Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Google’s Project Glass

Yesterday Google gave us a sneak peek at what it’s calling “Project Glass”. Basically, these are augmented eyeglasses that keep Google services available to the wearer at all times. According to the video the company posted on Google+ Wednesday, the glasses will have the capability to display messages, chats, appointments, weather and maps right in your field of vision.

The pictures on the Project Glass page show people modeling the specs, a thin silver band that runs across their foreheads and a small screen over their right eye. Some might say they look stylish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrfXtAHYoVA

So for today's discussion:

Is this device just a gimmick or will it take off? How would you use it? Always wear the glasses? Remove them in company, like putting a cell phone away? Will the technology become useful in other ways? Will these glasses go with my tube tops?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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61 Comments

  1. When I was 4 years old my mom took me to a horse camp to visit the grounds – lovely smell of hay, an outdoor pool and an arts and crafts building, all in a forest in New Hampshire. At age 7 I began overnights there, mucked stalls, learned to ride and swim and attended the camp for 10 years. No cell phones, no computer, no electronic devices at all and no tv for 40 days during the summer. What kind of sad, screen-addicted blob I would have become otherwise I don't know, and don't want to. I'll pass on the 24/7 Google frikkin' idea.

    1. This comment doesn't make sense.  Like, at all.  Are you implying that if your mother hadn't sent you to camp as a child, you would be "screen-addicted blog"?   And what exactly is a "screen-addicted blob" and who qualifies?  You are on a computer … right now!  Does that qualify?!
       
      Or, rather, Luna says:  GET OFF MY LAWN!  I am better than almost everyone because I went to camp and therefore I am now not a screen-addicted blog (whatever that is)!

      1. Hmmm, Marilove, I think the grammatical term would be "inferring". I'll use it in a sentence. "Marilove was sloppy in reading my comment and INFERRED from it that I am, in her words, better than everyone else." Clearly, Marilove, you have some unresolved issues. Everyone else can see from my comment that I was referring only to myself. Feel free to comment on things I say here, but stop putting words in my mouth. It makes you look foolish. Thanx.

    2. Ugh, get over yourself.  I am so tired of people acting proud of being luddites, like it makes you morally superior than the rest of us.  Guess what?  You used technology.  You probably got there by car, bus, or train.  You used lights when you were inside.  You used clocks to tell the time.  You used electricity to cook your food.  You used saddles, clothing, and other equipment that were made by machines.  You or your parents used a phone to arrange for your stay there.  You don't get a gold star sticker for being an extra-special person who threw off the shackles of technology.  I'll put it this way from a blog post I recently read: (H/T Pandagon)
       

      Being a Luddite isn't about rejecting or being hostile to technology. It's about being hostile to new technology, for no other reason than it happened to be invented after you were born and/or became a Luddite. That makes it a completely illogical position, since it's based on the premise that the existence of you on the planet is a great historical event that represents the divide between old-fashioned, useful technology and the era when technology supposedly seemed to mean nothing but decay and despair.

      Google's Project Glass may or may not be "too much" technology.  It may or may not be good or bad.  But that is completely unrelated to your prideful anecdote.  It's completely a non-sequitur.

      1. Cat girl, are you five years old? Read my comment. I said I rejected the idea of using Google 24/7. In gradutae school I used JMP and ArcMap. Do you even know what that technology is? Do your research before you call someone a Luddite, and ask your Mommy to explain the difference between using the Internet wisely versus Googling LOLcats. 

        1. You rejected some type of technology with some completely unrelated anecdote about your wonderful technology-free childhood.  And you apparently don't realize that that is a non-sequitur.  You also insinuated that all children who use modern technology have lives that are devoid of meaning.  But go ahead and keep patting yourself on the back for being super speshul.  Meanwhile the grown-ups can discuss this issue on its own merits without some ridiculous appeal to tradition.  Oh here, I found a gold star sticker for how special you are.  Bragging about lacking technology doesn't make people admire you; it only makes us roll our eyes.

          1. That is rich, catgirl, considering yours and Marilove's complete lack of significant contribution of anything to this conversation except to be trolls. You need a class in reading comprehension. Please don't pollute this forum any more until you get some therapy and a good English professor. Quite frankly I'm surprised Skepchick allows this kind of trolling when the tone is supposedly moderated.

