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In the future we will all be even more annoying

Mark Kaelin sees absolutely no compelling reason reality augmenting glasses would be necessary in normal daily activities; do you agree?
Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (Wikipedia)

There is a lot of buzz on the Internet this week about something called Project Glass and the video that a group of Google engineers/designers produced to show their vision of augmented reality in the future. Much of the initial buzz has been positive in the "Oh, that's cool!" variety. But as a card-carrying technology curmudgeon, I am reminded of the catch phrase: "Not so fast, my friend!"

Really?

I have watched the Project Glass video several times now (embedded below) and I can find absolutely no compelling reason that reality augmenting glasses would be necessary in the daily activities of the test subject in the video. Everything he did with the glasses could be accomplished with a smartphone and in most cases accomplished more efficiently. Having weather superimposed on your view out the window doesn't really make your life better - it is just more visual noise to filter out.

And do we really need to have our mobile devices tell us where the music section is in a bookstore we are already standing in? In the future, will signs inside bookstores be merely a nostalgic memory?

I know this is may be an old man way of thinking, but I don't want my glasses checking in with the entire Internet everywhere I go, and I don't want Google tracking me everywhere just so they can tell me the subway is not running - I will find out on my own soon enough anyway.

And if I want to share a romantic sunset with that special person in my life, I sure as heck want that special person to be physically with me at the location of said sunset. Forgive me for being old-fashioned, but when it comes to romantic interludes, I think the participants should be sharing the same general space, whenever possible.

So, why am I wrong?

Parody videos mocking the Project Glass idealistic version of a future featuring augmented reality are already popping up and I suspect there will be plenty more to come. These parodies poke fun at the utopian vision of augmenting glasses by highlighting some of the foreseeable problems such a device could create. But I'd like to delve a little deeper.

I think augmented reality is a natural extension of the mobile and connected world we are creating for ourselves. I even think there will be some genuine productive uses for the technology. But I find it difficult to accept a civilization where everyone walks around with a separate "reality" constantly superimposed on the "real" world seen by their "real" eyes.

The whole concept sounds like a terrific recipe for creating more and more annoying rude people talking to themselves. You know the people I mean. They occupy our world while living in their own separate world, oblivious to the social damage they leave in their wake. Augmented reality glasses are just a more perfect way for them to avoid substantive interaction with you and me.

Do you see things differently than I do? What benefits to you envision in your augmented reality world? Is an augmented reality romance really desirable? What specific applications can you see benefitting from augmented reality?

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

97 comments
astroturf777
astroturf777

all technology is driven by 'what if'. i love that imagination drives innovation. 20 years ago we asked why a phone should be carried around. 10 years ago we asked why we needed it to take a picture, 5 years ago we asked why it should do infinite things with touch, gps, motion sensors... now someone asks... why cant we wear it??? while i cant see (at this point) why these glasses are any use to MY life, ideas like facebook were also of no use to my life 5 years ago.

Vquest55
Vquest55

IT is SOOO sad when we have people in positions of 'power' and they have no vision. IF I remember right wasn't there someone who one said we no longer need the patent office because there was nothing else to patent? I read stuff like this and it makes me soooo sad that there are people like this in positions of power. Kodak had no vision and see where they are. And if i had those HUD glasses I could find that quote while typing this .... yes I could use the computer but the world opens up more for you. My biggest concern is public or private BIG BROTHER.

Barmace
Barmace

I would spend a crap load of money if someone did a true VR experience in your home. This is a nice little toy but not truely what would get me excited. I think it would look too Star Trek to have that on my head. if it were sunglasses that would be different. I don't think Google Glass is ready for prime time. I hope to see VR in my lifetime the way that technology is moving I am pretty confident that they will have it sooner than later.

LK04
LK04

Trying to think of how it can be used for business. Otherwise it's a bit freaky to me - seems robotic. Talk about serious tracking capabilities.... yikes!

dgh1999
dgh1999

AR glasses will find niche applications, I am sure, for example such as Driving AR glasses that provide key information (user selected) when plugged into the cars electronic systems (e.g. GPS, Lane sensors, warning systems, night/fog-vision, etc.). And I am sure the people first adopting AR glasses will be the same people with bluetooth headsets glued in their ear standing behind you in a line-up or elevator and talking on their mobile phone oblivious to anybody else around them. That's progress I guess (?).

mrhassell
mrhassell

This whole fiasco is so 1920's.. or is it 50's... whatever - it's lame!

