Three Questions I Hope Google Answers Before Google Glass Is Released

We now know when, roughly speaking, we'll be able to buy Google Glass, but the company needs to address controversial use-case questions before the glasses arrive.

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You wanted to know when you could finally lay hands on a pair of Google’s slender new cyber-glasses, and now we have…if not a precise release date, at least a more concrete timeframe: early next year, according to Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt.

Speaking to BBC News, Schmidt noted the company is now shipping pre-release versions of the glasses to developers (Schmidt added there’ll be thousands in the wild over the next few months). After developer feedback and some final tweaks, the glasses will go on sale. That’s a “year-ish” away, said Schmidt, indicating early- to mid-2014. That might seem like a while, given prior intimations from the company that we’d see these things by 2013′s close, and yet it’s hard to imagine it being enough time for the company to address some of the critical questions below.

Should Google Glass be wearable/usable while operating motorized (or even non-motorized) vehicles?

I wondered about this a few weeks ago, asking whether we ought to ban Google Glass while driving (as West Virginia preemptively — and I argued wrongheadedly — just did). This is a research question.

What research? Exactly. Has anyone studied what happens if people wear interactive glasses while operating a motor (or non-motor, like a bike) vehicle? Not that I’m aware of.

What does it do to reaction times if you tilt your view up slightly (from straight ahead) to scan whatever the glasses are displaying on that tiny, translucent, monocle-like screen? Are there different thresholds of operational safety between cyber-glasses and smartphones? Should Google Glass have an optional “Driving Mode” similar to a smartphone’s “Airplane Mode” that takes certain functions offline?

What about augmented reality? Could certain applications make driving with Google Glass safer by enhancing what we’re seeing out the windshield? And if Google Glass doesn’t include usage profiles, how responsible should we expect the public to be in autonomously deciding which functions to invoke and which one’s not to while behind the wheel? It’s going to be a lot harder to tell what someone’s doing wearing a pair of these, especially in a vehicle: except for the slight up-tilt in someone’s gaze, how do you know someone’s looking at the tiny view screen — much less from a distance — instead of directly ahead (or simply up at the clouds)?

What about people in crosswalks — people already occasionally heedless of their surroundings whether talking to someone on a phone or jabbing away at its touchscreen? What about crowds in general? Yes, as Schmidt notes, we’re already dealing with these issues, except I’d consider “dealing” wildly optimistic. Living in a college town, I witness near-misses daily involving vehicles and students goofing around with mobile devices while crossing the street.

On the one hand, you have Eric Schmidt saying (in that interview) stuff like: “For me, the most interesting thing is the fact that you talk to it.” On the other, you have studies like this one by Texas A&M indicating that dictating messages while driving is just as dangerous as using your fingers to type them out. And yet many of us issue voice commands while driving (I realize this isn’t exactly the same as dictating), instructing our phones to initiate voice calls. What about issuing voice commands to a device like Google Glass? Is that safe while driving?

I’m not sure it’s enough for Google to place the burden wholly on consumers: “Read up and follow the law!” says the company in its Google Glass FAQ. “Above all, even when you’re following the law, don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road. The same goes for bicycling: whether or not any laws limit your use of Glass, always be careful.” Who would disagree?

But how many states have legislation that covers a device like Google Glass? And where they don’t but the release of Google Glass motivates them to action, do we trust legislators to get the legislation right? In West Virginia, the legislature acted more on a whim than anything, electing to blanket-ban “a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.” Actual research didn’t factor.

Is Google itself studying how Google Glass works in view of what we presently know about the brain, our eyeballs and motor coordination? Is anyone communicating that in plain English to legislators? Speaking of devices, is Google Glass a mobile device in the same sense that your smartphone is? Legally the same?

Loosing potentially game-changing, legally nebulous wearable tech on the public without clear guidelines seems like a really bad idea. Consider the lengths Nintendo went to in order to warn parents about potential binocular vision development issues in children under a certain age who might operate the company’s 3DS gaming handheld with stereoscopic 3D mode enabled. Nintendo even included an optional parental lock to password-disable the technology.

What does “one full day of typical use” mean?

If it’s wearable and continuously in your field of view – not something you take out to use then put away like your phone, a tablet or a pager — you sort of expect it to work all the time. I’d like to see actual metrics here. How many hours of continuous standby use? How long does it take to recharge? What’s the milliamps-hour (mAh) rating? If this stuff is still up for grabs design-wise, no problem, tweak away, but I’d like to see better battery life details pre-launch than this “typical use” generalization in the current spec sheet. Typical for what sort of user? Smartphone-typical? Laptop-typical? Help us out, Google.

Why wait? Foster the conversation about privacy and social etiquette now.

This one’s less a question than a request. Schmidt’s position in the interview is that “…in general these kinds of body-wear devices, of which this is an example, will bring in a whole bunch of concerns, and the fact of the matter is that we’ll have to develop some new social etiquette. It’s obviously not appropriate to wear these glasses in situations where recording is not correct. And indeed you have this problem already with phones.”

What Schmidt says is accurate…and waffling — a little too comfortable with the “hey, other technology too!” defense. And yet we know (and Google knows) that Google Glass represents a much more significant shift than the gradual migration that’s occurred over the past two decades from basic cellphones to more advanced Internet-connected messaging devices to PC-in-your-pocket smartphones. Sure, Google Glass could be a flop, or the adoption curve might be much longer than some assume, or someone else’s take on the tech could supersede it, but Google has a vested PR interest in facilitating an intelligent conversation about social etiquette right now, not after we’re reading the inevitable headlines like “Guy Uses Google Glass to Spy on Children in Public Restrooms.”

