The Google Glass is half full

The world is traditionally divided into those who see a glass half full and those who think it's half empty. The optimists and the pessimists. Those who see opportunities and those who see problems. You get the picture. And I think nothing brings this out more than the widely talked about Google Glass product, in development at the moment.

In case you have just emerged from a year in a cave, this is a wearable computer interface that is like (and can be incorporated into) a pair of glasses and features a display, camera, speaker and microphone.

The Glass half full picture is that this is the sensible and wonderful extension of what you can do with a mobile phone. At the moment, when I'm walking about I will quite often ask Siri something on my phone (say to look something up, add something to my diary or reminders, or send a text), or will use maps on the phone to guide myself while walking. Similarly if I want to snap a photo or take some video I just whip out my phone and I'm doing it in seconds. Glass lets you do all this and more, hands free without looking down at the phone. Want to take a picture? Ask it and it's done in a second. Need walking directions? You can see them as you walk. Want to check your diary? No need to drag out the phone and stare at it, just carry on. It sounds life transforming and life affirming.

The Glass half empty picture is that this is the monster Google getting its tentacles into even more of your life - and the life of those around you. As you use it you could potentially constantly be providing Google with information and even images if the camera is live. And it's rude. When someone thinks you are listening to them, you may be consuming information on Glass. It is obtrusive, Big Brotherish and a nightmare. Some locations are already banning the devices.

When it comes to technology I'm largely glass half full - and this extends to Glass. I really want one, though with a number of provisos. It would need to be integrated with prescription glasses, something promised fairly quickly, but which I suspect will only be available in the UK after quite a while. It would need to be affordable - there is no way I would pay over £200 for this, as will probably be the initial price. They would need to work where I am most of the time - I don't know enough about the way they access the internet to know if this applies. And ideally they need to integrate well with my Apple technology, which given this is from the House of Android somehow seems unlikely. But that apart I would love to be able to do all that stuff.

Am I not worried about privacy? No, not really. I happily use mobile devices without panicking about losing my privacy now and I will continue to do so.

Google Glass is half full. And I can't wait to try it. But, strangely, Google is yet to send me a free headset (hint), so I thought I'd do a DIY experiment and see if I can learn anything. I stuck my phone in my top pocket with the camera on as I exited my local supermarket and this was the result:

I think there are some interesting lessons here, both for those who think Glass will give them excellent video and those who think it will be a snooper's charter:

  • Uncontrolled video is rather bumpy. Okay Glass will 'see what you see' - but bear in mind the brain is very good at editing out jerks and shaking. And this is after YouTube kindly offered to stabilize it for me.
  • There will be a lot of close-ups of things that aren't interesting. If your head is there, that's what Glass will see.
  • You will video/photo people without them realizing you are doing so. A bit worrying - but then, as I just demonstrated you can also do this with a mobile phone without anyone realizing.
  • There's a heck of a lot of ambient noise in the world. I wasn't aware of the child wailing in the supermarket.
  • Videos of your life are boring. This was 30 seconds. Imagine hours of it.
Of course, I'm not suggesting Glass wearers will constantly video everything - apart from anything else, it would drain the battery quickly. If I had Glass probably 95% of my use would be information consumption, not capture. But it was still an interesting exercise.