Friday, April 12, 2013

Google Glass iMenagerie

Back on February 4th, I posted an entry under the heading of An i for an Eye that included some discussion of Google's Project Glass. Just to refresh your memory, here's a video showing the current state of the technology, which was posted last month:

As you can see from the title of the video, the emphasis is on the camera function, although elements of Google search are also incorporated. This is a bit more modest than the original vision (sorry for the pun) Google had presented (as I noted in my An i for an Eye post), but in any event, it was back in February that Google released more details about the project. Here are some excerpts from a short article on it in Deutsche Welle, where Google Glass is described as "a smartphone-like product that is controlled by voice commands":

Controlled by voice commands, the small set of eyeglasses project information unobtrusively to a tiny display screen attached to a rim above the right eye. The glasses run on Google's Android operating system for mobile devices.
Google Inc. first sold the glasses to computer programmers at a company conference last June where Google co-founder Sergey Brin first demonstrated the device. The company first began developing the glasses in 2010 as part of a secretive company division now known as Google X.
As the device is hands-free, Google Glass is supposed to make it easier for people to take pictures or record video wherever they are. Wearers can also conduct online searches by telling Google Glass to look up a specific piece of information.
Google also posted a YouTube video Wednesday showing people wearing the glasses while skydiving, riding a rollercoaster, dancing, skiing and even swinging on a trapeze.
The mass-market version of Google Glass will cost less than $1,500, but more than a smartphone.

It does sound pretty cool, doesn't it? Of course, it also sounds like it will feed directly into our "almost infinite appetite for distractions" to quote from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World Revisted, a quote that Neil Postman invoked in his Foreword to Amusing Ourselves to Death.  

But holding such considerations aside for the moment, as well as Postman's most basic question, to what problem is this a solution? (the problem of having to hold a camera and/or mobile device with your hands), back on February 25, I was asked to respond to a practical inquiry. This was for Mike Daly's Today's Burning Question feature for the Adotas website.  Specifically, it was, Today’s Burning Question: Marketing Implications Of Google Glass, and here's how Daly introduced it:

Another day, another screen size!
On the heels of Google’s unveiling of new details about Google Glass, we asked our panel of movers & shakers: “How will online marketers capitalize on the impending availability of Google Glass?”

and here's my response:

“Google Glass will open up an entirely new world of first-person video that will radically transform the art of filmmaking and video production, journalism, public relations, and advertising and marketing. It will take a bit of time to adequately explore the possibilities of this new medium, and for audiences to become accustomed to the perspective, but ultimately it is a point of view that better suits the electronic media environment in that it puts viewers at the center of the action, rather than positioning them in an objectively distanced manner, as outsiders looking in (the point of view associated with reading and print media). As such, Google Glass is well suited for capturing the look and sound of an environment or surrounding, as opposed to smaller products that might be better displayed by more traditional camera-work, using for example close-ups, two-shots, etc. The strength of this new medium lies in providing a virtual sense of place, a sample of the experience of actually being there, and this will have immediate and enormous relevance for the travel and tourism industry. Google Glass is well suited for presenting a walk-through of an unfamiliar locale, a tour of a resort or hotel’s rooms and facilities, a vacation spot’s attractions, theme park rides and recreational activities, and modes of transportation such as a cruise ship or train.” – Dr. Lance Strate, Professor of Communication and Media Studies and Director of the Professional Studies in New Media program at Fordham University.

You can read the other responses over on the Adotas page. But maybe to return to Huxley and Postman's point about distraction, and other concerns regarding new media, this next video handles the subject with great humor, and while the title, How Guys Will Handle Google Glass, led me to believe it might be a little to racy for this family-oriented blog, let me assure you that it is rated PG at worst:

And to return to a more serious mode, here's one more video, this one having been posted just a few days ago, CNET Top 5: Best uses for Google Glass. The first couple are not very impressive, but kudos for bringing up the negative effects in the midst of discussing some reasonable benefits that this new gadget might have to offer.

One last note that no one seems to be bringing up is the potential benefits the technology might have to offer to people with disabilities, particular vision impairment. If you could use the device as a hands free magnifier, and use voice commands to control the level of magnification and other factors, there would be no more need for bifocals and progressive lenses. And individuals with macular degeneration, like my mother, could switch back and forth between a very high magnification for reading to something better suited for moving about.

Oh, and let me conclude by noting that the title of this post is of course a play on the title of the Tennessee Williams drama, The Glass Menagerie, with the ubiquitous small i for internet prefix added on, to invoke a little pun on imaginary, because, after all, what this is all about is speculation, and the products of imagination. And if you don't care for my neologism, all I can say is that people living in Google glass houses shouldn't throw iStones...

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