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Friday, May 3, 2013

Shine Starts to Wear Off a Little for Google Glass

The shiny new thing luster of Google Glass may already be wearing off, even before most people have been able to try one on.

When Google introduced Google Glass last year, tech nerds salivated over these augmented reality goggles from the future. But not everyone was excited. Some not on the proverbial bleeding edge of gadgetry wondered if the high-tech eye wear would offer salvation from smartphones, or turn them into zombie-eyed obsessives staring into tiny screens a few inches from their eyeballs.

Over the last two weeks, as Google Glass has started to trickle into the real world, the split of tech aficionados and regular folks has only grown.

Robert Scoble, an obsessive tech pundit, wrote a glowing review of the new augmented reality glasses and said, “I will never live a day without them.” He then showed off a picture of himself showering while wearing the glasses.

Is that a good or bad thing? As Marcus Wohlsen, a tech reporter for Wired, noted Thursday, seeing a large, hairy tech enthusiast half-naked in a shower while wearing Google Glass could put the device in the company of products lauded by the tech set and generally ignored by everyone else. “The Segway. The Bluetooth headset. The pocket protector,” Mr. Wohlsen wrote.

Worrying if Google Glass ends up in the same tech graveyard as the Segway might be the least of Google’s worries. After a developer showed off an application for the glasses that lets people sneak a photo of someone simply by winking, the headlines around the new gear focused quickly on privacy.

“The Creepiest Google Glass App Is a Stalker’s Dream,” wrote Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic, ,who called the secret photo-taking application a “privacy nightmare.”

“Google Glass: Let the evil commence,” wrote Jason Perlow of ZDNet, who noted that in the “Explorer” version of Google Glass that has recently shipped to a first generation of users, there is no “recording LED indicator” light on the device, “so that one could stealthily record without any indication to the subject that they are being captured on-camera.”

A Google spokesman said the company was carefully monitoring the type of apps developers were building for Google Glass to ensure they addressed privacy concerns before the product shipped to mainstream users. “Right now Glass is being made available primarily to developers who signed up to our Explorer program,” the spokesman said. “The goal of the program is ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology and for developers specifically to hack together new features, find exploits and build amazing new apps ahead of a wider consumer launch.”

If you were active on social media over the last few days, chances are you saw the latest Tumblr Web site, White Men Wearing Google Glass, making the rounds. The site has been shared thousands of times on social networks over the last few days. ”White Men Wearing Google Glass. This doesn’t make me want a pair,” wrote Jason Zada, an award winning director, on Twitter. Another person simply wrote that Google Glass looks “lame.”

Still, some tech heavyweights professed their enthusiasm for Google Glass. Marc Andreessen, a partner in the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said, ”You put it on and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I have the entire Internet in my vision. Where have you been all my life?’ ”

A photo of Mr. Andreessen wearing the glasses is also the main icon featured on White Men Wearing Google Glass Tumblr Web site.