On Today’s Show: Google Glass. Cyborgian Future or Pointless Gizmo? Hear from Alpha Testers Bianca Bosker and Betsy Moyer

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Betsy revised photoWe have all heard endlessly about Google Glass. On this DnA, we get the prognosis from two women who have tried it. Is Glass a cool, or scary, Cyborgian future made real? Or a gizmo in search of a purpose that’ll join the dust-heap of bad tech ideas? With Betsy Moyer and Bianca Bosker. Plus, a foretaste of future living micro-scale, with Katrina Stoll Szabo, Alan Hess, Takako Tajima, Michael Maltzan, Todd Gish, and Liz Falletta.

In case you’ve been out of the tech news loop recently, Google Glass – singular — looks and sounds like some sci-fi spectacles. But it doesn’t aid your eyesight. Rather, Glass gives and takes information. It is a wraparound frame that dangles a mini-screen near your right eye, and can deliver instant web notifications, or, with a tap or a voice-command, it can take photos and video.

“Totally Geeked” Betsy Moyer Goes for a Walk Wearing Google Glass 

Excuse Me what is on your headGoogle Glass is in its alpha, or first, phase of testing and Google cleverly created interest by inviting people to compete to try out Glass, and then charged $1500 for the privilege. Among those who won the opportunity was Betsy Moyer, KCRW’s very own digital content director, who described herself as “totally geeked” at the prospect of Glass.

Betsy has been testing the product, and recently exited our basement to face the world wearing Glass, videotaping and recording as she walked. This is part of her ongoing project to create content for KCRW using Google Glass.

Betsy was nervous about people staring at her, and found that some people like the guy in the campus cafeteria (photographed using Glass, right) wanted to know what she had on her head. Others, however, barely noticed. She also had some dicey moments, like finding herself in a video chat with 43 people as she entered the restroom!

Betsy Moyer and Bianca Bosker Discuss Google Glass

Another Glass alpha tester is Huffington Post’s Executive Tech Editor, Bianca Bosker (above right), based in New York. It’s worth noting here that Betsy and Bianca are two young women in tech, and they have interesting things to say about Google’s Explorer program, which reportedly wanted to extend beyond typical geeky guys and prove that “normal” people would use it.

Bianca tells the story of how Google specifically reached out to the editor of Huffington Post’s Parenting section, saying, “When you look at Google strategy with getting Glass into people’s hands, Glass looks weird and so Google has to make it look normal and the way to do that is to get it into the hands of quote unquote normal people. So Google’s initial launch was this very insidery group of developers because they are hoping they’ll develop Apps for Glass. But the next move was, let’s find parents, artists, poets, photographers and let’s get them to try Glass because they’ll help show all of their friends and peers that this crazy looking thing isn’t so weird after all.”

googleglassselfieOn the show, Bianca and Betsy discuss everything from the aesthetics (they both chose a “shale”-colored frame, though Betsy would have liked “hot pink”) and the feel of the screen that is suspended just above ones right eye (it can cause a bit of eyestrain at first).

They also address the big issues: the point of the device and privacy.

As for the gizmo’s purpose, Betsy says the instant notifications and capacity to video and photograph instantaneously are not fitting “organically” into her life yet (montage, left, shows that if you have Glass, you don’t need your other gizmos) but she thinks the product has potential. Bianca says she’s not sure what gap is being filled by the instant photography (doesn’t the iPhone already do that sufficiently, she asks), but she looks forward to when she can meet someone speaking a foreign language and Google Glass can provide instantaneous translation, or she can look at a New York building and know if there’s an apartment for rent.

As for privacy, Bianca has this to say, “I think the way that we think about privacy is changing and if privacy isn’t already obsolete I think certainly it may be on its way out there. That’s not to say there aren’t still things we want to keep to ourselves but this whole idea of where we can be anonymous and hide ourselves or what we’ve done is changing tremendously and Google Glass is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Learn more about the privacy concerns surrounding Google Glass on this To The Point, broadcast just before the product reached the alpha testers. Meanwhile, Betsy Moyer is creating content for KCRW using Google Glass. See what she’s done so far, here. And hear more from Bianca Bosker on this DnA, when she discussed her book, “Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China;” and read an article she wrote for DnA on the same topic, here.

Changing Boundaries in Glass and Concrete

Devices like Google Glass promise to expand our experience of the world from an ever shrinking piece of technology. Which may be necessary in the future world of glass and concrete.

Another dimension of our changing boundaries is housing, that’s getting smaller and smaller, even micro.  On show right now in LA are two fascinating exhibits: “How Small is Too Small” and “By Right By Design.” They are in one space – WUHO – at 6518 Hollywood Boulevard, and they explore the future of shrinking dwelling space in LA (shown, a 10 x 30 square feet micro unit constructed in WUHO’s space, for How Small is Too Small). We’ll be talking more about that on an upcoming DnA, and this show contains a taster from that discussion, on the future of living small, with Katrina Stoll Szabo, Alan Hess, Takako Tajima, Michael Maltzan, Todd Gish, and Liz Falletta.