Google Glass Diaries Record Life From The Point Of View Of People Whose Stories Don’t Get Told

From a Burmese pay phone operator to a Thai kickboxer, filmmaker Josh Kim is using Google Glass to let people show their own surprising perspectives.

Google Glass is a rare but unsurprising sight at bars in San Francisco and in the the halls of events like SXSW. Filmmaker Josh Kim, however, has taken Glass to a few more far-flung places, from the street markets of Burma to boxing rings in Thailand.


With his Google Glass Diaries project, Kim is working to produce 100 short chronicles of the lives of people in different professions around the world, told from their point of view. So far, he’s filmed about a dozen clips in places his regular travels happen to take him: Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, and soon South Korea.

The films are short takes, usually about one or two minutes long, that give just a flavor of a person’s life. The subject, whether a Thai fortune teller or a Burmese pay phone operator, wears Glass and tells his or her story in a voiceover with the footage. The best stories, he says, are from people who have a special point of view in jobs that are otherwise hard to see or understand. They also have a good personal story and an interesting look or voice.

“[With Glass,] we can see more intimate moments and also the ones that we kind of miss already, because a smartphone takes too long to pull out,” says Kim. “And when you have a big bulky camera, the most funny things or the most interesting things usually happen when you put the camera down.”

People have had a wide array of reaction to his work with Glass. The poorer the person Kim interacted with, the less excited they were about the strange device. In a country like Burma, they just assumed Glass was another fancy but common U.S. gadget they hadn’t heard about. Only people in higher classes found Kim’s use of Glass to be noteworthy. Few of the countries he’s visited so far have high smartphone penetration with good data service, so Glass mostly seems just like a different kind of camera.

Kim isn’t the only filmmaker experimenting with the new perspectives that Google Glass can bring. A team in Brooklyn have produced a 30-minute documentary, filmed partly with Glass, to tell the stories of two communities who live near each other but hardly interact (see “What It’s Like To Watch A Documentary With Google Glass“).

As word gets out about his work, Kim is starting to get requests to film marginalized people whose stories rarely get told. In Thailand, a transgender group has raised $400 for him to come visit a school in the countryside which employs transgender teachers. And sex workers in Thailand have also raised funds for Kim to visit, so they too can film a clip with Glass. When he visits Seoul soon, he plans to post films with defectors from North Korea.


There’s a form on his website so anyone can suggest a person or a story to be told.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.