Guests of the Stanford Court hotel in Nob Hill are greeted with a rug exclaiming #HELLO! (hashtag included.) Here and there in the lobby, iPad kiosks languish at just below hip-level. No one interacts with them. The first floor is riddled with these kind of flourishes, implanted awkwardly into what was once your average Marriott.
So the hotel was a fitting choice to host a Friday night meet-up for the Society of Glass Enthusiasts, SF Bay Area chapter. While local bars have begun banning patrons who enter the premises with a computer on their face, Stanford Court, which almost shuttered before its technological transformation, rushed into the void with free cocktails for anyone wearing Google Glass.
Sarah Slocum—the Glasshole du jour who lied about recording her fellow revelers, then cried "hate crime"—was slated to attend. But don't mistake her as representative of the community, Dave Martinez warned Valleywag. "No we're real 'Explorers,'" he said, using Google's terminology for these first-gen proto-human hybrids. "We've been in it since the beginning. We also believe in Glass etiquette."
Then Martinez, a platform/technology evangelist for Brick Simple, which develops wearable technology apps, proceeded to demo proper Glass behavior. If anyone asks questions (and they always do), "I will politely explain to them how it works."
"If you don't want me to wear it, I take it off. We put it behind our head like this," he added, turning his pair of Glass backwards and tucking them behind his head like Guy Fieri aboard the S.S. Enterprise. Wait, Google tells you to do that, I asked. No, "I made that up," Martinez said.
The meet-up wasn't organized by Google, but came with a press release sent to tech bloggers far and wide, along with repeated reminders that the event was not open to the public. A PR rep for Google Glass showed up, but in an unofficial capacity.
"We evangelize the product," Martinez continued. "Kids love it. They actually know how to use it." It's not as intuitive a relationship as babies and iPads. Rather, kids "search the web and they know what's cool."
To show me some educational apps, Martinez turned on his Glass, running his finger along the side like he was flipping pages through a book. The end of his eyepiece started glowing.
There was an app for playing the virtual piano, an app for studying the constellations, an app for sculpting—none of which really worked well when I put Glass on top of my glasses. "How bad is your vision?" asked Martinez, skeptically. I jerked my head up to the hotel lounge ceiling to see a tiny square of a star map.
Then we moved on to everyday use. "I scanned the menu" said Martinez, holding the oversized leather-bound hotel menu in his hands and staring into the middle distance. Glass located the word Stanford, which you can also find by looking at it.
Next up: animate objects. "I can look at your jacket and say, 'Scan this,'" he said, raising and bowing his head like I was a QR code. The device asked him if he wanted to scan "clothes, hair, or jacket." If he liked the jacket, Martinez said, Glass would tell him where to buy it.
It was an H&M jacket from five or six years ago, so good luck with that. But he was right about the youthful appeal. Ethan Bresnick, a 14-year-old intern with Augmedix, a wearable technology startup that raised $3.2 million in funding a couple weeks ago, stopped by the table to introduce himself to Martinez.
Bresnick, who did not look old enough to leave the house unsupervised, has been making short films about Glass since he was 13. He is "not particularly" into the app development aspect, but likes "concept videos and experimenting with UX [user interface] design."
Martinez's ears perked up. "You have it right. The UX design is such a horrible situation. Make things beautiful, people! Make it pretty!"
The aesthetic of the device itself also leaves a lot to be desired. Naturally, there's a startup ready and eager to monetize that. Gpop makes personalized decals for Glass. Many of the "explorers" at Stanford Court were wearing one. Liza Gere, who was carrying a small Prada purse in patchwork leather, said she had a different skin for every day of the week: "Some are more fun, some are more serious."
The available colors for Glass can be intense. With a Gpop, she said, "I can mellow it out a little and sometimes I don't get as many questions."
That didn't stop two aging frat guys sitting in the lobby from staring at the lounge, where people not wearing Glass were the conspicuous minority. Their mouths were agape when they first sat down and still catching flies when I left.
Libby Chang, who organized the event, said the Society's meet-ups didn't always put its members on display like this. "We do different things. We've done Segway tours. We go out to eat. We've had hackathons."
On my way out of the hotel, a cable car packed with tourists zipped down Powell Street. I took a photo with the computer in my pocket, then used it to hail a cheap ride to dinner while taxi after taxi drove by.
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