Jeremy Littau Profile picture
Jun 5 28 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
1/ I want to share a story about how we used Google Glass in my class 10 years ago, what we learned, and why I have some skepticism (but not total skepticism) about tech you wear on your face ....
2/ I was an early Glass Explorer, ponied up $1500 of university seed funds to try it in my mutlimedia classes. I do this a lot in my classes, as some of you who've followed me here for a while already know. I come at these technologies with play in mind. ...
3/ We did several types of projects to envision use cases

• A daily picture, testing out the camera
• First-person video stories we called Glassumentaries. Like a tennis workout from first person POV

These first two worked well. The glassumentaries were really interesting!
4/ There was a third thing, though, and it was a social experiment.

Students checked it out for 3 days at a time, rotating through the class. The social experiment was simple. They had to wear it nonstop while awake while they had it.
5/ This, as you can imagine, was difficult. They were instructed they could just power down the device if it made people around them uncomfortable, and that often had to happen. Because taking photos and video with it was pretty easy.
6/ The goal of this whole exercise was to make see how awkward it got. That was the whole point. We were testing the range of how society might accept just the act of wearing a device in public spaces.
7/ You probably remember the Glasshole phase, where people wearing it in public places were getting assaulted. Even spawned an SNL bit.

But you might not remember that early on there was a lot of curiosity about Glass.
8/ My students were troopers. They kept at it. Device was off probably 75% of the time by their estimates. They sent me selfies of them wearing it at parties with "OMG AWKWARD" taglines, because, look, it was weird.

(This is why Lehigh students rule though. They were up to it).
9/ What we discovered that Glass had some good potential, but it was antisocial by nature. With Vision Pro you might focus on the screen as distraction, but it's more than that. It's technology on your face that interferes with eyesight connection. It severs connection.
10/ I still tell people Glass had incredible use cases for revolutionizing video storytelling, but its hurdle was social interaction. A wearable camera on your head - even if it was off! - just raises suspicions and inhibits communication.
11/ So for Vision Pro, I clued in right away on how they kept stressing social connection in their pitch today. There were a lot of things to like about this device (could see it being nice for solo gaming or TV watching) but I'm not buying the social benefits.
12/ Every time during the pitch today that someone walked into the wearer's room, I had flashbacks to our Glass experiment. The acting looked really forced and unnatural. It sets up barriers that you'd have to account for.
13/ We learned in our Glass experiment that eyes are everything. Having direct, line-of-sight connection is a foundation for human interaction. Glass, to its credit, was far less intrusive compared to Vision Pro, and it still was a barrier.
14/ We did try to think through this a bit in class. What's the difference between wearing Glass all the time and looking at your phone, or seeing the world through your phone camera?

We came down to: you can look up from it. The phone is in your hand, not attached to you.
15/ The only way to regard someone similarly with Glass was by taking it off. You had to remove the device entirely. A wearable on a face is just that way.

Until it isn't? I could see a time when maybe the acceptance barriers are lower. We evolve our communication modes, etc.
16/ There are products that redefine social interactions for sure. The phone, for good and bad, is intruding on our social lives in meaningful ways. But I think that effect was slow. Vision Pro, like Glass before it, asks you to do that out of the box.
17/ So the way I looked at Glass, and now Vision, is it's asking a LOT of us instantly in terms of altering our social interactions, and at tremendous price points.

Or, we bend social interactions to fit the tech, which is something Technological Determinism theory gets at.
18/ So take FaceTime on Vision Pro. Did you see what it was? The wearer sees faces, as you would on an iPhone or iPad. But how does it handle how they see YOU?

I mean, it's obvious, right? People don't want to stare at someone wearing scuba gear during a FaceTime.
19/ So what VP does is use facial recognition technology stored in the device and combines it with facial expressions sensed by internal cameras to render you as a Pixar Person to the others on the call.

Scuba gear won't work, so you have to present as a simulacrum.
20/ So you see what's happening here? A perfectly good technology that works really well has to be altered to bend to the new device.

FaceTime is awesome! It's something that creates human interaction in ways we couldn't before.

But it has to change because of a device.
21/ It's a tech workaround that has to happen because the device won't allow us to do it for real. People don't want to be on a FaceTime call with someone wearing a headset. That they had to invent Pixar People is a nod to what we learned w/Glass: face wearables are antisocial.
22/ So I don't buy ANY of the social connection pitch today. Again, we might change over time, but it's a really tough sell.

