Published on July 15th, 2013 | by Danny Roberts0
You’ve Got a Little Something On Your Face
It was bound to happen eventually. If it’s in Star Trek, somebody’s working on it. In this case, we’re talking about Google Glass.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: You’ve got an awkward, silly cube thing attached to your face. At this stage, people walking around with Google Glass are going to be perceived as pretentious and bourgeoisie, or likened to those middle aged guys with their pants hiked up past their belly button, Bluetooth headsets in their ears and a cell phone in a Velcro case attached to their belt.
That’s not necessarily a deal breaker. If and when society at large accepts Google Glass wearers as normal people rather than nerds with too much money, then problem solved. However, at $1500 a pop, that’s going to be difficult.
Let’s outline some positives. The whole idea is kind of cool. Rather than being chained to your laptop or smartphone, Google Glass gives you that first-person POV effect, so videos and pictures are about as close as can be to direct human experience. And people are raving about the Google Maps feature. Google Maps is one of humanity’s most impressive achievements to begin with; add to that a piece of technology that gets pretty close to integrating it right into your brain and it’s almost enough to warrant the outrageous price tag. While some reviewers are expressing concern that it would be distracting to use while driving, I would have to disagree and point out that when operating a vehicle with a conventional GPS unit, you actually have to turn your head and look away from the road to process the directions. Google Glass would help you keep the road within your field of vision.
I don’t know if I’m all that impressed with the Twitter/email/Facebook/text/phone aspect of it. It just doesn’t seem such a drastic improvement to a smartphone. OK, you can walk around and read your emails without having to hold your phone in your hand. So what? Does this really improve our lives? Not to mention, to do all of this, you need to either be in a Wi-Fi hotspot—negating the mobility aspect of Google Glass—or you have to tether the unit to your smartphone. Basically, you still need to have the phone with you. Plus, tethering costs many consumers extra on their phone bill. The already astronomical costs are rising.
There are more complaints: The battery life isn’t great, the microphone picks up too much ambient noise and records the user’s voice at a much higher volume than anything else, the resolution during Google hangouts—and when filming a video is lackluster, the unit is bulky and doesn’t fold for easy storage and transportation, etc. However, it’s important to note that these are hardware issues and probably nothing Google can’t figure out for future generations.
The real concern comes when the wider social implications are considered. Especially if Google manages to release a much more subtle version of Glass, privacy becomes a concern. If you walk into a public bathroom and the guy at the urinal next to you is wearing Glass, you might want to wait until he’s finished. There’s no way of telling if that thing is recording or not. And don’t forget locker rooms, private events, film screenings in early stages of their release, concerts, a party at your house, someone standing behind you at the ATM and on and on.
Let’s set aside these issues for a moment, though, and consider how Google Glass fits into the zeitgeist. Set against the backdrop of the “quantitative self” movement, Glass could represent the current pinnacle and it’s all up to the user. Not only could it be used to integrate and display—in real time—diagnostics and analytics of one’s physical condition, audio and video could be used to help assess environmental and emotional states. For quantitative self advocates, who famously ask that we consider turning our technology inward, Google Glass could be a convenient and useful method of examining ourselves and our respective lives.
This is, however, a small niche group and it’s unlikely that Google Glass could survive only on their support. It’s future is uncertain, but modern life continually feels more and more like a sci-fi movie and technology continues to change society in previously unexpected ways. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to walk down a street in New York or San Francisco, Berlin, London or Beijing in the near future, seeing hordes of locals talking to themselves while looking up at their funky glasses and gesturing wildly to the side of their face. Stranger things have happened.