13 Jan Is Glass the Future?
It seems like the future is upon us. Or is it really? The more you read about the latest technology developments, the more it feels like the future is galloping towards us, because of hurried competition amongst tech giants to release the next big thing. Last year Google shared with us its desire to revolutionize communication through Google Glass, an internet connected head-mounted device with a glass prism that allows you to record images via first-person view and access basic important information on the go, handsfree. While it may seem an appealing future thanks to its well-crafted ads, I still wonder if it will be of mass appeal and how it will fit into our lives.
Although the first ad appeared in April 2012, Google Glass is only available to developers and “explorers” at the moment, with mass consumers only being reached towards the end of the 2013. At the Internet&Mobile World Conference in Bucharest, I got my hands (or my eyes) on it too, thanks to Future Candy who brought it for testing. Now, I admit that I am biased towards Apple and have never enjoyed Android OS, therefore I probably dislike Glass more out of principle and that is why I wanted some hands-on knowledge. Luckily the guys from Future Candy weren’t affiliated with Google, so they were pretty honest about its kinks, namely that the Glass app still crashes (the “glasses” are not stand-alone and are connected via Bluetooth to a separate device which runs the Glass app), that without an internet connection it’s pretty useless and that the battery lasts only 40 minutes, which means you have to charge it with a cable, as you can see in my photo. I personally disliked the slow response for the camera and voice recognition, but I guess it was because there was so much noise around. However, you do have an option of touching the side-pad, where you can scroll through your choices instead of screaming at it 🙂
The main idea behind the necessity for this product is Google’s belief that we need more human interaction and less technology to get in the way. Sergey Brin makes a good point about chunky hardware that is set between us and others while communicating and sharing, making the Glass solution an elegant one (unless the battery doesn’t run out and you have a cable sticking out of it). The projected feel of the interface is indeed seamless because the prism is out of view and the distance from your eyes is appropriate, which points towards a future I would gladly inhabit.
However, I believe that Glass will only be eliminating the physical barrier of technology, not our human flaw of being easily distracted. This problem of poor attention span will not be solved, on the contrary, it will be intensified because of Google Glass, making the mission already futile. “Today, you can usually tell when someone is being rude and looking at a cell phone. But with Google Glass it’s going to be a lot harder to tell if they’re paying attention to your conversation or just, like, watching cat videos on YouTube.*” (via Techcrunch)
One the other hand, probably Glass’s most prominent feature is the handsfree, first person point of view, which can give access to unprecedented footage, yet I cannot imagine many women or people with prescription glasses wearing it, out of aesthetic reasons or pure incompatibility. Imagine a woman wanting to document her wedding or winning an award. It would be cool to have that footage, but would you want to be remembered that way walking down the aisle/on the podium?
Conclusion: Glass is definitely not ready for a big launch, it still needs developing and I hear there will be more social media sharing options, not just Google+ (phew!) and it will probably have a different look too. But at the moment it is not as seamless as the ads have portrayed it and it will probably be better in the following years or once competitors up their game. From a consumer perspective, I think it the ads were publicised way too early before the commercial launch and that the hype is being overstretched for longer than a year and thus turned into a spiteful tease. I’m under the impression Google is in a rush to predict and create the “future”, without thinking at the consequences it will entail, like its privacy issues or the unflattering nickname for Glass-wearers “glassholes”.
If it felt like the imagined technology of Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days was upon us, I’m not sure we’ll be ready to capture our lives and points of view so stylishly and seamlessly just yet. But I’m also very trusting of day-to-day creativity and what “normal” people will use it for. Until then I’ll be watching apprehensively from the sidelines.