And here's the thing: Apple Watch took off because it was a visible wearable, like the iPod and white earbuds before it. ...
23/ Apple products have long relied on this visual marketing to become hot items.

The negative visceral reaction wearers will inevitably get in public will become part of the device's narrative. And it'll disincentivize wearing it. So the social marketing piece is imperiled.
24/ Maybe that's the logic of the $3500 price. That it'll be more like a business environment thing, where you might gain more acceptance.

But look, Glass was $1500 and people wore it in public. There will always be someone, and that someone will go viral.
25/ So to sum up, I'm skeptical. Not about the whole product category. Just about how they're selling this as a social interaction device. We learned a decade ago that this is going to be a slog if it ever ends up succeeding.
26/ Last thought: I really wonder what Steve Jobs would think of Vision for personal use cases. He thought of computers as tools for collaboration, so maybe Vision plays with him there. But most who knew him say he'd despise social media as disconnecting us. Would he like Vision?
BTW, this was one of my favorite Glassumentaries from the class. Other than the intro, the footage was shot by the person doing the work. So you see life through the subject's eyes. It was the kind of story that, to me, showed how Glass had promise.
I wrote some years ago about our Glass experience here, if you're interested:

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Jeremy Littau

Jeremy Littau Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @JeremyLittau

Jun 5
The dad playing with his kid while wearing the new Apple Goggles to take spatial 3D video is some dark, dystopian stuff. I don't know if you watch that and think it looks natural by any means. #WWDC23
Honestly the headset doesn't look that bad for viewing media alone. But I have a visceral negative internal reaction the minute any of those videos feature someone else walking into the room. #WWDC23
Even the FaceTime example, I kind of want to know what other people on the call would be seeing. You can't just be on audio, right?
Read 4 tweets
Mar 16
Short thread below. A really silly example of Bing search's chatbot and why I think it's a bit more useful for some things than ChatGPT:
2/x While I was driving yesterday, a podcast referenced the Justin Bieber / Hailey Bieber / Selena Gomez online feud as if we all know what it is. Which I decidedly do not. I don't follow celebrity news.
3/x This is something I just wouldn't care to google. But the reference on the pod was in comparison to something else in the news. So I asked Bing search and got this: Image
Read 12 tweets
Feb 17
In a perfect world, this would be the end of anyone's ability to trust the network. Journalism is a product built on trust, and you can't trust people saying one thing on camera and then expressing the opposite behind the scenes. Not a one-story problem. It's systemic.
One thing I've been thinking about is that as we've atomized news, it's been harder to create products and experiences that connect those atoms into a structure that enables memory and accountability.

Scroll-by format, the segment format has no memory. It invites lack of memory.
That is, to have accountability you have to be able to connect what someone says one night with last week/month/year. The fast-paced world of cable news and social consumption asks you to move on.

There are archives, yes. People connect dots, yes. But it's not front and center.
Read 7 tweets
Feb 17
First 20 minutes of this week's Hard Fork podcast, where Kevin Roose describes a disorienting conversation with Bing's chatbot, is WILD. But a good discussion humans anthropomorphizing tech, and whether it matters that we're wrong.
Casey Newton made a point that works its way into my classes. Yes we could be wrong about sentience, but if an engineer at Google can misjudge LaMDA, how much more likely is it to happen with a less-aware public? The cultural effect is baked in regardless of the truth of it.
This isn't a shut-it-down argument, but a call for education about what the tech does, how it operates, and how we can better understand it. A chatbot seems so straightforward, but you have to dig to find it's generating based on predictions from consuming human source material.
Read 4 tweets
Jan 7
“CoLLeGe sTUdEnTs LaCk rESiLiENcE” always being thrown about by people who don’t work with actual college students every day. As if we didn’t watch them fight like hell through pandemic learning. Literally nothing asserted here is true.
I usually brush off nonsense like this but it is upsetting how much traction a take about college campus life gets when spouted by people who clearly aren’t immersed in campus life. Critiquing college from a distance is its own grift.
I at least get why B*ris and Sull*vans of the world call college students snowflakes. They profit from blowing it out of proportion for their newsletter readers who are baffled by Millennials/Z calling BS on the world they’re inheriting. But dumping on the youngers is a dead end.
Read 6 tweets
Jan 5
They're going for two instead of kicking the extra point. Respect.
Read 5 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!