|Google Glass Explorers at Edison Ford Estate // All photos by Maureen Stone|
|Explorer Jeris Miller fits Mr. Edison with Google Glass|
The beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, the Gulf coast destination in southwest Florida, recently hosted a group of social media gurus to beta test the new hands-free Google Glass “wearable computer” that allows users to instantly post pictures, videos and descriptive text onto social media web sites using only voice commands. The Google product, currently an eyeglass frame device with an activation bar and mini-display screen in its upper right corner, is not yet available to the public, but is a work in lengthy beta test development that may be introduced by Google to the market in 2014. The Google Glass connects to the web via Wi-Fi or an Android or iPhone.
The Google Glass guests were participating in one of the first travel destination beta tests of the “Explorer” edition of the device, according to event hosts from the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and its public relations firm of record MMGY Global, based in Kansas City, with an office in Fort Myers.
The meeting of Google Glass experts in Fort Myers was facilitated by Robert Patterson, vice president of social and influencer marketing for MMGY Global. Patterson is himself a beta taster for the Google technology that drew the other testers to the Florida destination. Tamara Pigott, executive director of the Lee County VCB, which markets itself as “The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel,” said her destination is one that likes to stay ahead of the curve in using social media to reach its consumer and travel trade audiences.
Google Glass Explorers
“We want to use their [social media] power to promote our destination,” Pigott said. “We pride ourselves on being cutting edge…each one of these participants has thousands of influencers.” Pigott added that the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel now has 200,000 followers on Facebook, which she described as one of the highest number of followers of any Florida destination. Each of the invited social media experts has several thousand followers, primarily on Twitter, Facebook and Google +.
The five social media “explorers” in the Google Glass experience on the Fort Myers beaches included:
• Jeris Miller (Twitter: @dakinik_3), a Seattle-based content developer for Google, Microsoft, Intel and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
• George “Loki” Williams IV (Twitter: @SocialGumbo), a New Orleans web content specialist who founded HumidCity.com and co-manages Planewalker.com.
• Eva Smith (Twitter: @Eva_Smith), based Los Angeles, is founder and publisher of Tech Food Life Magazine. She was designated a top blogger to watch by USA Today.
• Keith Kaplan (Twitter: @KrazyKaplan14), is a New York-based social brand strategist for IBM with a master’s from Columbia Univ. in instructional technology and media.
• Hilary Topper (Twitter: @hilary25) of Long Beach, NY, wrote Everything You Wanted to Know About Social Media but Were Afraid to Ask and hosts a blog talk radio show.
|Sitting room in the Thomas Edison Estate|
Engaging in several activities in the Fort Myers area beaches over three days, the Google Glass explorers instantly blogged data, photos and videos of their experiences to their thousands of followers on Google + at the address #findyourisland. Among the activities were a kayaking tour of the Tarpon Bay bird and wildlife estuary; a parasailing experience by Ranalli Parasail over Fort Myers Beach; a cooking competition at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill on Fort Myers Beach; a tour of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, a sunset on Fort Myers Beach, and a cruise to the Cabbage Key Inn on Cabbage Key. The guests were hosted at the ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island.
|Rainbow over Fisherman's Wharf at Fort Myers Beach|
|Explorers (from front) Williams, Topper and Smith in taco cookoff|
Blogger Reactions to Fort Myers’ Beaches
Blogger Eva Smith shared with Travel Agent some of her thoughts on the Fort Myers beaches experience over dinner at Doc Ford’s. “There is a lot of beauty in our country that people have not seen,” said Smith. “Fort Myers here is a gem and people don’t know about it. It is so beautiful that you can’t help but share it. It is so beautiful, so natural and there is lots of history.”
In several posts that Lee County VCB officials were anticipating in the Google + explorers’ documentation (#findyourisland) of the weekend, blogger Jeris Miller commented that “I found my happy place.” She described herself in a photo caption of a beach sunset as “searching for the elusive ‘green’ flash during an extraordinary sunset on the beach at ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island, FL....”
A Google+ post by blogger Keith Kaplan stated: “Thanks for the great times team! We truly are the Glass Squad. Definitely going to be coming back to the Beaches of Ft. Myers and Sanibel.” And blogger Smith wrote of one of her last weekend experiences that “Cabbage Key is beautiful! Walk in as a visitor and leave feeling like family.”
In a press announcement following the weekend, officials of the Lee County VCB declared explorer Jeris Miller as the “winner” of the Google Glass challenge for her posts during the weekend, but all of the explorers presented consistently positive responses to the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel in the photo, video and data recordings of their experiences.
Google Glass was described by several participants as still in its “clunky” infancy of development, comparable to the early “brick cellphone” that was the forerunner of today’s fourth-generation smart phone. Much needs to be done, including steam lining the Google Glass eyewear frames to be compatible with prescription lenses, and for mini-monitors to rest on the left eye frame as well as the right. That said, much potential exists for a future travel agent application of the wearable computer in which agents could take existing and potential clients along on their own travel destination explorations by sharing real-time Google Glass data and video images while offering their agent expertise, comments and recommendations for future bookings