Technology TED Talks

Our thoughts on using Google Glass so far, plus videos that show what it can do


Sergey Brin shows a demo video of Google Glass at TED2013. In today’s talk, he reveals the big idea behind the project. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In today’s talk, Sergey Brin of Google shares the idea that motivated the development of Google Glass: that while smartphones inherently take us away from experiencing the real world, there could be a device that allows for a digitally-mediated experience within it. As Google heads into day three of its I/O developer conference in San Francisco, and as members of Congress express concerns about the new technology, it’s an especially fitting talk for today.

Sergey Brin: Why Google Glass? Sergey Brin: Why Google Glass? In this humorous talk, Brin checks his email and then says, “This position you just saw me in – looking down at my phone – that’s one of the reasons behind this project, Project Glass. We ultimately question if this is the ultimate future of how you want to connect to other people in your life, how you want to connect to information. Should it be by walking around looking down?“

Hunching over his phone, he asks, “Is this what you were meant to do with your body?”

TED’s media team was invited to purchase Glass after a team member attended Google I/O last year. So several people in the TED office have taken a turn trying it out since it arrived in our office in early May. Michael Glass, our Director of Film + Video, has much to say after test-driving the new device.


Several members of the TED staff try on Google Glass. Michael Glass (top left) and Isaac Wayton (bottom right), who road tested it the longest, give their impressions of the new device.

“Whatever its oddities and awkwardnesses, this is the first step in getting to that HUD Terminator experience that captured so many imaginations 30 years ago. If we had given up on the cell phone because its first users looked like schmucks holding up big grey bricks to their ears, we would never have met the iPhone or Nexus 4 or Droid DNA or Galaxy S4 or whatever your dream phone is,” he says. “The bit that blows my mind is its integration with Google Hangouts although to be honest it’s not been particularly useful in any specific way. Then again, neither was E=MC2. It’s mostly a toy right now, which is all the more reason to play with it. I think Google is smart to be humble and not cram the thing full of tools and functions — the crowd will figure out the most interesting ways to use it; they just needed to make the first leap into the hardware.”

His biggest complaint: “My last name is Glass and I walk around saying, ‘Okay Glass’ to activate the main menu.”

TED editor Isaac Wayton also tested out Google Glass.

“I really like the idea of Glass, in theory, but I’m worried that it’s a technology that will promote selfish user behaviors rather than real life human interactions. Also, since I need to wear prescription glasses — and couldn’t wear both Glass and my pair at the same time — I wasn’t able to see the tiny, projected screen very well,” he says. “That said, it is an amazing piece of technology and it deserves further development because I am sure that people will also find intelligent uses for Glass to help people in the real world.”

The bottom line: he looks forward to a version that somehow attaches to existing glasses.

And TED’s Product Development Director Thaniya Keereepart had this to say: “One thing that’s been exceptionally interesting for me about Glass is the user interface. We’ve become accustomed to using our hands to ‘touch’ a device in order to control it — it’s evolved from a keyboard to a mouse to a touchpad. With Glass, you have a very different UI constraint to how information is controlled and revealed. That Star Trek future where we speak to a computer that Hollywood had been dreaming of for decades has arrived, and I think it’s here to stay. On photos and videos — I think people over time will come to value first-person recording more and more. Filming babies and children seem to be one of the more popular things to do via Glass for a reason — it’s personal. It’s the memory recorded exactly how you see it. Removing the barrier between your eyes, a recording device, and the subject, makes the filming experience much more about you and your child.”

She sums it up saying, “I agree with Michael that this device is merely the first step in the evolution of smart wearable computers. Its purpose and value, in my opinion, is to trigger our imagination and creativity.”

Below, some videos that show more of what we know about Google Glass, which will be available in 2014.

Prototyping a new product can take eons. Or it can take … a day. In this talk from TEDYouth, Tom Chi – who was on the team that developed Glass – shares how the invention was rapid prototyped, with team members expressing desires, solving problems and eliminating dud ideas by mocking up the design using clay, paper, modeling wire, binder clips, hairbands and chopsticks.

Andrew Vanden Heuvel wanted to be an astronaut –– but instead he became an online physics teacher for schools without advanced science courses. In this video, which premiered at TEDxCERN, Vanden Heuvel takes students on a virtual field trip to the European Organization for Nuclear Research and shows them the particle collider that is longer than the island of Manhattan.

The official promo trailer, shown during Brin’s talk.

At Google I/O 2012, Brin gave a demo of Google Glass — when the device was still largely a mystery to the outside world. In it, he connects to parachuters in an airplane overhead via a Google Hangout. They then jump … and bring their prototypes into the event.

A how-to use video, posted on April 30.

David Pogue, who has given the TED Talks “10 top time-saving tech tips” and “On cool phone tricks,” reviews Google Glass for CBS News. “A lot of people are excited about this step into the cyborg future and other people are horrified,” he says. In this short video, he reveals some common misperceptions about Glass and its ability to distract. But he also point out a major potential flaw – that it allows people to record others without their knowledge.

And finally, Saturday Night Live’s sendup of Glass.