Flaws Aside, Google Glass is Groovy

If there’s one thing I know, it’s
that I’m a gadget nerd. I love having
the latest tech toys, and I’m a showoff to boot. So, when I was offered the opportunity to buy a Google Glass, I began frothing at the mouth. 

As far as gadgets go, there’s literally
nothing cooler. Purchasing a Google
Glass, and subsequently developing an app for it, will win you almost any
coding competition you enter. It’s the
first time that indulging in gadget mania has honestly felt justifiable as a
good career move.  

By the time my card
had been charged and my pickup appointment was scheduled at Google’s office at Chelsea Market in New York, my mind was already scheming about how I would announce
my purchase of the Glass to the social media world. 

That being said, I have not made a
single social media post about Google Glass. I have not bragged about it to anyone in
person, and I’ve made a fastidious effort not to flaunt the Glass in
public. Why, you may astutely ask? Well, before we answer that question, let’s
define our terms.

Google Glass, for those who
don’t know, is, more or less, the first mass-produced piece of augmented reality wearable technology. In simpler English, it’s a fancy screen that hovers just out of reach in
your peripheral vision. This screen is connected to your smartphone and can forward your texts, emails, Google
Hangouts chats, and various other information straight to your eye for instant
viewing. 

The device is controlled
primarily by voice: A simple command, “OK, Glass,” followed by a second directive, like “Send a message to,” will open a series of automated actions that allow
you to dictate messages, place calls and video chats, perform Google searches,
and take pictures and videos. Despite
the lack of available apps, Glass excels at allowing you to check emails and texts discreetly in class,
and provides all of Google to you at the drop of a hat.

So now that we all know what Glass is, I’ll answer the previous question: Why have I tried so hard to hide
it from public view?  

The short answer
is: I haven’t tried to hide it at all. The promise of augmented reality technology, from its earliest origins
in the 1980s onward, has always been to enrich our lives as humans. This conception of technology’s purpose allows us to transcend our standard array of sensors, and live a life enriched by
technology: to experience a literally augmented
sense of reality. 

On my way of
thinking, if Glass serves its purpose properly, the technology should simply
integrate into my existing life. Without fanfare or bragging rights, the device should enrich
my experience in some way. And it
does. Kind of.

In its current form, Google Glass,
despite clearly feeling like a beta product, does succeed at providing quicker
and easier access to information. I
often describe the device’s functionality as “having a smartphone in your
peripheral vision” because that’s what it’s really best at: delivering the
kinds of information you would normally look up on a smartphone without the
overhead of pulling out the phone itself. It is incredibly convenient to see texts and emails in the corner of
your eye as soon as they come, although the excuse “I didn’t see that text”
can’t be used as often.

However, Glass has its flaws. 

I don’t
just mean software limitations: The lack of Facebook, Twitter and other
obvious apps will be remedied given enough time. I mean hardware
limitations: Glass does not live up to the full potential of an augmented
reality device because it simply doesn’t take up enough of your field of
view. As long as it remains
relegated to peripheral vision, it will never be able to do interesting
things like navigation overlays, face detection in crowds, real-time
translations of signs, or any of the other really interesting things that one
could do with the proper augmented reality hardware.

With these and other minor shortcomings aside, the one final, truly amazing thing about Glass is the public response to it. In an age when we, as a nation, seem paranoid about the preservation of
personal privacy and safety, response to Glass has been
overwhelmingly positive. 

Despite my concerted effort not to draw attention to my Glass, I’m still stopped a number
of times per day with questions from curious passers-by, all of whom are
interested in trying it on, and most of whom say that they would
purchase one if they were available to consumers at a reasonable price. There are two possible explanations for this: Either Google has done a very good job marketing this device, or the public
really is ready to embrace augmented reality tech. I’d like to think it’s the latter.

Overall, Google Glass is a very
good first attempt. Like most beta
products, it misses the mark slightly, and needs refinement before it is really
ready to proudly wear the “augmented reality” badge, as the current form is
more along the lines of “assisted reality.”  

Google may not be the one, in the end, to create the device that will
clinch the market, but give the tech five years: I’m certain that we’ll all be
running around like schizophrenics, talking into our glasses, enriching our
lives with tech, and wondering how we ever lived without it.

Tim Taylor PO ’14 studies computer science. He owns every commercially popular video game system manufactured since the Atari 2600. 

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