      2. That isn't a very good description of what a Luddite was. Kirkpatrick Sale's book Rebels Against the Future has a lot to offer in that regard… The Luddites had fairly sound political and cultural reasons for opposing the particular way a particular technology was affecting their livelihoods and their communities. Even to be a Luddite today (if you were to ask someone who identifies as a NeoLuddite) is not to approve of all technology from before you were born and disapprove of everything that comes after your birth or some other arbitrary point. Not all technology is neutral or positive in terms of it's effects on people, communities, and the planet. I think to understand that nuance and not overreact to someone talking about concerns they have about a new technology (or even a whole group of related technologies) is intellectually short-sighted at best.
        I use a computer frequently and am open to new software and hardware alike. Would I consider trying these glasses? Maybe. I actually find my cell phone pretty annoying as is, though, with its seemingly random demands for attention and the pull its smartphone capabilites have on my attention during my downtime.
        I also think that there is something to be said for the experience of giving full attention to study or to time spent outdoors without the mediating influence of electronic audio or visual technology… Not because it makes me a better person, but because it is a completely different experience to focus on something you are doing with your body or on a place you are in or on a book you are reading than to have little tweets and comments pinging in your right eye whenever someone you are connected to and who is not physically with you decides to share something, whether it is incredibly profound to you or as inane as "i like sandwiches with mustard."
        i also think you've been quite strangely hostile in this discussion and i wonder why.
        –Katie

    3. I also feel the need to point out the surpreme irony of you complaining about new technology via that internet, which you apparently did not have during your extra-special screen-free childhood.

        1. Ok, that doesn't make any sense at all.  Are you just trying to dismiss me completely by claiming that I'm too young to know anything?  You wouldn't know gratitude if it bit you on the nose.  You're the one who values a super speshul childhood without acknowledging any of the benefits of technology.
          You're only pretending to be grateful about the past because you think the present is just so gosh darn aweful for children.  You can call it whatever you want, but you still think that the present is worse than the past.  Saying it in a way that you think is polite doesn't mean you aren't complaining.

          1. I'm dismissing you because you sound like a baby having a tantrum. I told a 100 percent personal story about getting outdoors instead of being lured to stay inside by computer technology. I was a kid, not an adult rejecting technology. I was raised by a single mom, a school teacher. We were poor. I sure as hell do know what gratitude is, it's you who is here being a troll with no purpouse except to make herself feel better by being rude to someone else. If I thought the past was better, catgirl, I would say something like this:
             
            I THINK THE PAST WAS BETTER……….
             
            For cripes sake, take a class in reading comprehension. And get your own comment box. You're starting to act like a stalker.

  2. Sign me up–just as soon as it isn't Google offering it.  Because, let me guess.  Samsung will make the glasses.  Google will provide them with the software for free!  So waht's Google get out of it?  If you're not paying Google any money, you're not the customer.  You're the product.  They'll collect even more data about you than they already do–and then sell it.  No way I want Google that deep into my life.  Wake me when Apple makes one.  At least I know where I stand with them.  I am the customer.

  3. If I had these I would never stop wearing them. Upon hearing about these I actually started looking up prices and effectiveness of laser eye surgery so I wouldn't have to wear my normal glasses anymore.

  4. I can see this being useful in some contexts. If you're running a busy restaurant, I could see real-time updates on the status of various things in the restaurant being useful. This could be potentially useful anyplace where you're trying to keep a lot of balls in the air.
     
    As for everyday use, I welcome people wearing these. It will clearly telegraph people I will likely not get along with and would rather avoid.

  5. Of course there are hugely useful applications for augmented reality displays – they tend to cover specific situations such as surgery, or maintenance of complex machines. In those scenarios, the appearance of the hardware is unimportant, and it's being supported by dedicated processors and storage. The mock-up POV demo that Google showed out would need to work over wifi or cell service, and and have a lot of on-board and back-end processor/storage support. That's not going to be cheap, and it's not going to work flawlessly straight off the shelf. They're going to need to pour a ton of money into PR and demonstrator roll-outs. In 10-20 years, all this might be trivial, but right now I don't think it's going to catch on.
    And yeah, it's also not going to be easy to make wearing a HUD in public socially acceptable. If you can spare the time, download and listen to this speech by Ben Hammersley, especially towards the end where he brings up the importance of providing affordances in software UIs for beginners. The more deeply geeky/complex a new thing is, the longer it takes for it to be widely accepted. http://archive.org/download/Reboot70HallAspeakerssaturday/6.Ben_Hammersley.mp4

  6. There's another version of this video with dialog where the guy who lives in that unbelievable apartment across the street from Stuyvesant Town, makes his way to Strand Books, and his friend calls the MUD truck a "new place" and has to explain that it's "really good". Hipster FAIL! 


