Google just released a teaser video for its latest gadget – code named “Project Glass” Check it out:
My first reaction, like many of my generation, was to think of Geordi Lafarge from Star Trek: Next Generation. Lafarge, played by LeVar Burton (if you’re old enough you might remember him from Reading Rainbow) was a blind Star Fleet engineer who wore a visor that connected to his brain and allowed him to see the world around him.
Google’s goggles, as far as I can tell, will only work for people who can see just fine. (No word on whether they correct for prescription.) They don’t connect directly to your brain just yet either.
The “brain” that the glasses connect to is the Internet, and the “world” it lets you see is anything Google’s servers can access.
Google thinks that if you can’t connect at all times, that you are in a way blind.
In the video, the wearer asks to find where the music section is in the bookstore he’s visiting, and the glasses’ heads-up-display pops up with a map showing him the route. Same thing when he finds out his subway stop is out of service; the glasses guide him with GPS style turn by turn directions.
Personally, when I’m in a bookstore I think half the fun is wandering around the aisles, picking up books with interesting covers or titles and finding things that you didn’t know you were looking for. And chances are, if I’m hopping on the subway, I already know how to get where I’m going. So in a way, wearing Google’s goggles can be kind of like putting on blinders.
The glasses also purportedly allow the viewer to send messages, set appointments and schedule reminders. This of course means that the user has to be wearing them all the time, since you’re essentially outsourcing your communications and scheduling to Google’s servers.
And you know what that means – Google’s going to be collecting and storing every little detail of what you do while you wear these glasses. It might start “reminding” you that you’re walking by the Starbucks on your way to work, if you regularly stop in there for a tall skinny vanilla latte. You could imagine how annoying that would get after you passed the sixth ‘Bucks in 2 blocks.
The truth of the matter is, it’s Google that’s blind. The second you step away from your computer, Google’s got no idea what you’re doing. And they can’t make money from data they don’t have. Since people carry their phones everywhere they go, Google’s already got a pretty good insight into what you’re doing when you’re out of the house. Once you start wearing their glasses they’ll literally be able to see what you see, and gain all the familiar benefits that come from that kind of access to your life.
It’s not likely you’ll see too many people walking around wearing Google goggles anytime soon. These types of first-out-of-the gate products usually have to go through several iterations to work out the kinks. (Siri’s a prime example) But you can bet your bottom dollar that people will start wearing them once Apple rolls out their own more polished iGlasses.
But if people do start wearing these devices, they’ll just represent one more silent intruder in our lives.
You can imagine how pathologically controlling the iGlasses might be:
“Siri, how do I get to the local coffee shop?”
“I’m sorry, Dave,” it might reply in that mechanically pseudohuman voice, “the local coffee shop does not comply with our Terms of Service. Starbucks is better anyway…”
There might be plenty of little benefits for the wearer, but keep in mind that Google makes their money primarily by mining data and selling it to advertisers. We should question who it is that really benefits when people (most of the time unknowingly) give companies like Google their personal information. Google using algorithms to read your email and tailor ads to you is bad enough – do you really want them knowing what you’re reading on the toilet?