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Google Glass gaining buzz, with or without SXSW

Come the middle of March, and it seems everyone who’s anyone in Nashville wants to be in one place: not here.

Instead, these so-called forward-thinkers are heading to or wishing they were at South by Southwest, the Austin, Texas music/tech/film festival that seems to get bigger and bigger each year and has the track record of finding the next big thing.

While I have personally never gone to the event, some of my professors have gone to the event in the past and left twice the energy as they had coming in. One of roommates is even there this year with a list of bands he’s ready to see and report back on.

And while the festival energizes the people that attend, it also can bring attention to the technology, applications and personalities everyone will be talking about months from now.

Twitter and Foursquare both found their spark while in Texas, as did a pre-heartthrob John Mayer in 2000 and a pre-critic’s darling Lena Dunham in 2010.

From the reports coming out this year though, it seems like nothing is grasping the attention of the crowd like it had in years past. Heck, the biggest first-day story revolved around tech blog Mashable bringing online star Grumpy Cat to their booth.

However that lack of buzz was sure to end soon (Thank goodness, I thought, because stories about my alter ego were getting hard to read). Google was coming to Austin with the one gadget everyone wanted to hear about – Google Glass, the augmented reality glasses that took the tech world by storm when it was officially announced months ago.

And if you haven’t seen the Google’s first video about Glass, stop what you’re doing now, open a new tab and watch it. If you’re not amazed with the video or the product, you may need to be check your eyes – or maybe your soul. The video showed how smoothly the little box in front of your face can fit and enhance everyday experiences.

Back in Austin, reaction to the search engine’s pet project was mixed, but not because of the content itself. While most people were at least intrigued by Glass, some pundits were disappointed Google chose not to overly promote them.

Instead, the company had a select number of people wear them around town and presented the product and a handful of apps it will work with, including the New York Times and Evernote. While some bloggers say Glass “won” the conference in a way, others contend their splash should have been bigger and better managed to capture the conference’s imagination like Twitter and Foursquare did.

Maybe, others warn, this will reflect how the public will react to the augmented reality hardware when it likely comes out next year. While groundbreaking, it may not generate the widespread buzz and word-of-mouth appeal of an iPhone or a Facebook app to become a phenomenon.

But even if Glass doesn’t meet the hype, that video still deserves major credit for capturing the human experience and tying it so deftly into their prototype of a product. If Glass can connect like that with buyers on an individual level, it may not matter what all they did or didn’t do at SXSW.

Who knows? The next big thing may not have needed the help.

Vision editor Brian Wilson is a senior journalism major.

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