  7. I'm suspicious, I guess. Not of the technology, but of the Google. Plus, I can't help but think about that commercial from a few years ago with the hipster shouting in the plaza and scaring the pigeons. Must we scare the pigeons?
     
    Really, like so much New Exciting Technology®, who knows until it's actually being used by real people in the world? Promotional videos and breathless PR are one thing, actual application is another. I'm not an early adopter type, but if this happens, shows merit, is affordable, and doesn't involve too many accidental deaths, I wouldn't rule it out.

    1. As a gamedev I was really sorry that I discounted the viability of the Facebook and Mobile platforms because we had the cash to enter those spaces back when they were still young. 
       
      So I got my eye on this one, if they show the slightest sign of being adopted, I'm going to be downloading the SDK and developing for it immediately.

      1. AR games could be quite interesting with this if fully realized, unlike having to hold up a Nintendo handheld…especially something like point/click adventures or maybe card battle/strategy games.

        1. Portable gaming devices as they're known now (PSP/DS/etc.) won't be around in 10 years methinks.  The manufacturers wont have enough financial incentive to build them.
           
          Smartphones and other disruptive tech is currently killing handheld hardware and game software sales and I don't see that going away.  I mean why buy a portable gaming device and pay $10 for each game when you can have a smartphone and maybe a headset which does everything else you want too and has games which are generally no more than $8 to buy.

          1. I agree. And $10? The handhelds have charged considerably more than that over the years. Heck, the 3DS charges around $40. And I'm not much for just shrinking down home console type games into a smaller format anyway. Smartphones, tablets, etc. usually have those bite-sized, actually portable experiences that make sense (and oftentimes for a buck or two). Buying Chrono Trigger or some other sprawling RPG for a handheld, even though I have a driving commute, doesn't make any sense.
             

          2. Yeah exactly, it doesn't make sense :).  I am honestly having fun watching the big self-important console game publishers flail about as they try to figure out how to continue to stay viable and evolve.
             
            I can tell you that they know they're in trouble, but they're so beauracratic and stuck in their ways that they're incapable responding to it smartly.  The attempts I've been watching to evolve towards new platforms are so full of fail and those of us on the online/social/mobile side have quite often have good laughs at their expense over brews every year at GDC as their predicament grows more dire.  Of course giants like EA and Blizzard will survive, but you'll see a myriad of medium sized publishers implode over the next decade.

        2. I’d be more interested in epic roleplaying games. Also popular could be “themes” in otherwise “green screened” stores. Two people could litterally be in two different types of stores, but in the same physical location.

          Either of these could be synched with physical objects. So, for example, picking up a rock gave a gold piece. Or picking up a blank tee-shirt would project a proposed tee-shirt targeted at you. The shirt would be tagged by your unit and printed in real time at the time of purchase, or shipped next day.

          Plus, there could be virtual structures within open spaces. Hallways marked only by lines on the display – they could even be blocked off visually. With noise cancelling earbuds and microphones, a packed resturant could become an intimate fantasy dinner.

          The disingenuity of the world that technology creates is pathetic. I wonder how many people pretending not to be miserable we can pack on this hot little planet.

          Sent via Blackberry

          1. Indeed, after some further research, I've come to conclude that google's real plan is to turn us into walking advertisements.  I think the leaked snapshot of the final product below is evidence enough about what they're REALLY up to.

             

  8. There is an anime about (much more advanced) augmented reality glasses:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denn%C5%8D_Coil
    I've had a few thoughts myself of where it could go (at least in terms of SF plots).
    * No more interior decorating – just download the decor of your choice into your glasses.
    * AR Avatars: you design what you want to look like, and (assuming the subscribe to your avatar service) that is what everyone who looks at you with AR glasses sees.
    * AR avatar clubs: night clubs with rules to ensure people can only see your avatar.
    * Bootleg 'see everyone sexy and naked' software.

