I’ll start off with one word in advance: I am by no means a technology enthusiast. Neither am I an anti-progressive. However, Google’s new projects are certainly interesting: Google Fiber, automatic-driving cars, and Google Glass. The most controversial of the three is a topic of major discussion.
Google Glass, Google’s ambitious and highly-anticipated project in the field of augmented reality, is a pair of glasses equipped with a camera, a GPS, a microphone, and a user interface projected directly at the user’s eyes through the glass. It also offers bone induction sound, i.e. vibrating the skull to stimulate the inner ear. The device is planned to be released in late 2013 or early 2014 at the same price as a smartphone.
So what is Google Glass attempting to accomplish? Google Glass is a major pioneer in augmented reality, which, according to Wikipedia, is a “view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data, “ thereby enhancing one’s perception of reality. For instance, if you look at a national landmark, say the Gateway Arch, Google Glass will instantly detect it and display facts, dates, and other information about the Gateway Arch right in front of your eyes. The same concept can be applied to GPS navigation, detecting and booking hotel rooms, and recognizing faces in a crowd.
Will it be useful? Obviously yes. Having information from the Internet appear right in front of your eyes wherever you are is already a step up from smartphones, which require buttons and/or a touch-screen. Google Glass will be controlled through voice commands. Saying “okay, Glass,” followed by a phrase such as “take a picture,” or “take a video,” or “search [in Google]”. Apple’s iPhone function Siri already proves that technology is now capable of accurately processing human speech, and Google Glass will soon be used to dictate emails or write documents. The idea of recording video itself is an interesting concept. Seeing sporting events in first person from a player’s perspective might become a new trend. Racecar drivers and cyclists might want a speedometer and a GPS map placed in front of their eyes. Future developments may add night vision and binocular modes.
Like many new technologies, several controversies, dangers, and drawbacks exist for Google Glass. First of all, privacy issues exist. You probably know someone who is “camera-shy”. Not everyone enjoys having their every move recorded on camera, and Google Glass’s camera can be activated effortlessly and almost instantly and can record silently and secretly. Paranoia will almost certainly be common. Employers with very little concern for privacy may require their employees to wear forms of Google Glass to track their location at any time, as well as seeing anything they’re seeing. Such precise monitoring is considered as an invasion of employee privacy by modern social standards.
A dive bar in Seattle has already become the first public establishment to ban Google Glass on its premises. Similar rules will soon be enforced in schools, where cheating is much easier when the entire Internet is discreetly right before your eyes. Additionally, video evidence in court cases might become a commonplace. Police may wear a modified version of Glass and have all the details of a crime recorded and ready for studying. Court cases will become nothing more than two-minute viewings of footage, and defendants are much less likely to be given a chance in their arguments.
Additionally, Other than just looking like an idiot, many users will face the same problem bluetooth headsets users are facing: using a device that makes you look like you’re talking to yourself. Not to mention the clumsiness of Glass users, whose vision is blocked by windows of text and images, causing them to run into anyone and anything while walking… or driving.
Just as important, because the amount of information presented to a Glass user is too much to process with both reality and digital elements mixed together, many Glass users will find themselves hesitating and staring emptily while attempting to read several things at once. The same issue regarding smartphones will also apply to Glass: an increase in anti-social behavior. Many smartphone users find themselves spending much more time with their Twitter and Facebook feeds than with other people. Google Glass brings this to an even deeper extreme, especially with voice commands. The catchphrase of this generation will soon be “he talks more to those glasses than he does to me!”
And there’s also the possibility of Google being a filthy capitalist. Google, like almost all companies, loves greenbacks. And there’s no better way to earn them than through Google Glass. You think pop-up advertisements on a computer are annoying? Monentisers will soon find a way to blast video, audio, image, and text ads directly to your eyes. At best, these ads will simply be annoying. At worst, they might distract a driver. Also, the device will utilize Google Plus, Google’s attempt at a social networking site, in video “hangouts,” driving more revenue toward Google’s wallet. Further, the possibility of Google owning a monopoly on mobile devices is imminent. With further developments, Google Glass will cause smartphone sales to drastically decrease as the glasses will be capable of playing music, showing movies, making phone calls, and sending emails and messages all with simple voice commands.
But the real question is how are we going to balance these dangers with the advantages of Google Glass? Once the devices hit the markets later this year, their influence, advantages, and disadvantages will resonate throughout the mobile device market.