What was once an Al Franken bit on Saturday Night Live is a streamlined reality with Google Glass, a device worn like eyeglasses that can take pictures/videos, search online and allow the wearer to communicate with the device as well as friends.
Author Gary Shteyngart was one of the first in New York to receive a pair. He writes about the experience in last week's New Yorker magazine:
My first encounter with Google Glass came on a Saturday in June, when I showed up at the Glass Explorers’ “Basecamp,” a sunny spread atop the Chelsea Market. My tech sherpa, a bright-eyed young woman, set me up with a mimosa as we perused the various shades of Glass frames, each named for a color that occurs in nature: cotton, shale, charcoal, sky, and tangerine. I went for shale, which happens to be the preference of Glass Explorers in San Francisco. (New Yorkers, naturally, go for bleak charcoal.) I was told that I was one of the first few hundred Explorers in the city, which made me feel like some third-rate Shackleton embarked on my own Nimrod Expedition into the neon ice. The lightweight titanium frames were fitted over my nose, a button was pressed near my right ear, and the small screen, or Optical Head Mounted Display, flickered to pink-ish life. I was told how to talk to my new friend, each command initiated with the somewhat resigned “O.K., Glass.” In deference to [his latest novel's Korean-American and Russian characters] Eunice and Lenny, I started off with two simple instructions, picked up by a microphone that sits just above my right eye, at the tip of my eyebrow.
“O.K., Glass. Google translate ‘hamburger’ into Korean.”
“Haembeogeo,” a gentle, vowel-rich voice announced after a few seconds of searching, as both English and Hangul script appeared on the display above my right eye. Since there are no earbuds to plug into Glass, audio is conveyed through a “bone conduction transducer.” In effect, this means that a tiny speaker vibrates against the bone behind my right ear, replicating sound. The result is eerie, as if someone is whispering directly into a hole bored into your cranium, but also deeply futuristic. You can imagine a time when different parts of our bodies are adapted for different needs. If a bone can hear sound, why can’t my fingertips smell the bacon strips they’re about to grab?
Glass responds to a combination of voice and touch-pad commands. After the initial “O.K., Glass,” you can tap and slide your way through the touch pad, but since there is no keyboard or touch screen, Googling and Gmailing will probably always involve voice recognition.
“O.K., Glass. Google translate ‘hamburger’ into Russian.”
“Gamburrrger,” a voice purred, not so gently, like my grandmother at the end of a long hot day.
And, all of a sudden, I felt something for this technology.
Shteyngart made a video to go with his fascinating article: