Hilton Head Island musician and self-proclaimed geek Jolyn Bowler had a problem -- she wanted to be able to read lyric sheets more easily while singing and playing guitar.
Little did she know she'd have to leap into the future to find the solution.
Bowler is a Google Glass explorer, one of thousands of people chosen to test out the hands-free device that allows users to check email, browse the Web, take and upload photos, and do everything else a computer does -- all from a futuristic-looking contraption that rests on a person's head much like eyeglasses do. It's operated with simple swipes and spoken commands, such as, "OK, Glass, take a picture." To turn it on, Bowler just taps the side, slides her finger forward or slowly raises her head up and then back down again.
"Google said their goal was to bring technology closer to the user," said Bowler, who owns a computer consulting business called A Click Away. "And you can't get much closer than in your face."
Google does not have statistics on how many explorers there are, according to Google Glass VIP support specialist Cory Jones, but he estimates that number to be in the tens of thousands.
The cost to purchase Google Glass is $1,500 plus tax, but you can't just go to a store and buy Glass. It is only available through the Glass Explorer Program.
Last year, Google sent out this tweet: #ifihadglass, challenging the public to tweet or post on Google+ about what they would do if they had their own Google Glass. Bowler went online and explained how the technology would help her with her music.
In June, she received an email from Google, inviting her to become an explorer.
"I thought about it for maybe three minutes," Bowler said. "And even though I didn't have the money -- I probably should've spent it on something else -- I couldn't resist."
She and a friend left for New York City on a Tuesday in July to pick up her Glass.
Within an hour of arriving at Google, she was taking pictures with Glass on her way out of the building.
While wearing a computer on one's head might seem like a huge change, Bowler said Glass has not changed her life dramatically -- but it has made some things a lot easier. Now she doesn't have to pick up her phone or even touch it to answer a call. She takes a lot more photos because she has Glass. With the second-generation Glass, all she has to do is wink to take a photo. She can listen to music through Google Play on Glass. She gets weather updates and appointment reminders.
She gets all the latest news from The Associated Press, The New York Times and CNN. She can look up a recipe. She even has a birding app that shows what birds have been spotted nearby. Glass tells her what restaurants are in the area, and she can use it like a GPS. All she has to do is tell it where she wants to go, and Glass will give her step-by-step directions.
Bowler thinks Glass is better than a GPS.
"Because it's like glancing into a rearview mirror, it's not distracting, if you actually have to glance," Bowler said. "You don't have to because it tells you turn by turn, just like the GPS or your navigator on your phone. But you don't have to look down or take your eyes off the road."
Glass has even motivated Bowler to get out and about in nature. She enjoys taking photos and videos while she rides her trike around town.
"The opportunity to enhance what we do in life, I think, is why I'm so excited about this kind of technology," she said.
Bowler said it was not hard at all to get used to using Glass. The first two days, she wore it for only two hours and would experience some eye strain. But soon after, she forgot it was even on.
Bowler wears her Glass six to eight hours a day most days.
She gets stopped by strangers all the time. But she doesn't mind. She loves talking about Glass. She usually offers to take a photo of the people she meets so she can email it to them and they can see the high-quality photos the device takes.
Bowler's favorite part about Glass is the community of users. She talks to other explorers online and recently got to meet another user.
A man found Bowler on Google+ and contacted her to say he was coming to Hilton Head for a convention. The two met up.
"The feeling of seeing somebody with Glass, it was like this little buzz," she said. "It was just wonderful to share. It is something unique at this point, so it was fun to see somebody else."
Bowler really appreciates that Glass allows her to keep her head up so she can interact with the people around her. Nowadays, people are constantly looking down at their phones or tablets. She said Glass brings people back to an upright position.
Bowler recently received her Glass version 2 hardware to replace the version 1 she had in the beginning. The newer version allows her to have Glass fitted with her prescription lenses. She is still trying to decide which prescription lens format to get.
Bowler said Glass is paving the way for other types of head-up or head-mounted displays in the future, and she thinks eventually, most people will have something similar to it.
She is still working on figuring out how to convert her lyric sheets so she can view them through Glass. She can view the lyrics on a webpage, but she would rather not have to see all the extraneous stuff on the site.
But Bowler is not going to give up. She will get it figured out.
"I continue to learn from, am challenged by and evolve with Glass," she said.
Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.