How Should Google Respond after Anti-Glass Attack?

Sarah Slocum wearing Google Glass. (Sagesse Gwinn Graham / CBS)
Sarah Slocum wearing Google Glass. (Sagesse Gwinn Graham / CBS)

Since it’s debut a little over a year ago, Google Glass has landed some negative press for its involvement in alleged movie taping and speeding tickets. Add a bar fight to the growing list of problems for the wearable tech product.

For the tech giant, creating the potentially revolutionary product was the easy part. Now comes the hard part—deciding whether or how to help people use it in a society that may not be ready to accept it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a San Francisco woman claims to have been assaulted in a bar this past weekend after she refused to stop recording video with her Google Glass. Sarah Slocum, a tech writer and member of the Glass Explorer Program—a group for people who test Glass—was giving demonstrations of her device to curious patrons of a Haight Street bar when a group took issue with potentially being recording in public. A confrontation broke out in which the Glass was allegedly ripped off of Slocum’s face by a man who ran out of the bar.

“I got verbally and physically asaulted [sic] and robbed last night in the city, had things thrown at me because of some wanker Google Glass haters,” Slocum wrote in a Facebook post after the incident.

One of the most divisive issues surrounding Google Glass since its introduction has been its lack of an external indicator light to let people know that it’s in use. Fears of secret recording have dogged the product, since it looks the same in active video recording mode as it does when not in use. For Slocum’s alleged attackers, though, it doesn’t sound like an indicator light would have made much of a difference, as she was apparently not trying to hide that she was recording in the bar.

The question remains for Google—should the company tell people when and where to use their products? In Slocum’s case, they at least appear eager to help.

Sarah Price, a Google employee and member of the Glass team, reached out to Slocum on Facebook, saying, “…I work on Glass and I’m so sorry to hear about this. I tweeted at you too, but I’d love to hear more about what happened. If you’re up to it, let me know."

The incident is another in a series of growing pains for the experimental product, which has been both hailed as the future of electronics and derided as a fad. In October, a California woman was ticketed for wearing Google Glass while operating a motor vehicle (that case was eventually thrown out of court), and in January Department of Homeland Security officials questioned a man for wearing the device in a movie theater.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene