Internet of Things

OK Glass, Mute the Children (#ParentingThroughGlass)

"Tech geek mom" Trae Vassallo sports her Glass.

“Tech geek mom” Trae Vassallo sports her Glass.

I had a surprising revelation after my first weekend with Google’s Internet-connected specs: Glass is perfect for parents. After all, who needs hands-free productivity more than a parent? Who has more need for a smart assistant? Who gets more joy from photos of surprising kid moments? Parents! And you could be next: If you have given up your self-respect for the pragmatism of a minivan (I confess I have), you are a prime candidate for Glass.

It is hard not to giggle a little when you put on Glass for the first time. Like many transformational ideas, this one definitely seems a bit odd at first. You will be self-conscious the first time you step outside as a Glass wearer. But just as you forgave your minivan the first time you volunteered to drive on a field trip full of rowdy kids, you will forgive Glass. I quickly got over my embarrassment and started focusing on the experience, and I have to say, I’m blown away.

The best feature of Glass is that it listens to everything you say. My fellow parents know how miraculous this is. The kids can be screaming and the radio blaring, but it does not matter. Glass has your back. When I put Glass sunglasses on, I transform into Super Mom,  miraculously getting work done, appointments scheduled and messages returned while on-the-go.

The key to all of this magic is the hands-free nature of Glass. You can navigate, make calls, take pictures, shoot video or send messages, all without using your hands. Voice commands are easy and consistently accurate. Google officially discourages the use of Glass while driving, but I did not find it to be distracting. It feels natural: simply looking up at my visor, I can see the turn to take while subtle audio cues from a supportive assistant are literally whispered in my ear. I am able to do this while always keeping my eyes on the road. The only real distraction I experienced: a truck that kept trying to pull up next to me to get a closer look at Glass.

Using Glass is fairly intuitive. You simply give voice commands starting with the words “OK Glass.” Hands-free messaging and calling works surprisingly well. With Glass, I finally have a way to dictate an email while driving—that feature alone will boost my productivity while behind the wheel. Hands-free dialing is simple: “OK Glass, call Steve Vassallo.”

Sure, there are other systems for hands-free dialing. But only Glass can give you immediate hands-free access to all the world’s data. If I ask Glass “What’s going on in Boston,” I get succinct excerpts from key Web pages. While driving, I Googled my Toyota dealership to schedule a tune-up for my beloved minivan, then toggled to “call” and phoned them – all with my eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel. In shop class with my daughter, we had to do some quick long division to make a correct cut on the band saw – hands-free calculation was a delightful discovery. Though I cannot bring myself to wear them in meetings (yet), I continue to experience “wish I had Glass on” moments every day.

The always-accessible camera is a real treat for a parent. I captured priceless candid moments playing volleyball with my daughter and jumping on a trampoline with my three kids. At the end of the weekend, I logged into Google+ and my entire weekend was there in pictures and video. I am now faced with the sinking feeling that my 80,000 pictures in iPhoto are going to grow dramatically.

Glass exceeds my expectations on fit and finish. The device is well-made, comfortable and balanced on your head. Glass held on tight even during my trampoline video. I have been wearing Glass mostly in sunglasses mode with a hat; it makes them look like sporty cycling glasses. The lenses are polarized, making the Glass display easier to read in bright sunlight, though it also makes my iPhone screen color slightly distorted.

Glass allows you to seamlessly interchange voice and touch commands. Using the touch interface—on the temple—is straightforward. Touch once to wake up, double tap to get to the command page, swipe down to go up/back. On the main screen, swipe left for weather, left once more for settings. Swiping right brings you to content including captured moments, Google searches, posts to Path and emails. Tap on any piece of content to see sharing options.

The more I played with Glass, the more uses I found. Here are some excerpts from my weekend:

· “OK Glass, get directions to Burgess Park.”

· “OK Glass, Google Toyota Redwood City.”

· “OK Glass, take a picture” of my daughter driving the soccer ball down the field.

· “OK Glass, take a video” of my son and I jumping and giggling on the trampoline. Swipe to share on Path.

· “OK Glass, Google ‘48 divided by 3’” Hands-free math!

· “OK Glass, send a message to Steve, ‘We’re running late see you soon, love you.’”

While adults often ignore it, everyone under 18 notices when I wear Glass. On a recent visit to my kids’ school, I was swamped by students who wanted to try them on. This is their future. In fact, my daughter keeps stealing my Glass. For her, using Glass is not awkward at all.

To be sure, Glass is still a work in progress. The GPS is buggy, for instance, and  connecting to networks is not as automated as it could be. Most annoyingly, the audio tickles my head in an uncomfortable way. But like all the best products, Glass creates an emotional connection that continues to grow as I discover, with incredible delight, new features and uses. And it has Moore’s Law and Google engineering on its side: I have faith that Glass will improve quickly.

As a tech geek mom with three kids, I envision a future in which Glass will be as important to me as the minivan.

I am looking forward to seeing all the new applications. And more importantly, to more #ParentingThroughGlass.

Trae Vassallo is a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where she invests in a broad array of consumer, software and connected device ventures and helps lead the firm’s Glass Collective initiative. She is speaking at the Techonomy Lab on the Internet of Everything this coming Thursday May 16 at SRI in Menlo Park. @Trae #ParentingThroughGlass #GeekyMom

You can participate in conversations about our Techonomy Lab: Man, Machines, and the Network on Twitter with the #techonomylab hashtag, and check in on our Facebook event page.

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  • bryn jones

    Shouldn’t you just be looking at the road?

    • Ramos

      You’re supposed to see through glasses…

    • Ms. Katsonga on Hair

      Agreed!

  • Andie

    Why are you doing all that while driving? Great, another way to kill more innocent people!

  • David

    You guys obviously did not read her post, she stated it was completely non distracting hands free, full vision, the works. Please READ before posting.

    • Ms. Katsonga on Hair

      I have found that even a good song distracts me. Even with both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road multi tasking while driving is dangerous. You’ll realize this when it’s your family that gets killed.

      Arranging appointments and drafting emails require quite a bit of brain power and should not be done whilst driving.

  • Ms. Katsonga on Hair

    Interesting technology but at the moment I am realizing there is real fulfillment in enjoying one thing at a time! If you need help get a cleaner or a virtual assistant!

  • John

    …now we are back to saying music is too distracting…. wow