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    Is Google Glass the next (slow-selling) Segway?

    ‘‘This is like having the Internet in your eye socket,’’ Sarah Hill said. ‘‘But it’s less intrusive than I thought it would be.”
    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press/File 2013
    ‘‘This is like having the Internet in your eye socket,’’ Sarah Hill said. ‘‘But it’s less intrusive than I thought it would be.”

    SAN FRANCISCO — Geeks aren’t the only ones wearing Google Glass.

    Among the people testing Google Inc.’s wearable computer are teachers, dentists, doctors, radio disc jockeys, hair stylists, architects, athletes, and even a zookeeper.

    Some 10,000 people are trying out an early version of Glass, most of them selected as part of a contest.


    To get a sense of the advantages and drawbacks of the device, the Associated Press spoke to three Glass owners who have been using the device since late spring: Sarah Hill, a former TV broadcaster and current military veterans advocate; David Levy, a hiking enthusiast and small-business owner; and Deborah Lee, a stay-at-home mom.

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    Glass is designed to work like a smartphone that’s worn like a pair of glasses. The device is capturing imaginations beyond the realm of nerds.

    The trio’s favorite feature, by far, is the hands-free camera, which shoots photos and video on voice commands. (Images can also be captured by pressing a small button.)

    They also liked being able to connect to the Internet simply by tapping on the right frame of Glass to turn it on and then swiping along the same side to scroll through a menu. That menu allows them to do such things as get directions on Google’s map or find a piece of information through Google’s search engine. The information is shown on a thumbnail-size transparent screen attached just above the right eye to stay out of a user’s field of vision.

    Among the biggest shortcomings they cited was Glass’s short battery life, especially if a lot of video is taken. Although Google says Glass should last for an entire day on a single battery charge for the typical user, Hill said there were times when she ran out of power after 90 minutes to two hours during periods when she was recording a lot of video.


    Glass’s speaker, which relies on bone-conduction technology, also is inadequate, according to the testers. They said the speaker, which transmits sound through the skull, can be difficult to hear in any environment other than a quiet room.

    ‘‘If you are out in the street or anywhere else where there is any noise, it’s impossible to hear,’’ Lee said. ‘‘That has been challenging because there is no way to adjust it. If you could adjust the sound, I think it would solve a lot of problems.’’

    Hill, 42, a resident of Columbia, Mo., became a Glass evangelist shortly after she picked up the device at Google’s New York offices in late May. As the AP watched her get fitted with Glass though a video feed on Google’s Hangout chat service, Hill quickly began to rave about her ability to take hands-free pictures and fetch information from the Web simply by asking the device to get it.

    ‘‘This is like having the Internet in your eye socket,’’ Hill said. ‘‘But it’s less intrusive than I thought it would be. I can totally see how this would still let you still be in the moment with the people around you.’’

    The liberating aspects of Glass came into sharper focus for Hill as she took a cab to the airport for her flight back to Missouri. During the taxi ride, she began a video call on Google Hangout with people living in Austria, the United Kingdom, and St. Louis. As the cab was preparing to drop her off at the curb, Hill was about to end the call so she could carry her baggage. Then came her first Glass epiphany.


    ‘‘That’s when it hit me that, ‘Holy cow, I don’t have to cut the call off,’’’ Hill recalled. ‘‘I could continue talking because I didn’t have to hold a phone. So I carried on a conversation through the airport and people were staring at me like, ‘What is that thing on your face?’’’

    Hill, a former news anchor and reporter for KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo., believes Glass is destined to transform broadcast journalism by empowering reporters to capture compelling images at scenes without the need for cumbersome equipment. She likens it to having a satellite TV truck that only weighs 1.5 ounces. Glass also would make it easier for reporters to field questions from viewers through the Twitter app or through direct texts.

    Lee, a New York City resident, has been relying on Glass mostly to capture precious moments with her 9-month-old, Maddie. Her favorite moment came when she photographed some of her daughter’s first giggles a couple of months ago. Lee, 34, told Glass to take the pictures as she as tickled and kissed her daughter’s tummy.

    ‘‘Obviously, you can’t do that with a phone in your hand, so I am totally loving Glass,’’ Lee said. ‘‘It has really been great.’’

    Glass also allowed Lee to set up live video sessions with her parents in Oregon so they could see Maddie eat her first solid food just as she saw it.

    Glass has impressed Levy, 39, who wears it mainly to take pictures and video of some of the trails charted by, an online hiking site he co-owns in Boulder, Colo. His objective is to share more of the Continental Divide with schoolchildren in hopes it will inspire them to do more outdoor exploration.

    ‘‘I was wondering if Glass would feel like a burden or part of my hiking equipment. It actually feels pretty cool,’’ Levy said. ‘‘They are totally fine on my head and don’t block any of my view. When you see something interesting, you can immediately have a camera on it.”

    Glass’s ability to take hands-free pictures and video has raised concerns among privacy watchdogs, who say the device will make it easier to secretly record people. But Levy is convinced that what Glass can do isn’t much different than what many people already do with smartphones. To prove his point, Levy used his iPhone to record a conversation he was having with a friend who was railing against the privacy risks posed by Glass. ‘‘I recognize that Glass can make people uncomfortable, but I have to say the privacy issues are a specious concern,’’ Levy said.

    Some analysts question whether Glass will have mass appeal. Skeptics who have seen the early participants walking around wearing Glass say it will eventually be remembered as a geeky curiosity that never lived up to its hype, similar to the Segway, the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters that remain an anomaly more than a decade after they first went on sale.