  9. That last would require content authoring… a lot of it. The virtual reality of the metaworld in Dennou Coil was overlaid on top of reality– that's why those using glasses could see virtual pets (although not touch them) and why you could use a virtual barrier to 'hide' behind in an empty space– because people wouldn't think to take their glasses off and see you. To see through real clothes, though you'd have to invent the content underneath. Probably just watching porn is easier.
    Great series, though, and also the first thing I thought of when Google posted that video.

  10. Personally, I could see some good applications for this. At the very least, it'd be nice to give my hands a break when it comes to casual computer use. (Being a programming with nerve problems can be less than fun sometimes.)
    My big question is the UI. The video implies this is heavily driven by voice recognition. (I imagine there's some eye tracking being done as well.)  While that tech has gotten better over the years, I still wouldn't want to rely on it for all my computer interaction. Not by a long shot. Especially out in public. Who wants to be out in a crowd and start talking to their glasses?  Who wants to listen to a room full of people talk to their glasses? Ugh.

  11. This is a tricky question. I really don't know what's going to happen with project glass (will they call it the iGlass?), and i'm sort of hoping some sociologist will weigh in with comments and conjectures. Maybe i should get myself to a LUG instead to listen to the conversation about these glasses. The geeks and nerds will probably have a better idea about what's going to happen.
    I have the feeling that they are a game changer because they reduce the outlay of energy to use information and technology to a minimal amount. The uses are myriad. Some speculative ideas:
    Imagine for example face recognition software running on the glasses. You see someone and an option appears "discover more". Then you'll be sent to that persons google+ or facebook stream.
    If enough people share their positions with others, there will be a social pressure for all of us to do so. One could receive warnings about lost pets or missing people when you're in the same place as their last known location.
    The increase in social and personal information will allow news stories to have personal content. An example being an accident on the motorway. If a relative or friend was near on in the accident you could receive an alert. 
    An overlay to coordinate groups of people in realtime. One can imagine some of the applications, recreational and serious.
    I can't yet see any way to combine this with nfc. There must be some good possibilities. Any ideas? We tend to be quite wary as a society about letting things get too close to our heads. Maybe we could build nfc-chips into doorways, so we enter a shop and the shop can offer to display certain information on the glasses.

  12. I’m a little disappointed. This Google thing in fact is just an advanced cellphone. While this is fine of course, that’s not a hundredth part of what VRD can offer you (watched Denn? Coil, anybody?).

    On the plus side, VRDs are getting affordable. That’s great!

  13. tl;dr warning
    On the general subject of luddites and the Marilove / Catgirl vs Luna spat up thread:
    I also get annoyed by people who eschew new technology and wear it like a badge of honor. Really, go fuck off and leave the making, marketing and consumption of technology to those who appreciate the advancements and who furthermore understand the transformative power of such technology. Bagging on new technology or bragging about your technology free upbringing doesn't make you cool, it makes you sound like an idiot.
    But by all means, continue to shun new technology. I make a living off of people that have to use a computer all day at work but still don't know what a web browser is. I'm still going to think you're an idiot while I line my pockets with your ignorance.
    On the paranoid comments about teh big eevul Googlez:
    I work in IT, so I'm surrounded by geeks who are enamoured by technology. Never once will you here someone complain about Google collecting too much information. The Apple / Google debate rages on a daily basis but never does either side point to Google's collecting of information as a drawback to using Android, because tech geeks understand something about information; there's a ton of it! The data that Google has on you is part of a massive, and I mean massive dataset. Your particular details are like a few molucules in a room.
    No one cares about your individual web usage except in the case that they want to target ads at you, which is completely automated. No human is perusing your personal case file and getting a kick out of it. It may seem a bit creepy that your ads have become a bit more personal, but quite frankly I find that to be useful. I don't really want to see ads for the car I can't afford or the restaurant I already know I can't stand. Show me ads for things I might actually buy or use, that's fine with me. 
    Privacy? Pshaww, the internet is a public space, there is no expectation of privacy and there never has been. Conduct yourself accordingly. Watch your credit report on a regular basis to prevent identity theft and never keep too much money in a checking account tied to online usage, and really, there is nothing to worry about except stalkers, which admittedly is a problem. But that's not a Google problem, it's a law enforcement problem. If anything, Google may end up making it easier to find and deal with those would stalk or harass another via the internet. 

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