You know what happens when I take my glasses off? I bump into things, trip over stuff, and can’t recognize my friends unless my face is 10-inches from the end of their nose. It’s not a situation I put myself in if I can help it, but as someone who is ready and willing to brave the catastrophe that will be Google’s checkout process when Google Glass goes on sale, it’s one I may have to get used to.
Google Glass has already been banned in several locations, despite the fact that it’s not even on sale yet. Far from it. A bar in Seattle and a strip club in Las Vegas made headlines by have adding it to their lists of banned electronic products. And we already know that casinos and movie theaters consider Glass a video camera – and will ban it. At the moment, banning Google Glass like this can be passed off as attention whoring; after all, the ban only affects a tiny minority of individuals, as Glass is not yet available to the public.
But some there are some who’re more serious. In West Virginia, a bill has made it illegal to drive whilst, “using a wearable computer with head mounted display,” so Glass joins the mobile phone in this respect. Now Google has started sending out the first Explorer Editions of Glass, a short FAQ has been published, where cycling joins driving as a time not to wear Glass, along with playing sports, operating machinery, or scuba diving. This because Glass isn’t water proof, which may not be a huge problem, except due to their position on your body, Glass will be pretty exposed during a heavy rainstorm. People who have had Lasik eye surgery are advised to see their doctor before putting on Glass, and anyone under 13 is also out.
As Glass’ release gets ever closer and anticipation grows to fever pitch, we wonder how many more places will – seriously, this time – pledge to turn Google Glass wearers away unless they remove the offending gadget from their face, and how many other situations will be deemed as inappropriate for those wearing them? As already stated, for those who attach prescription glasses to … Glass, this will cause a bit of a problem. For everyone else, it will be a major inconvenience.
“You’ll have to take those off, sir, otherwise you’re not welcome”
Google Glass’s stealthy photography skills are the primary cause of all the fuss, because unlike holding up a phone or video camera, there’s no obvious way to tell if a Glass-wearer is recording a video, or taking a picture. This ease with which privacy could be invaded using Google Glass makes it a nightmare for schools, or any establishment where copyright could be infringed. That’s not just cinemas either; museums, landmarks, and historical buildings often have a no photography rule. Photography inside pretty much any privately owned business is also a problem, which covers almost every shop in the world.
That’s a lot of potential businesses complaining about privacy and copyright infringement, and a whole load of rent-a-cops with yet another weapon in their irritating arsenal. But what about us, the folk wandering around minding our own business? Video surveillance has been around for ages, but there are some places which are still sacred. The public bathroom and the locker room at the gym spring to mind, both of which are free from sanctioned video cameras, but potentially open to Google Glass. Keep an eye out next time you’re in the john.
To recap: I won’t be able to wear Google Glass when I’m drinking, gambling, driving or watching people take off their clothes. Nor will I when I’m watching a movie. Taking in the latest art exhibition will be pointless, as without my glasses everything will look like it was painted by Jackson Pollock, and I won’t be able to find anything in a shop ever again. Unless, of course, I carry some dumbglasses about as a backup, but who wants to wear dumbglasses when you own a pair of smartglasses? (To put it another way, do you carry around a flip phone next to your iPhone?) On top of all this, I’ll be on the lookout for someone covertly videoing me taking a shower or having a pee, although quite who would want to see either of these things is beyond me.
I’m a glasshole, he’s a glasshole
So, as a new Glass-wearer, I’ve been thrown out of every business in town, but what about my friends? After all, I’m still a regular Joe with a regular job, who likes football, and porno and books about war. Or am I? Now that I have Google Glass, there’s a distinct possibility I’ll already be a “glasshole.” Yep, that’s a thing. Urban Dictionary says it refers to a, “person who constantly talks to their Google Glass, ignoring the outside world.” Computer security expert, Bruce Schneier, appears to have coined the term, after using it to describe someone wearing Glass while playing Scattergories.
Cheating at boardgames is one thing, but ignoring my friends while I look at messages is another. At first they won’t notice, but the realization my gaze isn’t focused on them – although it appears to be – will soon sink in, and the ultimate irony will be that I probably won’t notice the incoming projectile aimed at regaining my attention until it’s too late. Just as shops will politely ask me to leave, doors will be slammed in my face as my friends refuse to allow me in the house until I’ve relegated Glass to its case. The early unboxing videos of Glass show it comes with a padded hard case, and it certainly seems this will be getting plenty of use.
Attitudes will change, but not for a while
All of this sounds so awful that it could be safer and far less hassle to leave the problematic specs at home, just in case. Perhaps the inevitable bans and social stigma will become so extensive, enterprising geeks will set up clandestine establishments where Glass owners will be able to freely wear them without fear of persecution. Imagine a prohibition-style speakeasy for the Google generation; a place where nobody knows your name, because the patron’s attention will be focused on the heads-up display, and not on the conversation.
Fear and anxiety about Google Glass won’t last forever though, and attitudes are likely to change over time. Ultimately, Glass doesn’t do anything more than your smartphone, and we can happily take them into a bar, cinema or toilet. A Google spokesperson said something similar (without talking about the toilet) in a recent statement provided to Forbes: “It’s still very early days for Glass, and we expect that as with other new technologies, behaviors and social norms will develop over time.”
In Google’s sky-diving, mountain biking utopia, where we’ll be checking our flight details as we run for the gate at the airport, Project Glass fits in perfectly. But in the real world, there’s the chance you’ll miss the flight because you had to remove your glasses to get through security, and still be wandering the corridors because it’s all a big, confusing blur. The Glass enabled world painted above may be an exaggeration, but rest assured, Project Glass will stir up plenty of controversy this year. A couple of seedy establishments banning them is just the beginning.
(Images copyright Stop the Cyborgs)