TobiF
TobiF

It's a new technology for user interface. It will be useful. It may even become ubiquitous one day. However, we may not now foresee, for exactly what purposes it will be useful. Mark's got a bunch of good points of the uselessness demonstrated in this video. The engineers at google simply took some applications they know of today and combined it with a new interface. But, of course, the applications will have to be different. Very different. But there's one thing nagging me: There are two and a half reasons I don't use the GPS in my Android. 0.5 I don't need it 1. It drains battery way to fast 2. (Most important): I don't want google to datamine my life in that detail. It's enough they know in which mobile network I'm registered and snoop at some of my web surfing. You probably already guessed: You won't find me on foursquare. I've even unfollowed a couple of guys, who're overdoing it. (I'm not google. I don't want to know when my friend became the mayor of his own bathroom.)

Mabrick
Mabrick

You need to read the book Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge if you want to find out just how wrong this article is. Mr. Kaelin assumes that that the only thing that will change is the interface device. He doesn't allow that the interface itself will change or that other technologies are advancing along with it. Of course, Vernor Vinge needed an entire novel to provide this issue full justice. It is a great story though, the 2007 Hugo award winner and utterly fascinating. Anyone really interested in this topic should certainly read that book!

DLeh
DLeh

It's the mindset. "He is the host for the Microsoft Windows blog, Microsoft Office blog, and Product Spotlight blog." Break away, sir, break away! Had you been the IBM blogger 40 years ago, you'd have seen no reason for "personal computers". ;)

skepticat
skepticat

I don't get the need for the glasses. I mean, look at all the people that clearly already have a highly augmented reality without a need for computerized glasses. Listen to just about any politician, bureaucrat or activist. They obviously don't need these glasses!

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

The primary hardware design problem of the modern age is thus: The average user wants a 32-inch screen and full-size keyboard on a device you can fit in your pocket. The tablet computer is a decidedly crude attempt to square that circle, and it really doesn't work as there is no "big enough to be interactive, small enough to be portable" middle ground that actually works. Augmented reality glasses/contacts (combined with a gesture-based interface) solve this problem. You want to talk about a post-PC era? It's AR that really gets us there, as it's not the CPU that's been holding us down, it's the screen. Moreover, interactive media can finally be interactive. Rather than dividing attention between your computer screen and something else, we can overlay contextual digital information with anything. E-readers? Gone, as I can either get A) all the cool indexing and backmatter of an ebook overlaid onto a physical book or B) get a "blank" physical book that my AR lenses turn into any book I want -- the moleskin as novel. TV apps? Gone, as any show I want can get its own Twitter/Facebook/G+ overlay -- assuming I even need a TV screen if my AR lenses can projecting full HD video in my field of view. AT the very least, I probably never need to buy a set of 3D glasses again, and at best, this makes movie theaters a more viable industry, as now I'm paying for the community experiences of everyone watching the same thing at the same time in person, rather than for the actual entertainment onscreen, which I can get anywhere anytime. Cineplex as AR flash mob,m if you will. GPS limited to streets? Gone, as now I can get directions not just to the store, but (thanks to RFID tagging) wherever the hell they've hidden the good spices at my grocery store, as they move the darn things every week to promo the housebrands. Perhaps most interestingly, I can apply whatever context I want to any person, place or thing, anywhere and at anytime. Only want to buy brands that don't conduct animal testing? There's an AR filter for that. Want to ad-block commercial billboards? There's an AR filter for that. Want to get creepy and shine a halo on the eligible singles that match your dating profile (and get heads-up on their background checks, too)? There's an AR filter for that, too. AR is to modern computing as the Internet was to mainframes. The possibilities are endless, and almost certainly a net good. But culture is certain to get stranger, as I argue here: http://redstonesciencefiction.com/2011/03/perfection/

bkfriesen
bkfriesen

Mark, are you listening to yourself? Come on.

rgbergeron
rgbergeron

at what point will augmented reality users be able to create apps and things they want themselves merely by speaking exactly what it is and how it should operate? then everyone can make unique stuff. (somehow, i doubt THAT much personal control is what the technocracy really wants. it would mean loss of IT jobs and loss of control of the consumers... truly a free-for-all. would be funny, tho.) seriously, why can't creation-end be as dumb-ass user friendly as the user end itself?

mightytech
mightytech

Display technology is the single largest limiter to portable computing, today. Devices can't become any smaller, or the displays become unusable. So, what if the display is separated from the device? While I have very little interest in the "Google Glasses" iteration, I am very interested in a real revolution of display. If my wearable personal display can be customized to my preferences, and can interface with portable computing devices around me, the world of portable computing will take quantum leaps.

hampshirehog
hampshirehog

Communication has advanced over the last century from a box phone with a winding handle to todays very smart phone. Prior to the mobile phone the system was an expensive but useful means of keeping in touch and for emergency use. Then the mobile phone arrived, initially a novelty and prestige item - my first brick cost 50p a minute and used for on the road emergencies and brief conversation. However, as it became smaller, lighter, cheaper, it became integrated within our society to the stage where people are glued to it and it is always on. This has led to a loss of general human integration and community friends, being replaced by the eternally in use smart phone to the degradation of spelling and literacy. With Google's augmenting glasses arriving there will be a complete new world, an unreal fantasy world, opening in which people, particularly the younger, will completely submerge themselves. Society will be the loser.

