Following a trend on wearable gadgets, Google recently launched their new augmented reality project; Google Glass. Google has equipped glasses with a computer and a camera, resulting in an interactive, wearable computer that helps the user find and share information. “ We believe technology should work for you – to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.” is the slogan of Google X, the branch of Google responsible for the project. The project has generated a lot of commentary already but one thing people do agree on is that the Google Glass project opens up the possibility for the inclusion of several features, which range from technological to informational and even medical. Google believes the strength of the project lies in delivering real-time information that makes users’ lives easier; that essentially makes them smarter as they have instant access to exponential amounts of information upon which to dream and build new ideas on.
“She smiles at faces, not at devices” says the wife of a Googler while showing how she uses the glasses to communicate with her family. She is participating in the viral campaign to promote the glasses and emphasizes how fleeting moments will be better experienced and documented with them, stressing that the public might be happier without intrusive gadgets interfering in intimate situations. The possibility of capturing those unique moments that otherwise would pass by is one of the points Google says will add to the appeal of the device.
So according to Google, the Glass project can only enhance our lives and make communication easier but not everyone shares this view. Critics have said that our need to collect, record and share everything is getting out of hand and that Google is only feeding this frenzy. Other concern is that of privacy; If your computer is with you and online all the time, how do you control what it records and the information it sends? As useful as it might be in finding information or helping out in mobile working, there are areas where constant internet connection might be a breach of privacy or a security concern and this is one of the things that the critics will not cease to pick on. Google will have to figure out how to convince those sceptics who criticise the product for intrusion of private space.
Other companies have been developing wearable computers for some time now and Apple has made it furthest with Nike sneakers that were connected to the runners IPod, tracking their heart rate and changing the music accordingly. They also patented a head-mounted screen already back in 2008. What could stand strongly in Apple’s favour in the race is the design aspect. Google still needs to figure how the glasses are going to look so that they are appealing to the fashion conscious masses. Currently, they look a little geeky, a little tech-y and very prototype-y. There’s plenty of time before the 2014 launch and Google is most likely to go down the Apple route: sleek, simple and identifiable.
As to differentiate themselves from the previous versions of wearable computing, Google has hired bio-nanotechnology expert Babak Parviz who has recently been working on the development of contact lenses which use electronics and have a miniature display so in the future Google Glass could well become Google Lens. Hiring him could signal a move to try and develop the glasses to be used as a medical aid as well as a technological and informational gadget. The potential benefits to people’s lives are numerous, ranging from helping out people with colour blindness by filtering light in a special way to aiding eye sight issues such as decreased vision in low light, a problem faced by most people as they age.
Google already is at the forefront of huge cultural and social changes. We use Google’s products daily, if not hourly, and it remains to be seen whether the public will be interested in wearing their gadgets and whether they will realise their potential to revolutionise how we live.