Google's Project Glass has certainly inspired a dichotomy of opinion. It seems that everyone is either an optimist that sees an incredible technological leap or a curmudgeon that sees another intrusive, spying cell phone accessory. I'll admit that I lean more towards team optimism, but I am also hoping the final glasses are something slightly more stylish.
My problem with Google's video introduction of Project Glass is that it still doesn't show enough imagination. Mark Kaelin is quite correct in pointing out that most of the activities depicted in the video could be done with an ordinary cell phone and current technology. That doesn't mean I don't still want one.
Being a cyborg is useful.
Yes. I said being a cyborg, and I'm not the only one to say it. We might as well admit that the smartphone we're carrying around is quietly becoming an auxiliary brain, and as consumers we're better for it. I've got a library, a comparison shopping guide, my travel schedule, all my friends, my business contacts, and all the tools to manage my business and personal life in the palm of my hands. I don't lose my convention schedules. I'm not afraid of navigating in new cities. I don't pay too much for a washer or wonder if I have all the ingredients for that paella recipe.
My life is better because of my smartphone. Attaching it to my head makes it more useful, even if it just means I'm not ruining my posture by looking down to text all the time. I will be assimilated, and I'll like it.
I could imagine conducting face to face business meetings that used live translation apps to give subtitles. Speaking of which, facial recognition means it would be much easier to remember where you'd met someone and how they relate to the other contacts in your address book.
Rather than seeing a world where everyone runs into lamp posts, I see a world where the visually impaired can have audio navigation systems that feed through the GPS and cameras on their glasses. I see a world where training simulations give us better practice for real world situations, but don't quite bring us to the place of being indistinguishable from reality. Yes, we'd still have those people having loud conversations with people we can't see, but Google didn't invent the Bluetooth earpiece.
Does the Project Glass interface still need work? Sure. Remember the Android G1? We've come a long way in a few years, and we're likely to wait more years before Project Glass is anywhere near ready for release.
Google usually prefers to get imperfect technology in the hands of developers and consumers and pave the cow paths instead of taking the Apple route with secret labs and polished products. In fact, consumer feedback is one of the reasons Google announced this project so far in advance. The strategy didn't turn the Chromebook into a huge consumer hit, and it may not help Project Glass. That said I still can't wait to try on a pair.Marziah Karch is an educational technologist and technology writer. She's the Guide to Google for About.com and a senior analyst at Johnson County Community College. Her latest book is Android Tablets Made Simple.