Ashby
Ashby

I agree with the author, augmented reality is no substitute for reality! However, my major concern is that like just about every other feature of mobile devices, thoughtless people will start using the wretched things while driving. "Sorry, officer, I was just checking the weather forecast when I smashed into the school bus" just doesn't cut it with me. Ban these things in motor vehicles and install automatic blockers BEFORE it happens this time.

Peconet Tietokoneet
Peconet Tietokoneet

Like many people today it seems they will miss out on something if they are not logged on/connected/plugged in (add your own words here). Has conversation face to face interaction gone out of the window? Many people say they do not have REAL friends, but they have loads of virtual friends of which they can NOT turn to in an emergency or life threatning situations. All this technology is making (some) people lazy and sometimes braindead, i:e: can not think for themselves unless they are logged onto the internet. In the future will people really speak (since the phones now-a-days have robot voice that can read out your text/emails)? As for these glasses, people will be going to the eye opticians more often because their sight will be deteriating faster than normal. If these glasses are going to be similar to the iphone then more people will be having surgery to their faces caused by burns to their ears and nose. Me, i am going to buy a tank because i can see alot of accidents that are going to happen, they can crash into me as many time as they like i will just go over the top of these so called plugged in people with their so called glasses. Call me old fashioned, but looking out for others seems to be the norm now-a-days, because they are not looking out for their own well being. Plus to add: where the hell are you going to put the battery to run it for 8 hours? Please do not say trousers, unless you want to set yourself on fire or give yourself a burning senesation like some on the news has done. :) Just my opinion on this issue.

lppsguay
lppsguay

I can certainly see great potential (as outlined above) for many occupations. And the coolness factor is fantastic.... However, there are huge downsides: distraction leading to failure to focus on task, which is a major problem in the real world. Railroad industry has banned the use of personal electronic devices while on the job after several fatal incidents due to operator distraction. Many jurisdictions have banned cell phone use while driving for the same reason. Further, lots of evidence pointing to the fact most people do NOT multi-task well. The potential loss of social interaction and the privacy concerns should not be discounted.

PJW9779
PJW9779

Great second vid! Everything has its pro and con. Sign me up for the Xray-version, but only if it's gender selective please.

sboverie
sboverie

I am undecided, but I think that there could be something worthwhile that having an augmentation could help. I saw the video of the guy walking around and giving commands to the headset and it looked extremely narcicistic. If the example to to walk around and do rather mundane things then this is a silly way to use augmentation. What would work would be for crime scene investigation, it would act to record parts as well as provide information (distance, angle and direction) to help analyze a scene. It could also be useful in autopsies and other official and public functions. The absolute worst would be to use this augmentation to document your life. There might be one day out of your entire life worth remembering in such detail, but most of what we live is routine and dull. I am at the age where time seems to pass faster every year, like someone fast forwarding the VCR to a more interesting part but there aren't that many. Finally, I am an amature photographer and sometimes a snapshot can speak volumes and sometimes it says more than you would like. Watching a once in a lifetime event through a camera lens is much less than what you get watching it with your own eyes. Sometimes the camera is a filter that makes you miss what is really happening and I think this kind of augmentation would either add to the cacaphony or detract from what is going on. The augmentation is like the tourist with the video camera stuck to his face thinking that he is getting great footage until he reviews what he has and can't remember where it was.

donal_dsilva
donal_dsilva

I've always envisioned something similar in terms of replacing laptop screens. However, it wouldn't be just an extraneous extension to the already dumbed down glut of mass appeal 'smart' technologies. Rather, as a replacement for a screen to a laptop screen and still retain the other input devices. It would allow for higher mobility without loss of functionality or impede input. Great technological improvements should improve functionality, utility and value in enabling great avenues for creation of higher outputs. It should be a tool to extend the human capacity to create and divulge. A tool that creates something more worthwhile and easier than had it not been for its existence. Not just a consumer aimed disposable novelty which yields very little in terms of return value and have little to offer except for mindless consumption. It should be for creating something beyond the sum of tool and the effort put in and lead to higher human endeavors

VincenzoAI
VincenzoAI

SEX - My augmented glasses and data stream will signify to any woman (within an age bracket) that I'm up for no-strings good times and when I'm available. They will flock for sure...

jfuller05
jfuller05

Check out edbassmaster's bluetooth man video on youtube. Rudeness will increase, a disconnection with one's immediate "world" will increase, but yet there will be some advantages as others have mentioned: military and firefighting.

