Google Glass: Is the world ready?
With the release date scheduled for later this year, Kyle Nazario wonders if the world is really ready for Google Glass.
The world isn't ready for Google Glass. Despite Google's planned 2014 launch, its Android-powered spectacles face a multitude of problems.
The company has released prototypes of Glass to a small group of early adopters, and their negative experiences illustrate what awaits the company when it launches the consumer version this year.
Glass users have come up against discrimination from restaurants, governments, private businesses, and advocacy groups. Though all hold different concerns about the frames, none want Google Glass.
No glass allowed
A Seattle restaurant called The 5 Point Cafe made the news when it banned patrons from wearing Glass inside.
"For the record, The 5 Point is the first Seattle business to ban in advance Google Glasses," the cafe's owner wrote on Facebook. "And ass kickings will be encouraged for violators."
He explained in a later interview that his restaurant is a "sometimes seedy" place and his customers would prefer not to be recorded while dining there.
AMC Theaters, an American cinema chain, announced it would not welcome Glass either.
"While we're huge fans of technology and innovation, wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theatre," the company said in a statement.
This followed an incident where a cinema manager in Ohio contacted the Motion Picture Association (MPAA) of America about a customer wearing Glass with prescription lenses. The MPAA called federal agents, who interrogated the man for several hours on suspicion of recording the film. They released him after finding only pictures of his wife and dog stored on the headset.
Governments have reacted similarly. The UK's Department for Transport banned wearing the frames while driving, fearing that they would prove too distracting.
With only 8,000 sets of Glass in the wild, it will take people some time to get used to the headsets.
Glass makes people feel uncomfortable because it makes recording video (and uploading it to social networks) too easy. For example, it's easy to tell when someone is recording you with a smartphone. They're usually holding it steady with the camera pointed at you.
IT Pro visited Google's London headquarters to try a pair of "sky blue" Glass spectacles, and they felt just as light and airy as its colour's name.
Glass positions a clear prism display above your eye. Maintaining eye contact with conversation partners is easy.
This may be the bias of people who spend too much time around tech, but Glass surprised IT Pro with its comfort, and it was startling how fast it takes to get used to wearing them.
Admittedly, talking to someone else wearing Glass does feel strange. The eye is naturally drawn to the computer they've got strapped to their frames, and it is distracting.
Throughout the duration of the conversation, you can't help but wonder if you're being recorded, and therein lies the problem with Google Glass.
"[The] basic concept of privacy is that you get to decide what you are comfortable with in terms of sharing data," Nick Pickles, director of privacy watchdog Big Brother Watch, told IT Pro.
"I think Glass reverses that. So rather than being in control of what information is disseminated around the web about you, it's the person wearing Google Glass who makes the decision for you."
When pressed on this point by IT Pro, a Google representative said people's acceptance of the technology will increase over time as the mass market comes to adopt it.
To its credit, Google is trying to ease surveillance concerns by implementing a safe feature. Stand within a few feet of someone recording video on Glass and you can see the recorded image being reflected in the recording prism.
In theory, it could keep surreptitious spying under control. In practice, it's inefficient and impractical. IT Pro was sat 45 degrees to the right of a Google rep while she took a sample video with Glass. Even though IT Pro was in the recording, it was impossible to spot the signal light.
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