When Google announced last week Google Glass’s sale debut to come this year, many of us learned the many great things this augmented reality eye-wear can do. One of its most significant features is its voice recognition capability. At the command of your own voice starting with the prompt “OK Glass”, it can take photos, translate between languages, display road maps, video record events, and more. But a smart phone can do these same things. However, the real purpose of Glass is not so much in its features as in its user convenience. Unlike smartphones, it allows you to experience the actual event and environment around you while you command the device to perform a function such as taking a picture at a ball game. In other words, it doesn’t distract you from real world experiences. So they say. While Google Glass has its practical and innocently entertaining uses it doesn’t connect you to the real world environment any more than the smartphone does.
Glass has its luxurious uses whether for entertainment or just plain user convenience. You can take a photo of an event without having to reach for your digital camera or mobile phone. In the same manner, you can video record with Glass. You can even share photos with friends and family online. Many of these and more conveniences have been indicated in the crowdsourcing-like Glass Explorer campaign in which contestants describe either via Twitter or Google Plus what they would do with a Glass if they had one. One contesting Google Plus user says “I would wire the . . . glass to find parking using an image recognition api that displays open spots nearby.” Another contestant says “I’ll see my new born baby first not with my glasses but with google glass”. Another participant says he would use it to video tape his entire experience at a party: “. . . [If I had Glass] I would capture it all! . . .”
While some of the above examples may seem like very trivial uses of Glass to some, there are some very practical life changing ones as well. Scientists can use it for video recording field work while communicating with others about what they are doing during a time when grabbing a mobile phone might hinder the work. Such is the case with the Houston Zoo who says via Twitter, “We could share sea turtle releases in the Gulf and answer questions live through the whole process!” Athletes can use Glass to video record their competition through their point of view. One contestant tweets, “I’d use [Glass] to film a stage dive from my view”. Surgeons could use it to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of operating on their patients, as another participant indicates on Google Plus.
Glass also has its accessibility uses. A Glass Explorer contestant with colorblindness says he would use the device to appreciate his first sunset. Another participant says that with a Glass he would do just about all the things a smartphone allows a person to do, only “without hands. . . . I was born without hands but [if I had Glass] I just might not be missing anything.” Glass would also help care for the elderly. A contestant says he would use it to find his missing grandfather, Roy Arteburn. Yet another contestant says he would use it for his grandfather who has a hard time using his hands.
Like the smartphone, Google Glass definitely has its social media advantages. Joshua Topolsky says in his article on “The Verge” web magazine that you can share real time experience via video with people on Google Hangout using Glass. He also indicates that, unlike the smartphone, it’s supposed to allow users to participate in real time and space while they are using Glass’s features. But this is only partly true. According to Topolsky, the “small [virtual] screen that floats in the upper right-hand of your field of vision . . . is not disruptive. . . . It’s there and then it is gone. . . . It’s just this new thing in your field of vision.” But the AR still comes in between the user and the outer surrounding environment as smartphones’ screens do. Therefore “this new thing in your field of vision” is a thing that is not supposed to be there by the standards of the human body. It’s nearly the digital equivalent to a cataract! How can that not be distracting from real world experience?
Forget how quickly the AR comes and goes. If people start wearing Glass as consistantly as they hold mobile phones to their ears or, worst yet, as they wear ear pieces such as the BlueTooth, it’s going to obstruct vision. A Dr. Michael Ehrenhaus of New York Cornea Consultants is quoted in a Mashable article saying that Glass can cause distraction to “users on the street.” This is especially so with driving and even flying. The above article refers to research recorded in the “Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium on Aviation Psychology” that “has been conducted on pilots and drivers in the past reveal [sic] that when a person is mentally focused on the HUD [head-up-display of a device], they are not paying attention to the world around them.” Glass is HUD technology.
While Google Glass has its practical and even harmless luxurious conveniences and efficiencies, it does not allow real world experience much more than the smartphone has. It is one more device that won’t only cost as much as $1500 dollars, but also cost the direct connection between your natural senses, particularly sight, and the world around you. On top of that, it’s one more device, like the Bluetooth earpiece that you have to wear in order to use. If it’s not used sparingly enough, it will fulfill more of Gibsonian prophecy bringing the human race closer and closer to turning into an egotistic cyborg race. Let alone fulfill Orwellian prophecy with a Big Brother.
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