By Jessica Guynn
Los Angeles Times
At 6 feet, 4 inches, JR Curley is used to getting noticed.
Just not like this. Ever since he got a pair of Google Glass in November, he has been turning heads at the grocery store, in restaurants, on the street, even at Disneyland.
People approach him all the time to ask about his head-mounted, Internet-connected computer, which is worn like a pair of glasses. He spends so much time letting them try on Glass that his wife has begun referring to herself as the “Glass bystander.”
For all the controversy Glass has generated for its ability to take pictures or film video with a simple gesture or voice command, Curley says the attention Glass gets on the streets of Los Angeles has been positive.
Not once has he been asked to take off Glass in an establishment and no one has expressed discomfort that he might be taking photographs of them or video recording them, he said.
In fact, he’s the one who has had to get accustomed to people whipping out their smartphones and taking pictures of him without first asking permission.
“As with any new technology, the more people have it, the more it generates a broad understanding,” said Curley, 41, a design studio director of an accounting firm who lives in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Curley and dozens of others who are early testers of the device report little or no backlash from the public. In fact, they say a series of high-profile yet isolated incidents have given Glass an unfair rap.
Glass users have been tossed from movie theaters. The device has been banned in bars, restaurants and casinos. A San Diego woman was pulled over for driving with Glass, and a few states are considering banning drivers from using Glass out of concern that the small screen will distract them on the road.
One of the most notorious incidents took place in a San Francisco bar in February when social media consultant Sarah Slocum said she was attacked for wearing Glass. Despite allegations from bar patrons, Slocum denied surreptitiously recording anyone there. But court records show that in 2012 her neighbors got a restraining order against her for crouching outside their open window and recording them with her smartphone.
All of which has raised the question: Is Glass really about to strip away the last shreds of privacy, as some people suggest?
Glass users chalk up any anxiety to a natural fear of the unknown. They say that fear will subside when the technology is in more hands and the social norms have been established. Besides, they say, there are far less expensive and more effective ways to covertly record someone than wearing a computer on your face.
Andrew Barash, 33, a software developer with OpenTable who lives in Marin County, Calif., says he has yet to have a negative encounter while wearing Glass.
People who run into him in store aisles occasionally joke with him: “Am I being recorded?” “I say, ‘Yes, there’s a security camera right over there,’ ” Barash said.
Mostly, he said, “people are excited to see it and try it. Once they see it in person and how it works, it generally dissipates any concerns about recording.”
Google is betting that Glass — the most hotly anticipated technology since the iPhone and the iPad — will lead a revolution in wearable devices that will change how people interact with technology — and one another. But first it has to win over the public.
Curley is just the kind of poster child Google wants for Glass. He wears it between six and eight hours a day to send text messages to his wife, take photographs and videos of his two daughters, and look up directions. He even taught his 3-year-old to take pictures with it.
The Internet giant plans to begin selling the device later this year.