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Wear it well: Time to establish Google Glass etiquette

May 5, 2013 at 12:05 PM ET

Google Glass
Anthony Quintano / NBC News
Watch where you point that thing! Not everyone is comfortable around Glass

Only a few people are running around with the futuristic Google Glass headgear right now — Googlers, developers, journalists and a few other early adopters. But the fact that the thing can record video and take pictures wherever you look makes the demand for a Google Glass etiquette high, even in infancy. How should Glass wearers treat others? And how should others behave around these so-called "Gla**holes"?

For about five days, I've been wearing it almost non-stop during waking hours. This means I've taken it on dates, to the office, to the bathroom, to press events, to musical performances, to parks, on subway rides, into shops and more.

It's surprising how quickly I got used to wearing Glass. Occasionally I forget I am wearing it — and that I might be making other people feel uncomfortable. After all, it's a freakin' head-mounted computer with a built-in camera and it stands out like a sore thumb. In addition to shooting pics and video, it'll search Google, give directions, send texts and email and more — all it takes is a tap or two of the touchpad on the right temple or a simple voice command along the lines of "OK Glass. Record a video."

Hey! Wait! Stop! What is that?
Glass draws attention. A lot of attention.

I've had a guy walk past me and then quickly double back to chat me up about Glass. Another fella nearly got smacked by his date because he spent part of dinner staring at me, much to my own dining companion's amusement. Once, a girl gasped and shouted "Google Glass! Cool!" as I walked by.

Sometimes it's fun to bask in the attention Glass draws. At other times, you just want to get from point A to point B without stopping to answer questions about the weird headset. So let's make the first rule of the Google Glass Club: It's OK to talk about the Google Glass Club. But it's also OK to keep the chat (politely) short.

You're not recording this, right?
Not everyone is OK with the idea of a camera constantly pointed at his or her face. Glass doesn't have a blinking red light to indicate when it's recording, but its display glows when in use. Explaining this to people you encounter — and showing them how it looks — makes things a bit more comfortable.

Google Glass
Anthony Quintano / NBC News
Many Glass wearers don't mind showing off the gadget. And if you ask nicely, like Jim Witherell (pictured here, trying out my Glass), odds are that they'll show it to you.

It is possible to accidentally activate Glass, however. This can easily happen if you vigorously nod your head. Once the screen lights up, you're just a verbal command away from taking a picture or video, and that will definitely set some people on edge.

In these instances, it's time to put Glass away, or at least point it somewhere else. Besides packing it away in its lovely pouch, there are a few techniques, to which we've ascribed silly names. (The first two were named by members of the Google Glass team; the second two are our own.)

  • The Californian - This is my go-to move when I enter a bathroom. It just means that you put Glass on top of your head just as you would a pair of sunglasses.
  • The LeBeau - Named after a Google engineer, this move involves turning Glass upside down and placing it across the back of your neck.
  • The Sidearm - This is how I tend to wear Glass when I want to emphasize that I am fully focused on a conversation. It's the LeBeau, only sideways.
  • The Tourist - You can let Glass dangle from the front of your shirt. It's a bit awkward as the gadget's arms don't bend, but with a little bit of practice, you can make it work.
Google Glass
Anthony Quintano / NBC News
Alex Eslahi shows off the Tourist, while Michael Sanders demonstrates the LeBeau.

Don't make so much noise
One of the benefits of Glass is that it obeys all kinds of voice commands — you can tell it to take a picture, record video, search Google, send a message, initiate a video chat and so on.

However, it's important to remember that Glass can also take touch input. Use that when you can — because it's a bit obnoxious if you're wandering around, constantly shouting things like "OK Glass. Take a picture."

Google Glass
Anthony Quintano / NBC News
Hannah Godwin tries out the Californian and Anthony Quintano attempts the Sidearm.

You're not above the rules
"Can't take pictures in here," a Hermes boutique sales associate made clear, with a slightly apologetic look on his face, after I let him try Glass and explained some of the commands and features. No worries, I didn't try to disobey that rule — I just wanted to look at a cute bracelet — but I found it to be a good reminder that Glass wearers need to pay attention to the same signs and rules as those who lug around cameras. There are some places where you can't take pictures.

Don't be offended if someone asks you to put away Glass in those situations. Or even better yet: Just LeBeau it as soon as you enter the place. It'll make things more comfortable for everyone involved.

And non-Glass-wearers? Have some trust. Just because someone looks like an evil cyborg from the future doesn't mean that he or she will immediately try to fight you on basic rules or sneakily circumvent them.

Think, Pooh Bear, think
When all else fails, there's one basic "rule" that applies to those wearing Glass and those not wearing Glass alike: Use common sense. Don't do things that might make someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Don't be obnoxious. Be respectful.

Want more tech news or interesting links? You'll get plenty of both if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.

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