On a Sunday morning in New York City this April, Katy Kasmai walked into the East Village restaurant Feast with a computer on her face. Kasmai is the founder of Glass NYC, an 800-strong group that thinks the future has arrived in the form of Google Glass—the $1,500 eyewear that gives directions, checks e-mail and texts, and shoots photos and video. It's those last two functions that had offended Feast patrons in the past. Glass doesn't bleep when recording, and diners, not wanting to be taped downing their Benedicts, had complained to the owner, Brian Ghaw. Which is why he asked Kasmai to take it off. "It's like a dress code—if someone walks in without a shirt, that would make guests uncomfortable," Ghaw says. "We'd have to ask them to leave or put a shirt on." Kasmai denied filming and left—then posted about the incident on Google+, inspiring one-star reviews of Feast from people who'd never even eaten there.
Having trouble choosing sides? Don't bother. Kasmai didn't violate the health code, but inciting an angry mob to hurt a business is a dick move. It's no wonder the Internet has anointed Kasmai a Glasshole (the expression of choice coined when the first wearers surfaced in early 2013) for acting like she was being persecuted for wearing them in public. If this dust-up sounds familiar, it's because nearly every Glasshole has a tech connection—Kasmai runs an online-voting start-up. When there's pushback IRL, they write about it, and the tech press amplifies it or ridicules it or both. Take what happened to writer Kyle Russell: He left a San Francisco protest targeting a Google executive's role in rising rents and had his Glass smashed. "It's an extension of the broader San Francisco anti-tech sentiment that's popped up over the past few years." says TechCrunch reporter Ryan Lawler, who first documented the term Glasshole online. "When you put a computer on your face, you're making yourself a target for that antagonism." Valleywag's Sam Biddle compared it to "wearing a 'W' pin in D.C. during the waning of the Bush administration." Still, Russell "didn't deserve to have his thing destroyed."
What Biddle was saying is that for every Glasshole there's an equal and opposite Asshole. It's undeniable: In 2014, wearing Google Glass is the equivalent of walking around with a sandwich board advertising the fact that you didn't go to the prom. But come 2024, we'll all be wearing a pair. With rare exceptions—the Segway, Bluetooth headsets—society embraces progress. The Daily Show recently lambasted Glass—just as it did camera phones a decade ago. Of course, Assholes aren't Luddites; they know Glass mainlining is inevitable. The assaults are a product of worries about privacy violations. It creeps people out to think they're being "watched" without their consent, even if they're not (the irony being that anyone in a major city is photographed by security cameras a thousand times a day). "There is a bit of entitlement to say, 'Just because I'm not filming you, you should be comfortable that I'm wearing it,'" Russell admits. "I think that signifies a lack of empathy for the societal norm."
In Google's defense, Glass is still in beta (so it has an excuse for sucking). Still, it needs to look a hell of a lot cooler in a hurry, which is why Google is partnering with luxury giant Luxottica. The problem is wearable tech persists in looking . . . like wearable tech, no matter how many talented industrial designers companies throw at the stuff. "Glasses are an emotional thing," says eyewear designer Garrett Leight. "I'm fitting people with something that goes on their face, which the world looks at. Anytime anybody tries to mix fashion and technology, I say, 'What would Steve Jobs think?' He would laugh at this."
If Google's partnership with Luxottica can make texts appear on our Wayfarers, God bless 'em. Until then, Glassholes and Assholes can have each other.
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