As many people interested in the world of technology already know, the release for Google Glass is slated for either the end of 2013 or early 2014. Google Glass, the search giant’s hot new product, combines the functionality and connectedness of a smartphone with the hands-free head display of glasses. While this technology isn’t implicitly a disruptive innovation within the smartphone world, it absolutely has the potential to change the way consumers behave, and could certainly be disruptive to other industries. While the new product is very exciting for some, many are fearful of the implications of widespread head-display style electronic devices. Below is a look into how Glass could change consumer behavior as well as effects it is already having on those who don’t welcome the new technology.
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While GPS is certainly not a new phenomenon, Glass will change the way GPS is used. The use of navigation systems on cell phones have made the actual GPS device nearly obsolete; but this hasn’t reduced the need for geo-location technology itself. Google Glass will use this technology to help users navigate indoors and outdoors with directions being displayed within the lenses. This could be a great option for drivers in states that don’t allow the use of cell phones while driving or, as some argue, could just be another distraction.
Google glass is one of the first products to offer consumers the ability to record what they’re seeing in first-person. Smartphones and YouTube have already majorly changed the way video can be created and consumed, but Glass is taking another huge step away from traditional Hollywood-style film. First-person filming will allow consumers to record things that were never possible before, such as physical performances and even extreme activities in which holding a camera would be impossible.
For those who travel often, Google Glass will have the capability to make flying quite a bit simpler. Imagine seeing the capacity of the parking garage as you pull up, and being navigated to an open spot. Picture seeing the status of your flight as you’re guided through the airport via indoor navigation. These are just some of the features that are already being made available with Glass. Apps would also allow users to pull up a map of electrical outlets within the terminal and view which ones are available, or estimate cab fare from the airport to the hotel. All of this is done completely hands-free, while still carrying luggage and watching your step.
Tasks that previously required the ability to understand blueprints and other detailed charts will be revolutionized by Glass. It will eliminate the need for paper instructions, and could even give input to people doing repairs or construction. If nothing else, one could at least video chat with someone more experienced, leaving one’s hands free to do the actual work.
Similar to the way Glass could revolutionize maintenance, it could have a profound effect on the health care industry as well. Glass could enable a surgeon to load a patient’s pre-op scans in order to view the patient’s entire individual anatomy while operating. It would allow them to know exactly where to cut, exactly where a problem lies, where to avoid, etc. It could have an enormous impact on health outcomes on several different fronts.
For anyone who has ever gone on a guided tour of some sort, imagine being able to visit only the sites you find interesting, on your own terms. Glass incorporates a “Field Trip” app that provides information based on your location, and they could easily continue to develop that to the point where one can tour cities and museums with Glass as their guide.
There are many ways that Glass could affect the entire education process. For starters, students could record and send lecture material to classmates who are out sick without being distracted themselves from the lesson. Glass will also be able to actively translate spoken word and text. Glass could even help instructors by acting as a teleprompter, showing them what’s next in their slide shows. However, Glass could also have a negative impact on education and could easily allow students to cheat during exams. This will become a technology that school systems will really need to analyze prior to allowing its use.
Already, a company has issued a product called Golden-I, similar to Google Glass in that it is a wearable pair of glasses loaded with facial and license plate recognition software, as well as the ability to monitor vital signs and remotely control other devices. Google Glass could benefit law enforcement in similar ways. In addition, there has been talk about apps capable of identifying people simply by their size and clothing style, without need for facial recognition.
It is no secret that Google makes a large portion of its revenue from advertising, but, as of now, Google says that they have no plans for advertising on Glass. However, if this changes, it will revolutionize the way brands interact with customers. Google already harvests information about users to target advertising, imagine if they also collected what we see while wearing Glass as well, and incorporated that into our customer profiles. They could display ads exactly related to what the user is doing, or perhaps discounts to stores that users may be passing by at that moment in time.
Those Who Oppose
While many find the prospect of Google Glass exciting, a sizeable group also finds Glass intrusive and frightening, and they have established valid points on the issue as well.
Is it bad for Your Eyes?
Although head displays are new to the general public, they’ve been around for military use for a long time. Studies have found that such displays can cause visual confusion, which can lead to binocular rivalry, visual interference and phoria, or a misalignment of the eyes. Eye doctors explain that in simple terms, both of our eyes want to see the same thing, and displaying an image over one eye over time can lead to this visual confusion.
Google recruited Eli Peli, professor of ophthalmology at the Harvard Medical School and a senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, when designing Glass in order to reduce the safety risks as much as possible starting in the design phase. When interviewed by Forbes, Peli went on to claim that while Glass eye health risks are not completely avoidable, they are quite small, and the least of any unit he’s ever tested before.
The social environment will be different with the widespread availability of these Google Glasses, because people will be able to record anything without others in the vicinity being aware. Private conversations could possibly end up on YouTube if the listener isn’t trustworthy. Beyond that, Glass is constantly listening for commands, so many are concerned for what else Glass could be listening for.
Seattle’s 5 Point Café made headlines a couple of weeks ago when they pre-emptively banned the futuristic glasses from the bar for privacy reasons. They claim the bar is “notorious,” and sometimes “seedy,” and that patrons don’t want to risk being filmed or photographed without their knowledge or consent. This could be the start of similar bans going into effect as 5 Point definitely makes a valid point as to the invasion of privacy that Glass could bring.
Many states have long since banned cell phone usage while driving, and West Virginia has already taken the initiative to ban Glass for drivers as well. Anybody who lives in an urban area has seen people walking while looking at their cell phones, and bumping into things because they are distracted. Many people feel that Glass will not solve this problem, but only make it worse, prompting people to use the technology even more when they should be paying attention to where they are driving or walking. West Virginian lawmakers fear that young people will be more apt to try the distracting technology while driving, and this is the same population that is inexperienced on the road. Thus, they’ve already introduced a bill banning the use of “wearable computer[s] with head mounted display” while driving.
While it is still unclear what exact impacts Google Glass will have on society, one thing is certain: it is a hot topic in technology news right now. There are definitely positive things that could come from this new style of computing, but the risks are there as well. It will be up to society and legislators to figure out exactly where Glass will fit in to society, and where it will be unaccepted. However, we can say without much doubt that Glass will bring significant changes to everyday life.
This blog post was written by Jason. He works for a computer and IT certification training provider named Phoenix TS.