What's so funny? Is she live-casting a car crash?

Google Glass – Should we be scared?

Google have been developing a new device over the last few years to bring our online and offline social lifestyles closer together.  Glass, as it’s currently known, is effectively a glasses frame, with a very small computer and camera attached.  Google have been showing off the device for a while now, with very public beta testing and now a broader closed group public test, which you were able to apply for until recently.  Google will be providing the device with or without lenses, although initially they will only be selling the version without lenses.  If you wear prescription lenses, you’ll have to wait!

The device is predominantly voice controlled (with a touch-pad for ‘swiping’ between menus), and projects onto a small transparent screen in the top-right of your peripheral vision.  It’s a serious feat of design and engineering excellence.  It is always ‘connected’, presumably getting an internet connection from your mobile phone or a built in 3G/LTE modem, which will give it an internet connection wherever you can get a signal.  Under the hood you have an Android powered system and a camera capable of capturing photos and HD video.  Sound will apparently be transmitted to the wearer using bone-conduction.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot more to it than that, it’s effectively a smart-phone in a different form factor.  The device is set to retail at $1500 (about £962), hitting stores next year (lucky developers will get their hands on theirs later this year).

To get a feel for what it does, check out the video below:

Instagram fans, rejoice!

Now that you’ve got an idea of what it is and what it does,  you’re probably thinking of all the times you’ve been driving along a road or walking along a street and seen something that you wished you could capture, upload and share with your friends.  Google Glass with enable this, while still keeping your hands free to do what they were doing.  Impressive stuff, but let’s look at what this really means..

I know a lot of people who love to share things on social media.  That’s what it’s for, right?  So why am I anxious about the Facebook/Instagram generation getting hold of these? How long will it be until you are sat in a restaurant and cringe at the sound of someone saying ‘Ok glass.. Take a picture’, while angling their head to create an ‘artistic’ perspective of their sausage and mash?  I’m predicting live streams of 1st person perspective car crashes, where the wearer is in a Google+ Hangout and concentrating more on that than the little kid running into the road to pick up their ball.. It’s a potentially scary future and I’m sure Governments will be frantically coming up with laws and legislation to protect the masses.  Of course, there will be the argument of it being safer than using a mobile phone as your hands are free and you’re not required to look down, but don’t ignore the fact that you would be wearing something that will obstruct your vision.  Having said that, the thought of driving or walking somewhere with sat-nav guidance projected in my peripheral vision is kind of cool and as the promo video demonstrates very well, the ability to capture moments without having to use your hands is pretty ingenious (new parents will love it).

Privacy and Piracy

Let’s explore things further, as privacy is something that should be carefully considered by Google and the Glass wearer themselves.  As a person walking past a Glass wearer, how would you feel if you were being recorded?  More importantly, how would you know?  How about environments such as the dining scenario, where you’re in your favourite restaurant, enjoying a nice meal, only to see a ‘Glasshole’, laughing away to himself while watching the latest Family Guy, or chatting away to people that only he can hear but whom can see what he sees (e.g. you cutting up your steak).  Suddenly, your favourite restaurant may no longer be such anymore.. Hopefully people will follow the same etiquette as with mobile phones when in public places, but that still doesn’t stop some people.  David Yee (@tangentialism) experienced this first-hand and tweeted the below:

Another consideration is security.  If you can stream what you’re seeing online, what’s to say a talented hacker (or government employee) couldn’t get access to the stream (or fire up the camera when you don’t know)?  It would be worrying to think that when you’re typing your PIN code in at a cash machine or entering your password on a website, someone could potentially be watching.

Let’s move onto the other point, the copywriter’s nightmare, Piracy.

How will people be stopped from popping their Glass on at the cinema and streaming the movie online or recording it for later watching or redistribution?  Ok, the quality won’t be amazing, but that’s not necessarily going to be enough to prevent people from doing it and as the technology advances, so will it’s capabilities.  Who owns the data? Is it Google? Are they the ones ultimately responsible for what people share?  I don’t have the answers to these questions, but they are important questions that need to be asked.  No doubt Google has already thought of them, but being the giant that they are now, maybe they feel they have the power to not need to worry about that kind of thing.

So should I get one or not?

Despite the negative focus of this article, I’m not trying to paint a bad picture of Google Glass.  I think it’s a truly innovative product and is one of those things that you grew up imagining people would have ‘in the future’.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to ask questions, especially as we, as a society, are already heavy Google consumers and therefore should have a say in what they do as it will impact our lives in one way or another.  If you’ve got a spare $1500 laying about, perhaps it’s worth it, if only to ensure that if you’re being secretly recorded, you can secretly record someone back!  At the moment, I’m undecided.  Exciting and awesome as this piece of technology is, I think I’ll sit back and see how it goes for now.

Comments

  1. Makes me wonder if places such as restaurants will somehow stop people from using these devices that may affect privacy. They won’t want loyal customers such as the person who tweeted going elsewhere. I feel the same as the tweeter but it’s clear that nothing will be done about it. However, I still think it’s a cool gadget!