Thoughts on Google Glass

I really enjoyed this piece by Mat Honan, “I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass”:

It is pretty great when you are on the road — as long as you are not around other people, or do not care when they think you’re a knob.

When I wear it at work, co-workers sometimes call me an asshole. My co-workers at Wired, where we’re bravely facing the future, find it weird. People stop by and cyber-bully me at my standing treadmill desk.

Do you know what it takes to get a professional nerd to call you a nerd? I do. (Hint: It’s Glass.)

I’m not so sure about his conclusion that face-mounted computers are inevitable, though, especially with their ever-present surreptitious cameras:

And here’s the thing I am utterly convinced of: Google Glass and its ilk are coming. They are racing toward us, ready to change society, again. You can make fun of Glass, and the assholes (like me) who wear it. But here’s what I know: The future is on its way, and it is going to be on your face.

But it’s certainly possible that acceptance is inevitable.1 Eventually cameras will get small enough that we won’t be able to tell who’s wearing built-in-HUD-and-camera glasses and who’s just wearing regular glasses.

My problem with Google Glass is primarily not about the basic concept of eyewear with a built-in HUD, or even the camera, but with the actual design and execution of Glass. It is ugly and clunky and ridiculously expensive for what it does. To me, that’s everything. Same thing with all existing smartwatches — the problem isn’t the idea, it’s the actual execution. There are no points for being first to market with a bad product. It’s a cool lab demo that they’re presenting as a finished product.

Maybe Google will be the first to release something like Glass that is actually elegant, beautiful, graceful, and reasonably priced. But I don’t think Google’s releasing and promoting Glass as it stands today makes that any more likely. Perhaps, though, releasing the hardware now — years ahead of its time, while it is physically grotesque and glaringly obtrusive — will help grease the wheels for social acceptance when good — attractive, unobtrusive — Glass-like products do become available.

In the meantime, to me, Google Glass is the new Tablet PC.

  1. To be clear, I personally hope these things never gain social acceptance, particularly the surreptitious cameras. But if a future version of Google Glass is indistinguishable from regular glasses, camera and all, how will those of us who object even know who’s wearing them? Cameras are already small enough that determined creeps could be shooting footage surreptitiously in public today with relative ease, and they (the cameras, not the creeps) are going to get smaller every year.

    Imagine too, how such glasses would affect something like the proctoring of an exam. A cheater could use their glasses to read the questions (OCR) and give them the answers. It’s not practical to administer all tests within Faraday cages, and for some subjects, like math, you wouldn’t even need network access to facilitate the cheating: just the camera and HUD. ↩︎