consience, with you since birth, that you imagine on your shoulder, helping you to be better, which is now able to take photos and make video calls too. Neat.

So when, thanks to the mobile developers/gurus/nice people at Somo London, who have already started developing up to 10 apps for the device, I managed to get an early demo of Google Glass, I was fairly humbled just to see it.

And when I placed it on my head (it fits! it fits!), made those adjustments and said "OK Glass", and when the screen popped on and invited me to speak my desires, I did feel something new come into my life, and wink back at me.

It happened. For a second.

For there are little things when you first try Glass that deliver on its promise, a little bit.

The spooky bone-conduction audio, for instance, works, and works well. The screen is just as semi-transparent, clear and shimmering as you hope. The voice transcription is pretty accurate, while the ease of taking pictures and video is also hard to overstate. It's not even that heavy or bulky. It's almost there.

google glass


The sadness, though, comes after the first moment passes - as it did, as it will - when you realise that Glass isn't quite ready. Not yet.

For one thing, it's still very buggy.

Getting it to connect adequately to a phone is tricky. It comes on at awkward times, based on a loose tilt of the head, and gets in the way of your line of sight when having a conversation. The video calling works, but doesn't really make sense - you can see the other person, they can't see you. Doing anything complex - managing mail, reading anything - is impossible.

Worse, the actual build quality, while decent, is not ready for the mainstream. The screen is okay, but drifted in and out of focus for me. It feels quite fragile, and the battery life is poor. And it does just look dorky, like a giant mobile telephone used to in the 1990s, and an adult using a Galaxy Note 8.0 still does.

It's not slim enough, small enough, cool enough, to melt into your life as you'd hope. And it's telling that the Glass is far more enjoyable and attractive with the sunglass attachment clipped on, just because it takes away the persistant, nagging fear that someone's about to punch you, or rob you, or first one, and then the other.

(Though it does seem like a device with a camera on it could record and upload a few seconds of video just after being nicked, to help the police. Take that idea for free, Somo.)

But did I enjoy using it? Absolutely - and I can't wait to see where it goes. Google is on to something here, and one day it will be spectacular.

When you tell people that you've used Google Glass - particularly here in the UK, where it's even less common to see it - they ask you if you'd buy one. The answer right now is no, obviously. It's not useful enough - it's not good enough.

But in a way, that's the wrong question to ask. Glass as it stands today isn't a product, really. It's an idea - a question, which Google is asking the world. It will look different, it will work differently, it will be better - it might be less exciting. It might even be cool.

So if you meet someone who has used, or owns, Google Glass, the right question to ask might just be: 'did anything happen for you in those first few moments?'

And the answer is that for me, it did, nearly. Tantalisingly nearly. And next time, or next time, or the time after that, things will be different.

Just wait.