Blaxxeven
Blaxxeven

This reminds me of a previous TR Rep's bash on the iPad before he realised that you could make quick notes on it after 6 whole months of using an iPad. I really should read these articles at the end of the day so my creativity and motivation don't turn into mush.

garysoucy
garysoucy

"oblivious to the social damage they leave in their wake" What sort of hyperbolic nonsense is this? 'Social Damage.' Please.

DeniseGriffin
DeniseGriffin

I believe they may have a place in the medical field if! they can connect to the patients medical record, or enable them to take xrays, etc. As for daily living I agree just another way to not interact with the real world around you...

Freetime000
Freetime000

I personaly think it could be pretty cool given the right apps and development. Military applications aside, It doesnt have to have life impacting application but simply add to its enjoyment. I already see potential in a few apps I have on my phone that could easily be improved having them all up in my retina. For example the Star Chart app would be quite enjoyable looking up at stars through my own eyes rather than the phone screen. The device has potential. For a technical article I would think one could come up with more potential as well instead of discarding it as a gimmick.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

You might find the debunking of the story with those glasses, but you wouldn't find the quote...

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Ok, that was a brilliant way to express "going too far" without going into visual detail, thank you for that BTW :D

skepticat
skepticat

Vinge is one of the best. I'll have to get a copy of Rainbow's End.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

They took the touch interface of the touchscreen and transplanted it to a rigid garment, that way it's possible to use multitouch techniques mimicking ameslan to quickly type what you need to type. It's much faster than a keyboard, and has the added benefit of making life easier for hearing-impaired people, as the technology will help proliferate sign language proficiency. For the garment they went with a moulded codpiece. And the name? iFondle :D

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

that you describe will precurse the general arrival of those (self-driving) GoogleCars. Didn't George Jetson program his destination---Spacely SkySprockets---and then relax with his paper...or whatever? In a GoogleCar, *everybody* is a passenger; they're welcome to watch 'programs', text each other, finalize their presentation....or view the world through reality-refracting glasses.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

or are you just glad to see me?!" ;)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

That age selective isn't important to you either? :^0 Just remember next time you visit Granny that is one thing you'll never be able to forget. :D Col

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What do you see this technology used for? I need enlightenment.

jfuller05
jfuller05

If you're unfamiliar with social damage, see Soren Kierkegaard's aesthectic life philosophy which stanford encyclopedia of philosophy succinctly describes as: "immersion in sensuous experience; valorization of possibility over actuality; egotism; fragmentation of the subject of experience; nihilistic wielding of irony and scepticism; and flight from boredom."

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I'm afraid the laws of physics deny that...

JCitizen
JCitizen

, of course I think that may have been mentioned earlier in the thread.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I don't have a problem with the technology - I think there is real potential for specific uses for augmented reality. My "lack of vision" as you put it, lies with the videos suggestion that we would use one of these devices all day every day. Like 3D television and a refrigerator that sends me text messages when the milk's "best used by" date expires, this video's vision seems far-fetched to me. What exactly is your vision for this technology?

Blaxxeven
Blaxxeven

At this time I am withholding some of my ideas and inventions from the general public.

hartiq
hartiq

... well, not really, I'm myopic and astigmatic, but some form of AR could cure that. Add in being able to see deeply into the UV and IR, seeing better than bees and goldfish, the beauty accessible to someone whose visual spectrum spans more than three octaves would be magical. Add in never getting lost in a hospital, always knowing where the Soy sauce is in the supermarket, being able to track voltages and signals through circuitry, seeing wires and pipes inside walls, knowing all the time how fast I am moving, always knowing the correct time and date, knowing the name of that actor, being able to name that tune, reading a book while carrying shopping and waiting for the bus (and being able to see when it is the *right* bus) and still being able to see the world full of hard edges that everyone with normal vision is privileged to see. Those are only the first few types of application possible to AR devices I thought of. Given a few minutes I could come up with many more. Anything a phone application can do, AR can do faster, more personally and better. My vision? Internalising this, powering it from the body itself and creating a sort of technological telepathy, access to a virtual ocean of information about everything all the time with sense augmentation better than cats, bees, shrimp and goldfish. If we don't blow Civilisation, I expect that sort of tech in about two decades or less. After that, things get a whole lot more interesting, when we finally stop taking baby steps and start *really* advancing our technologies. It's going to be fun.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You must be an internet veteran; it's easier to appreciate snark when directed at someone else, after all :D

Blaxxeven
Blaxxeven

I was being annoying on the internet which I did not just find 2 days ago. However I found your comment funny and completely agree. The idea I have for AR glasses would only further annoy you unless you found it important to yourself and opted to look at the data it gathered (within legal restrictions and of course if even possible).

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You found a way to be even more annoying already now.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

upvoting your comment and its sentiment.; "plus one, sir" (in so many words)....