Google Project Glass has gone a little quiet recently and we haven’t heard anything big since the (mildly) impressive skydiving demo that circulated in June. Nevertheless the tech world is still talking about ‘wearable tech’, it’s the buzzwords buzzword, and there have been some interesting new kids on the block since. The Nike +FuelBand that links to your iPhone was a big hit, as were a plethora of offerings from companies like FitBit, and even some funny wearable tech for your pooch floated to the surface.
But Project Glass promised to change our view of the world – literally. The big G promised a pair of glasses housing a *deep breath* processor, memory, visual display, camera, microphone, speaker, multiple radios for data communication, gyroscopes, an accelerometer, and a compass in a super light package.
If you aren’t familiar with Googles Project Glass, here’s a promo from the giant themselves in their usual hipstech style:
Looks pretty neat — from the inside. In reality those glasses look awful (see top photo), though I’m sure they’ll eventually come in various shapes and sizes that look less like a bad 90′s superheroes costume. In fact, they’re really going to have to – the face is where we make emotional contact with people, something easily lost behind wires and glass. For now lets assume (rightly) that this is going to be a reality sometime in the next decade.
Apps and services aren’t new, so we wont go into them here, but it’s safe to assume everything you’ve come to expect from your smartphone will be at your eyelids as well as your fingertips.
So what else can we expect?
While companies may appear to make products for our pleasure, that pleasure comes at a cost. We’re going to see adverts, new ways to buy, and new ways to interact with retailers. Adverts in some of the better designed apps and computer programs are so subtle that they don’t break the cycle of what we’re trying to do, they merely provide a service and allow us to buy into something at the same time.
Product placement occurs in movies, and it’s so effective that organisations pay incredible amounts for a few frames of screen time in blockbusters and shows. The problem for the advertisers is that it works on the hope that a viewer will then remember the product, seek it out, then buy it. These steps are wide between, and with the dawn of shoppable videos we’re seeing more and more opportunities to buy through your screen at a click. Impulse ahoy!
Imagine walking around the real world, using your nifty glasses to direct you to your mates house, when you see a guy with shoes you like. It’s going to be possible, as long as they’re marked in some way, to simply look at them, find out where they’re from, and buy them instantly within (literally) the blink of an eye.
This parody of the first video shows just how wrong it can all go, but I’m certain it wont. Just because you’re wearing the glasses doesn’t mean they have to project the adverts onto the glass. Companies are eventually going to be able to artificially place them on walls you’re looking at, and they’ll all be targeted to you. Both you and a stranger could be looking at the same wall and see completely different tailored ads in the same way we do now on websites through Googles Adsense.
With built in GPS, these things are going to know exactly where we are and suggest businesses of interest nearby, which may drive some of us insane, but a lot of people said the same about having a feature rich smartphone.
Here’s something I thought of as soon as I saw the project, and I’ve seen no one talk about at all. CCTV is crap, and only ever seems to work in the event of major disasters and riots. In the UK, we’re reported to have a CCTV camera for every 32 people, yet I’ve personally never met anyone who has benefited from it after a criminal act has taken place. Imagine there was closer to 1 camera for every 5 or 6 people, all of decent quality and all connected to the internet. Eye witnesses would be completely reliable peripherals, and though accessing footage without consent would be a thorny area, witnesses who willingly came forward would be infallible.
We’d also see, for better or worse, more citizen reporting. Wars, human interest pieces, POV angles of princes being born, nude and lewd celebrities and all the rest would all run amok on TV and our news feeds. The danger is these new social peripherals may in fact make some of us more private in social situations, breeding insecurity and introversion.
Black Mirror, a dark future fiction TV series, featured an imaginary implant called a ‘Grain’ which filmed and recorded every moment of a wearers life and allowed it to be transmitted onto displays. If you’re able to watch it, I’d recommend it, as it outlines some of the horrifying new situations this kind of tech would offer.
Niantic Project is an arm of Google which appeared some time in the last two months out of nowhere and bewildered the technology community. No one knew quite what they were doing, and save for a few obscure clues via YouTube videos there was nothing but whispers and conjecture. Soon after, they launched an app called Ingress, and began taking invitations from applicants to join in what turned out to be a game you played in the real world using your smartphone. When playing Ingress, you physically have to move to a ‘landmark’ (think the tower of London) which would reveal itself to be a portal you’d have to ‘hack’. You do this by checking in with services like Four Square or Facebook and in turn you’d get another piece of the puzzle.
Bonkers? Yes – but genius. Forcing people to complete a leg of a journey by going to their local McDonalds is going to be a huge revenue stream, and making it fun is going make us even more powerless from ordering a little cheeseburger as a personal reward. Having it in your phone is cool, but you know what’s really cool? Playing an action game in the real world through your glasses while everyone else is going about their business. In fact, the real money here is in playing it while you’re going about your own, normal, day to day business.
Google Maps is amazing. First we got the maps, then we got satellite view, and finally street view. Street view has proven incredibly useful and in all honesty – I’d be lost without it. What seemed like a gimmick has now turned into a tool some of us use daily, and it’s constantly rolling out further and further. Google has started mapping galleries, malls, and other places of interest so you never have to leave the house (although you totally should).
Google Street View cars can’t get into your house, or down a country lane, a canal path or inside a pub, but you can. Donning their glasses they’re going to be able to harvest everything you give your consent to (we all read those terms and conditions right?) because they know where you are (GPS), and which direction you’re looking (accelerometers, gyroscopes).
If Google can get past the problem of frankly looking a bit silly, there’s going to be a space for them in popular culture. Having access to information right in front of you will be helpful and possibly life changing. The data can’t be presented as it is on our smartphones, that just wont work, and it could easily usher in a new era of well designed and curated data.
But we already have smartphones, and everything Google Glass is promising so far is available to use today (apart from taking a picture “in the moment”). Unless they actually make something totally unique and beautiful they’ll end up with the same problem Segway has; it’s a brilliant innovation which can totally replace walking – but it just looks a bit shit and no one wants to look that lazy.
These guys rock the look though.