The Start of Something Big?
On the week that the first Explorer editions are being shipped to developers, I’m hardly alone in my excitement about just how important Google Glass could turn out to be. Not only for the applications that we can imagine here today, in April 2013. But more importantly for the potential that this type of technology brings for advancements across areas that we haven’t yet considered.
If you view it as a building block for the re-imagining of almost every daily activity, from work, sport or just basic methods of human communication, we can have no idea at this stage of how significant this next move into mobile computing/augmented reality will prove. However, I’m betting on it being a huge jump forwards.
I’m sure there will be issues with version 1 but we’ve got to be careful not to have unreasonable expectations. Bleeding edge products always lack the initial crucial customer feedback that can only come once you’ve let third parties loose on your product. And it’s precisely in that area, where people start to see how the technology could be used in their every day lives and make the necessary adaptions, that will drive a steep growth in its popularity.
…Or The Green Light For Conflict?
But putting the optimism to one side for a minute, it’s obvious that the path towards widespread adoption is not going to be straightforward. Moving past the geek-attraction phase (“ooh, it’s shiny, I want one of those…“), the technology unearths a whole raft of issues that will inevitably cause tension between different groups.
By far the best article that I’ve read recently about the impact of Glass is by Jan Chipchase, Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at Frog. It’s well worth taking the time to read through this, particularly given the calibre of the author. For a product that’s both “on your face and in your face”, he argues that Google is the right company to bring this technology to market as:-
[a business with] a recent record of genuine innovation that stretches/defines social and behavioural norms with a strong revenue stream and deep enough pockets to have a fighting chance of medium to long-term success.
Privacy And The Invisible Impact
Positions are starting to be taken on either side of the privacy debate around Glass. Yet amongst such high profile posturing, few hold solid research about how the human condition will be affected, consciously or otherwise, when we become acutely aware of someone wearing technology which can record our every move. How many of us would think twice before making a statement in the future if we knew that it was to be recorded and retrievable by a company whose goal was to index that data for the purposes of serving ever-more relevant advertising to you? As Chipcase writes:
Any idiot can collect data. The real issue is how to collect data in such a way that meets both moral and legal obligations and still delivers some form of value.
An Argument For The Wider Public Good?
One way to ease the widespread adoption of Glass is to enable anyone to access on demand the video feed being recorded by others around them. Transparency of information will no doubt help ease a few concerns whilst crowd-sourcing views to make them collectively useful is likely to convince people of the wider public good in certain situations, with emergency situations or entertainment events being the most obvious.
Regardless, It’s Happening
The issues surrounding the introduction of Glass – whether in terms of privacy, the ownership of data, legislation or the evolution of basic body language in a social setting – are only just now starting to be considered. But I for one can’t wait to see how things move forwards. There are bound to be mistakes but progress demands failures along the road.
You may not agree with Ray Kurzweil et al about his predictions about the approaching singularity – the point when technology and humanity are will no longer be separate (current predictions point to 2040). But this looks very much to me like a significant jump forwards along that path. And, one way or another, whether in Google’s hands or elsewhere, it’s going to happen. And it’s going to be a helluva ride.