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.

Then there are the enthusiasts. They will definitely find a way to disable any security features. Glass is uniquely vulnerable because it runs a modified version of Android, an open source operating system known for its ease of modification. Disabling the recording image would be simple.

Hackers have already bypassed other Glass safeguards. Twenty three-year-old Stephen Balaban released an unauthorised Glass app that uses facial recognition to find a person's identity, their personal information, and any interests or friends they share with you.

That's in addition to Mike DiGiovanni's Winky, the app that lets you take photos with Glass just by winking.

In one sense, these two modifications are harmless. Google blocks creepy surveillance apps from the official store. Only tech geeks will bother hacking Glass to install unapproved software, and only a small minority of those will bother installing stuff like this. You likely won't see many similar apps used with Google Glass.

The real concern is with the second and third versions of Glass. What happens when it's not just a couple geeks on a web forum pushing facial recognition apps? What happens when a major company gets behind it? Worst of all- what if we're okay with that?

People could grow accustomed to Glass. That kind of radical attitude change has happened before. The public never imagined sharing so much personal information online 15 years ago. Ten years of social networks changed that. What if Glass does the same for personal privacy?

The greatest danger behind Google Glass is that it will make wearing a camera on your face normal. That way when the next company comes along offering something similar, we will accept it.

"They're going to get better, they're going to become more stylish, they're going to get integrated into glasses that look more like glasses," Pickles warned.

There is a chance Glass could fail. Always-connected eyeglasses are a hard sell to a wary public, let alone security-aware businesses.

"If you're a business and you're working on sensitive IP, or working in a government department, I can't see those are people being happy with people wearing Glass. It's a huge threat to information security," said Pickles.

Glass has other problems too.

Tuong H. Nguyen, principal research analyst for market watcher Gartner, cites fashion and price as potential obstacles for mainstream adoption.

"It could be an affordable device that does a great job of complementing and extending the functionality of the mobile hub (smartphone); while having solid stand-alone functionality," Nguyen told IT Pro.

"As it stands, I expect Glass and similar HMDs and HUDs to have limited consumer impact over the next 12 months."

Nguyen says he hasn't made any specific predictions about Glass because it's a niche product that's still in its infancy.

The "fashion" problems Nguyen cites shouldn't be underestimated. People won't wear something others look down on.

"In its current version, it's very sci-fi/geeky looking," he said. "Unless it had some functionality that is so compelling (not so far) people are [still] willing to wear them, I don't imagine it's a must have' item. 

"At the moment, it's a glanceable display which lets you do some things you normally do on the phone in a different way not necessarily [an] overwhelmingly better way.

Maybe Glass won't catch on. Maybe the public will decide that smartphones are far enough, and that wearing glasses made by a company renowned for its search capabilities is a step too far. Maybe they won't.

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