I’m not sure how this story managed to pass me by…
I mean normally I’m like a slavering magpie when it comes to gadget gossip.
In case, like me, you hadn’t heard the news, Google are launching ‘augmented reality’ glasses.
This is seriously clever stuff. They’ve made specs that let you see information from apps, the Internet and even the camera on one of the lenses.
It’s a bit like a transparent smartphone that sits on your face.
If you’re expecting a giant, clunky headset with Dame Edna frills you’ll be very surprised – they look like this (carefree hair and Hollywood smile not included):
I think this will be revolutionary.
These glasses let you see directions in real time and on the move. They let you take videos and photos using voice command and a whole range of quirky, futuristic things that belong in a Sci-fi movie.
It’s called ‘Google Glass’ and you can see a video of them in action here:
At the moment it looks like they’ll be charging upwards of £1,500 for pair, but I’m sure the price will crash as it takes off and production increases. I wouldn’t be surprised if these glasses, or something similar from a competitor, becomes as widespread as smartphones over the next 5 years or so.
Is this the device of the future… or the end of modern civilisation as we know it?
What worries me are the implications of this device.
Already we live in a world where smartphones are taking over. In any group conversation there’s always one person looking down at their phone, texting or checking the football scores.
How will these glasses change the dynamic? Surely we’re going to get even more immersed into virtual worlds.
At least with a smartphone you can tell when someone’s using one. Their eyes are directed down and they start tapping away on a screen.
If someone was wearing these new augmented reality glasses how would you know whether someone was fully engaged and listening to what you’re saying… or simply Googling recipe ideas for their dinner?
I worry that in 5 or 10 years’ time we may have turned into zombies staring blankly into the middle distance, completely immersed in our cyber specs. Horror fans, George A Romero was right – except this zombie virus is digital.
There’s an even more sinister side to all this as well…
The idea of being able to take HD videos while you hurtle down a mountain on a snowboard sounds great, very hip and now. But what else will the video/photo function be used for?
I mean if you’re wearing these as a pair of spectacles how will people know if you’re taking pictures of them or filming them?
Will photos of unsuspecting commuters picking their nose be immediately posted on viral websites for the baying masses?
Will the lives of celebrities now be recorded by the public 24/7? (except, perhaps, when they’re alone weeping in a windowless room).
It also opens up new avenues for blackmail and extortion. Suddenly that thing you said in confidence to someone 6 years ago that was secretly recorded could be taken out of context and used against you. Throwaway tipsy comments in the pub could be replayed online and used to muddy reputations and ridicule.
I’m an avid fan of new technology, innovation and pushing the envelope but I think there are going to have to be some serious ethical questions raised as to the implications and use of such devices.
Exciting? Yes. Terrifying, definitely.
Update: Ed Rants has just done a cracking article on this here.