Google Glass is Almost Here: Zombies Unite, Everyone Else – Look Out!

Posted on February 21, 2013


Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

Nearly a year ago, we wrote about the concept development of Google Glass, which is basically a wearable computer with a little viewer that hangs in front of one eye.

At the time, Google put out an early concept video to show what wearing the device might be like.  Gosh, looks wonderful, doesn’t it?

On second thought, no.  I was actually a little horrified, because you just know that people will wear this thing while driving.  As if handheld phones weren’t enough of a distraction, now we can have this thing right in front of our eye all the time.  YouTuber Tom Scott made a parody of the Google video, which I suspect may actually turn out to be much closer to the truth once this thing hits the streets:

Recently, Google put out an updated video of what the Glass experience will be like, and is at the point of soliciting a few thousand buyers to put out some big bucks – $1500 – for the privilege of testing out the product and stumping for it.

As it turns out, the new video – which minimizes the Glass screen in the upper corner of the wearer’s vision – is really not much of an improvement in terms of distraction.  Consider that focusing on the Glass display will take your line of sight away from what’s right in front of you, as your turn your eyes upward and to the right.  The Glass is also voice activated, with the phrase, “OK Glass.”  So my next question: can someone standing next to you voice-activate your eyewear?  No, no, that wouldn’t be distracting at all.

I notice that in the video, the lone automotive scene has the passenger wearing the Glass and giving directions, very responsible.  But frighteningly, Glass is also in use in every activity from trapeze work to skydiving to skiing to bicycling in traffic to flying a plane, reinforcing the idea that you can wear this thing all the time and all it will do is augment your reality.  No one (except my hero Tom Scott) says much about how it detracts from your reality.

Dr. Steve Mann, who can’t function normally without the device he has worn since 1999.

That’s the other big reason that I worry about wearable tech: loss of innate abilities to do everything from navigate your local neighborhood to… well, to walking.  Check out the story of Dr. Steve Mann, who has been wearing a very Google Glass-like device nearly nonstop since about 1999, and was forcibly “unplugged” by airport security in 2002.  Mann reported that as a result, he was dizzy and disoriented to the point that he fell twice in the airport, hit his head, and had to be wheeled onto the plane in a wheelchair.  Mann’s case has convinced me that far beyond just letting our map-reading skills wither with our use of GPS, or our conversational skills decline with our dependence on texting, constant attachment to a “reality-augmentation” device may quite literally leave us incapable of navigating the real world without it.  Are we really willing to suffer such a devastating side effect in exchange for  constant connectivity?

Maybe!  As the Washington Post reports, there is a lot of buzz.  “Can’t wait til it is more readily available,” says one Tweet.  “I could see so much potential with Google Glass, I would love to get my hands on one,” says author Doug Levy.

The wearable video game that rendered the Enterprise crew helpless.

So I am very, very worried.  We haven’t even figured out that we should put our electronics down while driving.  We haven’t figured out that paying attention to our kids is more important than paying attention to our phones.  Now we stand on the cusp of becoming a nation of augmented-diminished reality, dependent, distracted cyborgs.  The Star Trek episode “The Game” comes to mind… the one where a wearable, interactive video game turns the crew into alien-controlled zombies.

I won’t be signing up.

Related articles:

Google Glass: Maybe a Little Too Connected

The Mounting Dangers of Our Ever-Increasing Dependence on Electronics

Stay Alert, Stay Alive – And Keep Your Kids Alive, Too