Since Google’s introduction on April 4, 2012, the internet giant has made sure that almost every time we see the high tech eyewear, it’s on the face of a beautiful or influential person. Usually that beautiful person is a model pretending to be either a competent surgeon, smiling CEO, or just a run-of-the-mill (gorgeous) member of the masses. It seems Google is trying hard to persuade people that Glass is cool.
Glass’ photogenic ad campaign, combined with the controversy of potential privacy issues, and the fact that it seems like every attention-starved politician or celebrity has been photographed with Glass on their face, means that Google’s idea of the future has never been far from the news.
Sergey Brin is perhaps hoping that everyone will forget several things: how silly it looks, how little we currently need a camera attached to the side of our face, and how much it will cost us. And the funny thing is, it’s quite possible that many people will obligingly do all three of these things.
Endless criticisms could have, of course, been levelled at almost any piece of novel technology since the first telephone: Everyone quickly got used to people shouting down their mobile phone on the street, for example, and a cafe filled with iPad-fixated patrons is standard now, no longer a cause to bemoan society’s tech-obsessed and anti-social plague.
Google Glass, however, has caused waves not just for its seeming frivolity. Questions have arisen about the possibility of maintaining privacy with such an immersive and subtle camera available at the whim of a spoken instruction. It’s still in a pretty exclusive trial phase but in preparation for this potentially dystopian future, we’ve created a list of 5 different places you might be seeing Google Glass in the next couple of years:
5. Customer Service (Virgin Atlantic)
Here’s Richard Branson’s idea of the future: You’ve paid upwards of $3500 for your trans-atlantic London to New York upper class ticket, so naturally you arrive at Heathrow Airport by limo. Here you are greeted by one of Virgin Atlantic’s first class concierges who will greet you in your native language using a real time Google Translate (whether that’s Welsh, Urdu, or Latin), providing you with information on the climate and events in New York, offering you a tray of your known preference of food or drink, all whilst automatically checking you in to your flight without visiting a desk.
Branson’s airline is currently trialling both Google Glass and Sony’s SmartWatch for a six week period in Heathrow’s first class lounge. In the past, Branson has been accused of tacky publicity stunts (Bikini clad flight attendants and Virgin Galactic, we’re looking at you), but the Virgin Website insists that the Glass trial is genuine and that ‘the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out in the future.’
4. Healthcare (Surgery)
Since the start of the Google Glass ‘Explorer Program’, which distributed prototypes to a wide range of professionals, celebrities, and lay people, there have been several examples of surgeons using Glass during an operation. The camera and the tiny screen allow for real time, two-way, interactive video conferencing between the surgeon and another individual who can be anywhere in the world.
The exact benefit of this is not made entirely clear by any of the extensive media coverage, and the idea of a backseat-driver during a triple bypass is at least a questionable idea. However, this hasn’t stopped doctors using the eyepieces during orthopaedic and plastic surgery to live stream the operation to students, colleagues, and even a patient’s friends and family.
These are only early days though, and the potential uses by healthcare professionals could actually improve the experience of the patients and the efficiency of the doctors. Philips has released a concept video detailing the ways which voice activated information could be used in a way which would leave a doctor’s hands free.
3. Law Enforcement (NYPD)
The issue of privacy in relation to Glass is fairly abstract and essentially boils down to ‘what if someone filmed me’. However, when Google teams up with various different law enforcement agencies like the NYPD and Spain’s Policía. these concerns are suddenly less academic. “We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes,” an NYPD official said. “We’re looking at them, seeing how they work.”
In a lengthy blog post, which makes the fair point that the FBI’s $1bn facial recognition project has essentially already been developed by Google, Doug Halsey identifies the three areas which for which Glass will most likely be used:
1. Monitoring of Officer integrity
2. Access to software and data such as: Facial recognition, location of criminal activity, residents, warrants, and information on local laws.
3. Additional support via live conferencing with experts (Medical, bomb, legal advice, etc.)
Although this all may seem like scary stuff, there’s some fairly persuasive research which claims that police brutality, corruption and general bad behaviour is dramatically reduced (for obvious reasons) when their actions are constantly filmed.
Although lots of retailers and bloggers are getting excited about the way Glass will ‘radically change everything about the way we shop’, the examples they’re coming up with aren’t exactly awe inspiring: Real time price comparison, in store maps, and shopping lists seem to be the big ones. Despite this, shopping is one of the main areas said to be potentially disrupted by the introduction of Google’s specs.
A faintly surreal video produced by Marie Callender’s and Healthy Choice depicts two women equipped with Glass embarking on shopping trips. In the video the heads-up displays give the women information about different products, including their whereabouts in the store, price, and reviews, whilst also delivering texts from their fellow shoppers.
When discussing Google Glass lots of people point to all of the technologies, like the cell phone and personal computer, that have been accepted and normalised to the point of dependence. Although this is true, these critics might be forgetting about all of the products (Betamax, Zune, and Apple’s own 1993 attempt at a PDA) which have fallen by the wayside. However, if Glass (or something like it) takes off, then it is likely to have as large an effect on our personal day to day lives as the smartphone has had over the last decade.
Everything – from Twitter and Maps to cookery and sex – is predicted to have its own Glass app in Google’s future. There’s been a media frenzy over the arrests of people using Glass whilst driving and the attack of a woman in a bar by ‘Google Glass haters’, and these sorts of incidents are likely to continue whilst society and the law adjust to the potentially dramatic changes Glass could bring about.
A profile of Google Glass in Wired Magazine notes that there has been a ‘huge over-emphasis on what Glass is (aesthetically ugly, of limited utility, socially awkward) rather than what it will be.’ As it stands, we’re looking at the the earliest form of this kind of technology (think the briefcase phones of the 1980s) which is still very much in the prototype stage.
Although there are some potential benefits for each of these five areas of our lives, the vast majority of people aren’t convinced and certainly aren’t going to shell out $1,500 just to become a ‘glasshole’. If any of these changes are going to come about, and if the many kinks listed here are to be ironed out, then Google is going to have to make some radical changes to their product before people buy into their vision of the future.
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