Google clearly wants to change every aspect of our lives, from cars that drive themselves, to glasses that superimpose data on our vision, to its most recent effort, shoes that talk to you. Yes, at South By Southwest, Google announced talking high-topped sneakers that react to your activity – or lack thereof – by providing snarky vocal feedback. Like, “I love the feel of wind in my laces” when you’re pounding pavement, and “This is boring” when you’re not. Because, you know, what we’ve been missing in life are shoes that talk. After all, it’s important to know what our feet are thinking.
Of course, it isn’t our feet talking, so much as Google interpreting what our feet would say, because who knows more about feet than Google? To be fair, they did team up with Adidas, which does know something about feet, and there are no plans to bring these shoes to market, but I’m still not sure this is a great idea.
Becoming a Google cyborg
A cyborg is a blend of man and machine, which appears to be the goal that Google aspires to. Once you don Google Glass and Google shoes, you are well down the path of being an integrated part of Google’s mobile solution. Google can – conceivably anyway – track every step you take, see everything you see, and likely hear everything you hear (you have an Android Phone right?). Google will know everything, and I mean everything, about you while you sport your Google fashions.
Google could provide that information to the government, your church, or your mom for a price, should they want. And more than merely reporting, Google could start to direct your actions. Incentives or even subliminal prompts could direct you to walk or drive anyplace Google wants you to go, and do what it wants you to do there.
The phrase “You will be assimilated” originated with the Borg, a race of hive-minded cyborgs from Star Trek. A decade ago, we joked that Microsoft would be the company to translate this dystopian sci-fi concept to reality, but now it looks like Google is already well down the path to getting it done.
Fun with Google Shoes
Google Shoes are connected devices. Since Google doesn’t have the best history when it comes to security, I figure it wouldn’t take much for someone to hack into them and provide their own unique dialog at the wearer’s expense.
Let’s say you are out to a dance, say prom, and your buddies reprogram your shoes. Suddenly you are having a romantic moment in your first slow dance of the evening, and your shoes pipe in with, “Bad luck dude, she is wearing underwear, guess you aren’t getting lucky tonight!”
Or “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a post-dance gift for your date! A razor, ‘cause it is a jungle down here!”
Or you are sitting in class and your shoes just randomly shout out “Those that can’t do teach, dumbass.”
There goes your chance at Harvard.
Or in church, “Hey the minister’s wife is hot, do you think he’d mind if we hit that?”
There are just so many ways talking shoes could go very wrong.
Wrapping up and recalling cars of the 70s
This kind of reminds me a bit of cars of the 70s – not a good decade for them thanks to two things: smog controls and talking. New emissions controls left the muscle cars of the 60s gutless (supercars that got over 180 horsepower were rare) and some idiot got the idea that we wanted voices instead of gauges. So you’d get a voice telling you you’d left your door open, your headlight on, or that your car was overheating. It was so annoying most folks performed a “manual delete” on these features with a pair of wire cutters.
Cars, and shoes, should definitely be seen and not heard. Just because you can do something, like making a car talk, doesn’t mean you should do it.
In the end, talking clothing is just a bad idea. What if this spread? You could end up with:
Shoes: “Damn I I’m tired, do you think you might want to get off me for a moment?”
Belt: “Stop complaining, this guy has me set at 38 and he is more like a 42, I’m about to explode.”
Hat: “You think you’ve got it bad! His pin head is trying to poke out the top.”
Underwear: “Stop complaining! Do you have any idea what it smells like down here?”
Date: “Ah, you can let me out here, I’ll be fine walking home.”
Yep, talking clothing. I’ll pass.