Opinion: The Pitfalls of Wearing Google Glasses in Public

While Google Glasses have generated a lot of media attention, we don’t know if the technology will achieve a level of social acceptability. Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic discusses the tech savvy town of San Francisco and what happened when two people walked into a bar wearing the new device. Unlike a phone, Google Glasses are not hidden in your pocket or stored at home — they are on your face, right out in the open. Are people ready for this?

San Francisco is known for its tech savviness, as it houses an array of tech companies and many of its residents commute to Silicon Valley. This means progressive technology is more accepted in this city than others, yet Madrigal notes that the people who walked into Shotwell’s bar, in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, seemed out of place wearing their Google Glasses.

“When you buy a new phone, it’s in your pocket, but this, you’re wearing something on your face. Anyone that cares what they look like is not gonna wear Google glasses. That’s my opinion,” said Shotwell’s co-owner Tom Madonna.

“If you are super nerdy and you like to show off that you’re in tech and smart and all those things, I can see you probably wearing Google Glasses, but you are probably in a bubble or… new. We’ve all heard all this stuff. Like, this guy moved to SF and he comes to the bar. He’s from Scottsdale and he’s using all these [tech] words. I had to stop him. I said, ‘You sound interesting and different in Phoenix, but you sound boring here. You are cliche.'”

Yet Madonna was still surprised by the two customers. “Last night around 9:45 two people walked into the bar,” he posted on Facebook. “Looked me square in the eye, and acting as if everything was normal they ordered beers.. Oh did I mention they were wearing Google Glasses! In public! In A BAR!”

Sarcastically, Madonna asked one of the patrons if she could see the future, to which she flatly replied, “It’s not on right now.” He was taken aback by the attitude. “She was very matter of fact. Like, this is her reality,” he said. “‘Oh, this old thing? It’s not on.'”

Eventually Google Glasses may reach mainstream status, but there may initially be some hurdles involved with wearing them in public. “So, I propose a new trial for our augmented technologies: The Shotwell’s Test,” writes Madrigal. “If it can’t pass muster with Madonna and the crowd at the platonic ideal of the bar, it may not be ready for use outside of CES and the office park.”