Alice in Wonderland - Antony House Cornwall

Alice in Wonderland — Antony House Cornwall. (Photo credit: puritani35.)

Google Glass. People across the Web are becoming obsessed with it as the project gains absurd momentum. Reminding of one of the gargoyles in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, these wearable computers bring a heads-up display into your ordinary life, or will by the end of 2013.

A New Reality?

Let’s start with a video that shows how things look for the wearer, including demonstrations of the voice interface.

“I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

A Journalist’s Dream

Joshua Topolsky has a great review of his recent test drive of Project Glass on The Verge. It is well worth reading, but do so with a grain of salt. You’ll notice that it was all done in a hyper-controlled environment, with Google holding his hand the whole time. The real test of any new tech like this is how it behaves when released into the wild.

This part of his review touches on the capabilities that I find the most exciting as a media creator:

But the most interesting parts of Glass for many people won’t be its search functionality, at least not just its basic ability to pull data up. Yes, it can tell you how old Brad Pitt is (49 for those keeping count), but Google is more interested in what it can do for you in the moment. Want the weather? It can do that. Want to get directions? It can do that and display a realtime, turn-by-turn overlay. Want to have a Google Hangout with someone that allows them to see what you’re seeing? Yep, it does that.

But the feature everyone is going to go crazy with — and the feature you probably most want to use — is Glass’ ability to take photos and video with a ‘you are there’ view. I won’t lie, it’s amazingly powerful (and more than a little scary) to be able to just start recording video or snapping pictures with a couple of flicks of your finger or simple voice commands.

At one point during my time with Glass, we all went out to navigate to a nearby Starbucks — the camera crew I’d brought with me came along. As soon as we got inside however, the employees at Starbucks asked us to stop filming. Sure, no problem. But I kept the Glass’ video recorder going, all the way through my order and getting my coffee. Yes, you can see a light in the prism when the device is recording, but I got the impression that most people had no idea what they were looking at. The cashier seemed to be on the verge of asking me what I was wearing on my face, but the question never came. He certainly never asked me to stop filming.

For someone who creates media on the fly, this has infinite potential. The ability to run a Hangout while on the go offers an insane array of options for journalism alone. As someone who records a lot of live interviews, I can’t wait for the opportunity to give it a test drive.

The Dark Side of the Glass

Of course, there will be abuses, but they happen with everything. Since the genie cannot be stuffed back in the bottle, it behooves us to figure out how it changes things.

While it’s great to be able to record yourself on a carnival ride, the tech also allows for what I am sure will be a deluge of more, ahem, intimate photography.

It really is a disruptive technology, and with that, it will have a fairly immediate impact on our daily lives. For one thing, there will be the more and more pervasive worry that no matter where you are, someone is recording. We already see this to an extent with smartphones, but with Glass, there will be no telltale aiming of a device to let someone know they are “on candid camera.” I’d be willing to forecast places where Glass will be banned once the technology is widely adopted.

Hedge fund manager Eric Jackson recently tweeted:

VC told me this wk — who’d tried it & knows many people who have — Google Glass actually is not very good at the moment, gives big headaches.

I could see that. A technology that puts something new in your field of view on a constant basis? Headaches and eyestrain are almost certain to become issues. Not to mention other, as yet unforeseen, stresses on our physical and mental welfare.

Will You Embrace Google Glass? 

“Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

There is so much potential here. Enough so to trot out the overused word “revolutionary.” Anything that causes truly disruptive change has both good and bad sides, but once we know it is possible there is no way to unlearn it. In the meantime, the ramifications for performance, reporting, and just about every other aspect of our interaction with the world and obtaining information are about ready to change.

Mirrorshades, anyone?

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