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Google Glass: Victory for Virtual Reality, or a Disastrous Distraction?

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Google Glass: Victory for Virtual Reality, or a Disastrous Distraction?

white-men-with-glasses-150x150What is Google Glass?

First announced in 2011, Google Glass is Google’s pet project to introduce wearable computers to the modern age. It fits like a pair of glasses (standalone or over an existing pair), and provides mobile computing functionality as an overlay to your normal vision. You interact with Google Glass using voice commands – “Ok Glass”, brings up your menu options, with activities such as sending a message, recording a video, performing a search, getting directions, and so forth. To the layperson, this combines the “talk to your technology” functions of iPhone’s Siri with the “talk to yourself” appearance of a Bluetooth earpiece.

Why Google Glass?

There’s no denying that the list of potential applications of technology such as this is a long one. Smartphones are only just now starting to be able to recognize locations – imagine glancing at a restaurant as you drive by, and immediately having access to online reviews, a menu, and hours. These are all the things we were promised with Smartphones. The beauty of Google Glass is that all the information is already available online, so the technology could be immediately implemented. It wouldn’t just improve pre-existing applications, however, but open the door to new software, as well. Just check out this list of ideas people are already coming up with. Ideas such as:

“I would develop a driving safety app to help decrease driver distraction, detect drowsiness, and display upcoming road concerns”

“Being partially blind, #ifihadglass I’d use it to augment my lack of peripheral vision, use presence apps to avoid bumping into others, etc. “

“I’d create the ultimate nerd app — crosshairs.”

These are all great ideas(actually, the crosshairs one isn’t), but it doesn’t change the potential dangers of having a computer screen in front of our eyes at all times.

What’s the problem?

Heads’ Up Displays(or HUDs) have been in use in the military for years, aiding pilots in maintenance level flight and proper altitude. However, these pilots must go through extensive training to learn how to focus between something in front of their plane, and something in front of their eyes. The two views must mesh, and the pilot must allow it to work as an overlay to his natural sight. With years of experience, the two views meld into one, maximizing the pilot’s ability to take in all the streaming data at once without losing focus on either.

As a comparison, a YouTube search for “fall while texting” returns about 10,000 results. You see the problem here. The temptation to use this product irresponsibly (i.e. while driving) will be difficult to resist, and even more difficult to police.

The good news here is that Google is open to suggestions for how to use this product. In fact, the previously-linked list of ideas comes from a contest Google held to select beta testers for its new product. That and about $1,500 in cash gets you on the short list of beta testers. Among those brainstorming for this new technology? Kevin Smith, Neil Patrick Harris, and LeVar Burton. Because if anyone needs to weigh in on this wave of the future, it’s Silent Bob, Doogie Howser, and Geordi LaForge.

Who WOULDN’T love to have a virtual overlay over your vision at all times, giving you a GPS showing you where all the bad guys are, and telling you whether or not your health is at 100%? If it works in video games, how could it not improve real life?