Google Glass enthusiast: It's not worth the headaches

Chris Barrett, who was first to take Google Glass into a casino and also said he was first to film an arrest with Glass, finds he gets too many headaches. He's also lost his enthusiasm for the gadget.

Chris Matyszczyk
4 min read
Barrett is in the middle. His Glass is in his hand. Chris Barrett (with permission)

When the novelty wears off, do you stop wearing the novelty all together?

And what if the novelty is proving to be more of a pain than you ever imagined?

These seem to be the thoughts that have coursed through the head of Chris Barrett, who once prided himself on being a Google Glass Explorer but now worries that it has affected his health.

Barrett is the PR man who was first to take Google Glass into a casino (and not get thumped by someone twice his size).

He also claimed to be the first to film an arrest with Google Glass, as well as getting Bon Jovi's keyboard player to wear his Google Glass during a concert.

In tech, though, time is a very speedy and precarious concept. Though Barrett joined the Explorer Program in June 2013, he hasn't worn his glasses for more than an hour in total since January 1.

There are two reasons. One is persistent headaches.

He told me:

The first headache came during the first week of wearing Glass. I was wearing Glass every day, all day long; I would wear it to Starbucks; I would wear it to the mall; I would wear it driving, and I would wear it at my office. There wasn't a minute I didn't have it on. By the second day wearing Glass, I was Googling everything I could, impressed with the novelty, demonstrating for friends, taking photos/videos. After a few hours of use, my head started to pound. I don't usually get headaches. I thought maybe I was just tired, so I decided to sleep it off.

The second headache came about four to five weeks later, when he was being filmed by a Korean documentary film crew. They were shooting him and his fun wearing Google Glass. During this shoot, he says, he was wearing the glasses 8 hours a day.

The headache was far worse than the first time. He told me: "It hurt so badly that I had to go straight home and sleep."

Barrett became convinced that prolonged Glass-wearing was causing him -- someone with no previous pattern of headaches -- to suffer.

He wondered, though, if he was alone. So he went to the private Google Glass community site to see whether anyone else had experienced difficulties.

There, he says, he found someone who, for example, had to keep his glasses high up on his nose to see the bottom of the display. This meant he had to look up very high, which he believes triggered headaches.

Others, Barrett says, acknowledged discomfort when having to look toward the right corner of Glass. One Explorer found that only his left eye experienced difficulties.

Google frames Glass with new styles and shades (pictures)

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There are also some Explorers on Twitter who admit to discomfort.

Google is confident Glass doesn't carry with it potential health hazards.

A company spokesperson told me: "Of course health and safety are extremely important to the Glass team, and we've been working with eye care professionals from the very beginning to ensure that the device is safe for use. In our help center, we do encourage new Explorers to ease into Glass, just as they would a new pair of glasses."

Google also suggests that concerned Explorers contact its Glass team to see whether the glasses are fitting correctly.

It will be harder, however, for Google to address Barrett's other concern with Glass. Having severely limited his usage, he's finding that he neither misses the device, nor sees a compelling continued use for it.

He told me: "I have it on my desk every day, but I just don't have a good enough reason to wear it. It's not worth the headache. I get my e-mails on my laptop or iPhone if I'm on the go."

There's an old-fashioned approach to life for you.

It's not even as if Barrett has been pulling out Glass much for special occasions. He admitted: "Since October, I've traveled around the world with Google Glass, from the Dublin Web Summit to LeWeb in Paris to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Glass was in my bag for each of these trips, and in my bag it stayed."

This volte-face echoes that of renowned tech personality Robert Scoble, who once posed wearing Glass in the shower yet now believes it is "doomed," at least for now.

Barrett actually wobbled in Utah, wondering if he should shoot some of the red carpet premieres with Google Glass. Instead: "I just used my Canon DSLR."

His experience has persuaded him that Google Glass should include a health warning:

I think there should be a warning that comes with Glass; that if you start to get a headache, you should limit your use. Not everybody who wears Glass will make the connection, especially people who are prone to headaches. I can't imagine the effect Glass could have on migraine suffers or those with other neurological conditions.

Barrett shouldn't be mistaken for anything other than a Glass enthusiast (and talented publicist, of course). When he noticed that he was having trouble seeing the Glass graphics in sunny weather, he got together with the designers at Next Fab Studio to create the Google Glass 3D Printed Sunshade.

This had the fortunate (or not) side effect of masking the light that shows when the Glass camera is in use, which might help a Glass-wearer with a certain bent on exploration.

When it comes to his headaches, it's instructive that Barrett doesn't ache for a product whose existence he once so championed.

Where once he was desperate to get it into the hands of a New Jersey band, now he seems content that his head doesn't hurt. He believes it caused excessive eyestrain and he has decided that "the easier solution at this point is to just not to wear them for extended periods of time."

Once, he wore it well. Now he can hardly bear to wear it at all. That's fashion for you.