One of the stories of the week was the unveiling by Google of their “Project Glass,” a bit of tech that’s designed to bring wearable displays and information access to the masses without looking like we’re all wearing the 15-pound getups from the 1980’s Photon game. The reviews on the success of Google’s efforts to be fashionable are definitely mixed – especially after the sighting of a set on the face of Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin a couple of nights ago – and so are the assessments of what the technology would mean to us all.
Google’s glasses are designed to allow you access to information in a manner intended to be both intuitive and less distracting than having to pull out a palm device and typing on a keypad. One of the more useful applications of this device is as a navigation aid, exactly like your in-car GPS offers today. The difference being, of course, that this one walks along with you as you leave the car. Walking around in DC I could certainly see the utility of that. Another idea is the concept of being able to pull up information about what you’re looking at at the moment. Again, using my DC example, you could look at a building and get a list of the businesses there.
Information retrieval regarding your currently-viewed target brings up the notion of being able to access profiles for people you meet as well. Example: you walk into a meeting and go to shake hands with someone you’ve met only once or twice – and have forgotten the name of – and see their name pop up in your view. Having been in sales for several years I can tell you there’s been plenty of occasions where such an application would have been useful. Of course, you’d really want to turn that off before you left the building and got pummelled by an endless stream of names popping up as you pass the hundreds of other pedestrians on the sidewalk with you.
I have no idea what the technican limitations of Project Glass are, as of yet, but there are a few questions I have already. The pictures you see in the press releases are showing this sleek glasses-frame device. Is the battery self-contained? How long will it last? How is it accessing information – WiFi or cell service? What’s the speed? What’s the interface for configuring the device to use whatever access service is available? And how, how, how is it secured? Can you imagine the information bonanza this tech would represent is it became widely adopted? If it were compromised then whoever it was that managed to hack in to your device would see and hear everything you do. Your ATM PIN as you withdraw cash, your credit card numbers as you open your wallet, the sales forecasts for your firm as you prepare that report for your boss, the location of your spare key in the garage for those times you accidentally locked yourself out – it would be like you’re giving a guided tour of your life to someone. That’s a lot worse than someone hacking your Facebook account, that’s for sure.
Another aspect of this is the personal/social angle. By having this information readily retrieved from online – the names of people popping up as you see them, for example – we’re effectively moving our memory “to the cloud.” We already have an example of that effect with us today. Think about the people you call and talk to on a regular basis on your phone. I would wager that the phone numbers for a majority of them are stored as speed dials and are accessed by a push of a button or, as in a cell phone, by your saying their name to initiate a dial. How many of those people could you dial up and call if you had to actually input their phone numbers on the keypad? I mean, without looking their numbers up? We have already pushed that memory requirement out to the devices we carry. What happens when we can access all that information about people and places via the Glasses rather than having to commit it to memory ourselves? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing, yet, I’m just saying it’s something we should be considering.