Some people whisper, "I think that's Google Glass." Others stop and ask, "How do you like it? How does it even work?" And then some just pull out their phones and snap a picture.
They all have something in common, though. They want to know what it is like to be looking through the other side of the glass -- Google Glass, that is.
For close to a year, Google has been teasing its connected glasses, which overlays digital information in the real world. And earlier this week, I finally got a pair. I purchased one of the first $1,500 Explorer Edition models, put them on my face and started to see what it is like to live life with a tiny screen in front of my right eye. So what have I been seeing, besides lots of people taking photos of me? What is it like to see the world through a digital lens?
Here are some answers.
How do they work?
First, let's talk about the contraption that's been drawing all that attention. The glasses, as you can clearly see, are not like your typical spectacles. Inside the right arm are the parts of a smartphone-- a processor, 16GB of storage, a Bluetooth radio, a small battery and more.
On the front, you have that star of the show -- a small little glass square. That's the screen, and when you put the glasses on you can adjust them so that it sits slightly above the top of your right eye. If worn right it really doesn't obscure your line of vision. No, I haven't been walking into walls. In fact, when I picked up my Glass, a Google employee (or Glass Guide) fit me for them and showed me how to slightly glance up to see the screen. You can also adjust or swivel that screen when you have it on to bring it closer in or out from your eye.
(If you're a leftie and wondering why everything is on the right side, it's a good question. Google doesn't have plans at the moment to make a left-sided pair; it says most people are right-eye dominant.)
The glasses pair with your phone to get connectivity. There is iPhone support now for some functions, but Android support is much deeper. Using the Android MyGlass app you can configure the connection and even use a Screencast feature, which mirrors the Glass display on the phone. (An iPhone app is coming, though Google wouldn't give me a firm timeframe on when.) You pair them with your phone via Bluetooth and if you have Bluetooth tethering you can use your phone's 3G or 4G connection. If you don't, you can connect both the Glass and the phone to WiFi. Without connectivity, you can still take photos and video, though.
To the right of that glass box is a 5-megapixel camera. There's a button on the top of the glasses for taking photos, but the easiest way to control that camera is with your voice.
How do you control them?
And your voice is one of the two modes of controlling Glass. You can navigate the screen either through voice commands or by using the trackpad on the right arm of the glass. That entire arm is touch-sensitive: sliding your finger on it allows you to move through the Glass interface and tapping once on it lets you make selections.
You also have two choices of how you can wake up the glasses: Tap on that arm, or tilt your head back. Tipping your head back looks incredibly awkward but it's one of the easiest ways to get the glasses' attention.
Similarly, it looks very odd when you talk to the glasses or yourself, but it is one of the easiest ways to get to some of the basic functions. All you have to do is say aloud, "O.K., Glass, take a picture" and the glasses will snap a photo. "O.K., Glass, Google ABC News" and you'll get some basic news results on the screen.