Google takes a tiny step toward fixing Glass's reputation

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Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Google Glass hasn’t exactly been a marketing triumph for the company. The innovative wearable-computing eyewear has inspired violence, vicious mocking, and its own epithet for those who wear it: The Glasshole. One possible reason for the backlash is that regular folks never had the chance to see, touch, or try the things for themselves. For most of Glass’ existence, you had to be “invited” to buy them. And even once they were available to anyone willing fork over $1,500 for a pair, they were only available online, so there was no way to actually try on the darn things without putting a massive hold on your credit card.

See also: How Google Glass set wearable computing back 10 years

That’s all beginning to change, at least in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where Google has opened physical locations where people interested in Glass can pick up their purchases, get “fitted,” and get service. Critically, even window shoppers can get a demo of the devices without having to actually buy one.

That’s a tiny but essential step from transforming Google Glass from a creepy, mysterious oddity into a product that ordinary (that is, non-rich, non-tech-connected) people might actually want to buy and figure out ways to use.

I say “tiny” because there are still many barriers to normalizing the Glass experience:

  • First, these retail outlets are located in just three cities, and Google isn’t saying whether more are on the way.
  • Second, you can’t just walk into one of these establishments. They’re not at street level, and you have to set up an appointment online in advance. (When I checked the scheduling site, no July appointments were available in San Francisco, and I couldn’t find a way to schedule farther in advance. Appointments were available in New York and LA.)
  • Third, they’re called “Basecamps,” for heaven’s sake. It’s not enough that Google insists on calling Glass users “Explorers;” the company seems intent on making every aspect of the experience seem awkward and over managed.

If the retail Basecamps are anything like the environment where I picked up Glass (and it seems to be at the same address in San Francisco), they resemble snooty, solicitous high-end boutiques, with hushed tones, spare design, catered food and drinks, and terrifyingly helpful and enthusiastic staff (sort of a cross between Abercrombie & Fitch salesclerks and Stepford Wives). A casual shopper just interested in learning more would likely feel completely intimidated.

Don’t get me wrong - these Basecamp stores (sorry, I can’t stop giggling every time I think of the name) are clearly a step in the right direction. As more people get to try Google Glass, whether or not they end up buying them, it should help dissipate some of the fear and misinformation surrounding the controversial devices.

They say that even the longest journey begins with a single step. That’s a good thing, because Google’s journey to Glass acceptance is a very long one, and this step is a very small one, taken very late in the rollout process.

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