Chicago Through the Eyes of Google Glass

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To celebrate the return of our seasonal route to Chicago, we challenged professional Chicago-based snapper Clayton Hauck to photograph the city using nothing but Google Glass.

Google Glass is a fully interactive wearable gadget that allows you to capture your experience by taking a photo or recording a video, simply by saying a command. The built-in microphone also enables you to speak directly to the search engine, or even dictate text messages to send via your mobile data connection, along with pictures or videos you’ve taken on the device. A tiny screen shows you all the information you need, and the non-intrusive frame includes a GPS chip, which uses Google Maps to help you find your way around a new city or embark on a cross-country road trip.

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Particularly useful in situations where using a conventional camera might be difficult – anything involving great concentration or using both arms, like ice-skating, riding a bike or holding on tight during a rollercoaster ride for example – the Google Glass is helping to create a new and exciting genre of in-the-moment imagery.

“I’ve been interested in trying it out for a while,” says Clayton, a keen traveller with a background in film production and editing. “I was curious how my experience with photography would translate to the wearable camera embedded onto my face, and was hoping for the ability to take some awesome street photos.”

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So in collaboration with Chicago’s hip and high-tech ACME Hotel – the first in the world to offer guests free use of Google Glass – the photographer and his girlfriend set out to explore the city and share their thoughts on our favourite Windy City hotspots.

Chicago’s famous architecture and landmarks

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Globally renowned for its architecture, Chicago has a skyline to rival – some even say surpass – New York’s. Visitors can get a sense of why the city is labelled the “birthplace of the modern skyscraper” by heading over to Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River crossing. “This is easily one of my favourite spots in the city,” Clayton says. “The gorgeous architecture is all around you, both modern and classic, as the river slices through the centre of the city creating a canyon of steel, glass and water, spanned by a dozen or so bridges. If this was the summer, we would’ve taken an architecture river tour to take even more of it in.”

Bird’s eye view

For an aerial perspective, the city’s two famous observation decks offer views of the Magnificent Mile, Lake Michigan and visibility of up to 50 miles on a clear day, including four surrounding states. 

The Willis Tower (formerly and still most widely known as the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in the western hemisphere, and is probably best known for the sky-high glass boxes which protrude from the wall 103 floors above Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. “The Ledge attraction lets you stand inside a glass enclosure 1,353 feet above the city,” says Clayton. “Glass on glass. Terrfying.” 

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The John Hancock Tower observation deck – now known as 360 Chicago – lies on the other side of downtown and according to Clayton offers “equally stunning views closer to the lakefront.” And with an all-new feature called Tilt – a forward-tilting window which allows you to “lean” out over the streets below – the skyscraper now has a vertigo-inducing attraction to rival the Willis Tower’s Ledge. 

Museums, parks and sculptures

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Back on the ground, there’s a pleasing lack of giddiness involved in photographing Chicago’s other best known landmark, though the polished stainless steel surface of Cloud Gate can lead to some disorientating reflections. Anish Kapoor’s famous sculpture – more fondly known as “the Bean” – plays countless tricks with the light, which distort the city, the sky and the faces of those who peer into it in endlessly fascinating ways. 

“We figured Cloud Gate in beautiful Millennium Park would be a cool spot to get Glass photos of the city and of myself wearing the contraption,” says Clayton. “The sculpture offers countless vantage points and angles, juxtaposing the park, city, sky, people and pigeons.”

Time for an exploration of the city’s artistic and anthropological treasures. Alongside important historical collections like those of the Field Museum and the Chicago History Museum, some of North America’s most revered visual masterpieces reside in Chicago, in world class galleries like the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the daddy of them all, the Art Institute of Chicago.

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“We headed to the nearby Art Institute of Chicago and strolled past Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Hopper’s Nighthawks, all while a security guard wondered what the hell I was wearing on my head and younger tourists stared at me in amusement and possible jealousy,” says Clayton.

“After the museum, we bundled back up and headed towards the brand new Maggie Daley Park, cutting through Millennium Park and past the beautiful Frank Gehry-designed Prtizker Pavilion which sat lonely, covered in snow on this cold winter night. Our destination was the ice-ribbon, providing a continuous loop of ice-skating fun and the occasional wipe-out. Aside from the cold weather, ice skating was a great opportunity to use Glass and take photos more in the moment and from my own viewpoint, while my hands remained free.”

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“We also wandered around downtown for a bit, under the famous El Train, down La Salle Street where Batman was filmed, and then to Calder’s beautiful Flamingo statue as seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

“At this point, we had only seen a tiny portion of what Chicago has to offer, however, our Glass sidekick was due back and we were forced to enjoy the remainder of the day as regular, analogue human beings.”

All photos taken by Clayton Hauck using Google Glass.

Have you ever used Google Glass? What were your impressions? Let us know in the comments below.

Virgin Atlantic operates a seasonal, daily flight to Chicago so book your flight to the Windy City today.

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