Google’s entry into the computer business has been a mixed one. While certain Chromebooks have been selling quite well, they are still a minute fraction of the laptop market. One of Google’s latest endeavors in the realm of hardware is the famous Google Glasses. While the glasses have been the focus of considerable attention, it remains to be seen whether or not they will prove to be a success or an interesting failure.
Since I rather like gadgets, the idea of a wearable computer is certainly appealing-if only for the science fiction aspect. After all, the idea of such technology is old news in science fiction. In my own case, I would most likely use such glasses for running and driving. People who know me know how important navigational technology is for me to have a reasonable chance of getting from one point to another. As such, if the Google glasses can handle this, I might consider getting a pair. Of course, I am also known for being frugal-so the glasses would have to be reasonably priced.
While I like the idea of Google Glasses, there are some practical concerns regarding this technology. One obvious concern is the distraction factor. Mobile phones and other devices are infamous for their distracting power and it seems reasonable that a device designed to sit right in front of the face would have even more distracting power than existing mobile devices. This distracting power is of concern primarily for safety, especially in the context of driving. However, there is also the concern that people will be distracted from the other people physically near them.
Another practical concern is the matter of whether or not people will actually accept the glasses. One factor is that people generally prefer to not wear glasses. While my vision is reasonably good, I do have prescription glasses. However, I find wearing glasses annoying enough that I only wear them when I really want or need to see thing sharply. As such, I usually only wear them while playing video games and watching movies at the theater. Lest anyone be worried, I can drive just fine without them. People can, of course, get accustomed to glasses-but there is the question of whether or not people will find the glasses compelling enough to wear.
There is also a somewhat philosophical issue in regards to the glasses, namely the concern about privacy. Or, to be more accurate, concern about two types of privacy. These two types are defined by which side of the glasses a person happens to be on.
In one direction, the privacy concerns relate to the folks that the glasses are pointing towards. Like almost all modern smart phones, the Google Glasses have a camera and, as such, raise the same basic concerns about privacy. However, the Google device broadens the concern. Since the glasses are glasses, people might not notice that they have a camera pointed at them. Also, since the glasses are worn, it is more likely for the glasses to be pointing at people relative to other cameras. After all, a person has to take out and hold a mobile phone to use the camera effectively. But, with the glasses, the camera will be easily and automatically pointing at the outer world.
In the case of the public context, it is rather well established that people do not have an expectation of privacy in public. This seems reasonable since the public context is just that, public rather than private. However, it can be contended that many of the notions governing the concepts of privacy have become obsolete because of changing technology. As such, there perhaps needs to be a reconsideration of the expectations in the public context. These expectations might be taken as including an expectation not to be filmed or photographed, even casually as a person saunters by wearing their Google Glasses. In addition to the question of what the person using the glasses might do, there is also the concern about what Google will do-especially in light of past issues involving the Google vehicles cruising neighborhoods and gathering up data.
Obviously, there are also concerns about people using the devices more nefariously in contexts in which people do have an expectation of privacy.
In the other direction, there are the privacy concerns relating to the user. What will Google know about the activities and location of the wearer and how will this information be used? Obviously enough, Google would be able to gather a great deal of information about the user of pair of Google Glasses and Google is rather well known for being able to use such data.
Interestingly, a person wearing a pair of Google glasses could end up being both a spy for and spied upon by Google.