Looking At Tampa Bay Through Google Glass

Bruce Burke knew it wouldn't be cheap to participate as a beta tester for Google Glass. The cost to him personally? $1,500 to attend "Glass Boot Camp'' in New York, plus associated travel costs. It didn't matter, he says; he wanted to be among the first to try Google Glass and help shape it for the future.

"I knew it would be an expense,'' says Burke, "but it's totally worth it.''

A month after signing up, Burke, the chief marketing officer for M-ize in Tampa, says he won't go back to a traditional smart phone.

"Everything I can do with the phone, I can do with this,'' he says of the device. "It's comfortable, it's not distracting -- I'm not locked to the 'slab'.''

He can now use a panoramic photo feature of Glass to place himself "in the Cayman Islands, or on the beach -- I have the ability to go somewhere and make it a whole environment, a whole experience.''

While tropical screensavers have their place, what does one do with Google Glass from day to day?

Ashley Mooney, another beta tester from Tampa, calls her brief experience with Glass "quite amazing'' and says the difference is truly evident in her daily routine.

"Having had Glass for about a month now, I'm already starting to think and see the world differently -- quite literally,'' she says. "There is a screen floating above my eyes that allows me to check my email, text messages, and capture photo and video at all times.''

Making The Short List

Throughout the country, 8,000 Glass Explorers are participating in the beta program. Google says they chose applicants based on combined scores in the areas of creativity, compelling use, originality, and social and spectrum, according to Mooney.

"It should become available to the public in about a year,'' says Burke. "Right now, they're 'dog-fooding' it -- trying to figure out what people are using it for.''

So, just how did two people from Tampa get to be among the first "Glass Explorers''?

The answer: social media. In Feb. 2013, Google conducted a contest inviting the public to submit 50-word applications via Google+ or Twitter. The topic: Google Glass, and a brief explanation of how they would use the device.

Burke and Mooney, a social media strategist, were selected among thousands of responders to participate in the program.

"#ifihadglass,'' Mooney wrote in her submission, "I'd feel more inspired to capture life moments, resulting in much more creative posts than this one.''

Burke, meanwhile, won his right to becoming a Glass Explorer with a like-minded message: "#ifihadglass, I'd see everything differently.''

Exploring The Future

Google initially claimed that Glass would remain ad-free, but late last week, Google was granted a patent for a new feature that has advertisers refocused on the device. Pay-per-gaze technology will include a sophisticated "gaze tracking service,'' which can pinpoint to the second when a glance at an ad on the lens occurs.

One aspect of Glass that Mooney sees as particularly forward thinking is Google Now, which Mooney says is comparable to an intelligent personal assistant. Navigation on Glass, she adds, "is phenomenal.''

Burke, meanwhile, wonders whether Glass could change the future of the roadways: "Could Glass make us both better and more connected drivers at the same time?'' he wrote in a July 28 blog post.

Mooney hints that Glass apps may be a growing field -- and a personal field of interest.

"At the moment, Glass apps are limited, but Google seems to be rearing up to release their Glass Developer Kit,'' she explains. "They are encouraging developers to get ready for Glassware.''

The best Glass developer, Mooney notes, may be a Glass Explorer.

"This is where I feel I come in,'' she explains. "Many developers and entrepreneurs in the Tampa area are overflowing with ideas for Glass, and I feel pretty fortunate to be given the early opportunity to start acting on the many ways Glass can improve and enhance lives.''

Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting, and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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