10 comments
MatthewHall2
MatthewHall2

Lovely! I do have a question though. Will this have Wi-Fi Capabilities and possibly Traveling Wi-Fi? And if So, Will it have it's own plan? Also, Hoping that if these are a success, Can it be fitted to Prescription Lenses with a possible screen? Maybe a button near the ear-piece to turn it on and activate a screen? Sort of like some of the Cameras that open shutters as they turn on? Not really expecting this to be answered, just sort of throwing it out there.

MichaelPowers
MichaelPowers

WHY would you want to walk around filming people??? If someone is filming me or my wife and kids with these highly intrusive glasses, they are going to get their ass kicked! Hey, that should be Google's slogan for these glasses - "Use Google Glasses - We'll Kick Your Asses!"

ukjb
ukjb like.author.displayName 1 Like

@MichaelPowers oh look. another tough guy that thinks he's going to bash someone's brains in just for using google glass... you're a joke. People have been using miniaturized cameras for years in smartphones. people have been taking pictures at the beach that happen to catch you and your family in the background for years... have you kicked anyone's butt yet? i would certainly doubt it... are you sure you even have a wife and kids yet? your maturity level from your writing reeks of a high school  child

eh92
eh92

@ukjb@MichaelPowersMichaelPowers has as an extremely fair point. Ofcource the technology for miniature cameras have been around for a long time but never has such a product been developed for daily, standardized use and manufactured in such a large scale. They will be just as abundant as smartphones and ipods within a few years, being another accessory for kids to ignorant adults unaware of the potential danger and privacy intrusions these devices have the capability of causing. Just by looking in a direction one is able to record a picture or video then transfer and distribute it to multiple party's or sources within a few seconds without the knowledge or consent of anyone but the person who is using the device. Such a market for this product would not have existed 10 years ago for the current social morality and etiquette has diminished to such a point where it is considered ok to jump the old iphone and go ahead and just snap away in any direction illustrating the self absorbed individuals of today attempting to glorify every moment of their lives without the knowledge or concern of its potential side affects. How pathetic and desensitized to the world have we become. I ofcource am no exception to such acts as I am just as involved with facebook and all the other social media sites as everyone else. I may be exaggerating and/or overly paranoid of the technological potential googleglass holds but it just saddens me today seeing people who sometimes are more worried about how good their lives looks in the views of the public that they oversee or under appreciate the beautiful experiences of life. The product itself i find amazing but do we really need to risk our personal integrity and privacy so that someone else can see what you saw or did today when the experience can easily be shared or discussed??

eh92
eh92

@ukjb @eh92 @MichaelPowers If you had taken the time to try understand the concerns about privacy MichaelPowers and I have raised rather than trying to analyze the aesthetics of our statements you would know we are not blaming the technology but the social standards and attitudes of today. I do not doubt that you have raised your kids 'correctly' to your standard but proper parenting alone on anyone's behalf is not enough to protect you and your family from a potential unwanted breach of privacy from the so called 'rest of the world' you mentioned. It is the external environment outside the safety of your household which poses a potential threat. You surely cannot say you would not be concerned about the fact that some deviant out on the street has the ability to record and distribute the most intimate and memorable of family experiences without your knowledge just by looking in your direction. How dare you insult MichaelPowers about his concern of possible unknown, unwarranted documenting of him and his family. Your lack of concern and understanding honestly deludes you from the perfect parent you make yourself out to be. 

ukjb
ukjb

@eh92 @ukjb @MichaelPowers 
what?

This was not MichaelPowers point... his point was that people will get there @ss kicked if they were these devices... that has nothing to do with what you said... and frankly, most of what you said can be corrected by proper parenting... none of my kids dream off into never never land with their smartphones at dinner or when im talking to them. i raised them correctly .. i honestly can't say the same for the rest of the world, but that's not my problem... blaming the technology we have created is placing the blame on the wrong problem.

but to go back to my original point... what michael powers said and what you said have absolutely nothing in common

MatthewHall2
MatthewHall2 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@MichaelPowers

I believe it states that it is Voice activated, and some microphones have problems picking you up right next to your mouth. Furthermore, I don't believe anyone filming you isn't going to do it for no reason, You're a bit Paranoid (Not that it's a bad thing.) so you should just try to unwind and think of what YOU could do with these glasses, not what others could do to you. With these, you could possibly stream t.v. without getting up to a computer or finding a remote! Maybe it would even have access to your t.v. channels, Teevo perhaps? (Not sure if I spelled that right.) Anyways, just think of the possibilities! It could probably even replace a Cellular Phone, Put a speaker near the earpiece and microphones that war nearby. Modify the voice control to work for, "Google Glass, End Call." or something else of the manner. Anyways, my point is, "Don't put something down until you try it!"


Thus ending your lecture from a 14-Year Old. 

BIGELLOW
BIGELLOW like.author.displayName 1 Like

@MichaelPowersWhy do you think people wearing Google Glass will only be filming people? You do know that there have been wearable cameras around for a long time. Some as cheap as $100, straight from China. Sometimes even labeled specifically as "spy camera glasses". Assuming that wearers of Google Glass will be filming people constantly is like assuming that all smartphone owners are just filming people constantly. That's only a minor feature of Google Glass, but certainly not the *point* of the device.

CrucifixionCruxi
CrucifixionCruxi

@MichaelPowers Oh so when people take random pictures and your family happens to be right in the picture are you gonna kick their ass too?