10 Google Glass Myths, Translated

Google wants to clear up some misperceptions about Glass. We have our own views on the truth.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

March 21, 2014

5 Min Read
Google Glass wearers, interacting at the Google Glass and <br />Future Health meetup in June 2013. (Source: <a href="http://www.tedeytan.com/2013/06/19/13312" target="_blank">Ted Eytan</a>)

need to be hashed out. In a decade or two, there will be far more variation in the form and function of mobile devices, and we're not ready for the consequences.

5. Glass does facial recognition (and other dodgy things).
"Nope. That's not true. As we've said before, regardless of technological feasibility, we made the decision based on feedback not to release or even distribute facial recognition Glassware unless we could properly address the many issues raised by that kind of feature. And just because a weird application is created, doesn't mean it'll get distributed in our MyGlass store."

Translation: We will wait until Facebook falls on its face implementing facial recognition before we go there.

Regrettably, ubiquitous facial recognition will arrive sooner or later. It's already being used for law enforcement. It will only become more effective and more affordable, at least until privacy concerns make veils and balaclavas fashionable outside of a religious context. Just wait: Flesh-toned putty and stick-on eyes, to defeat facial recognition systems, will become all the rage among the next generation.

6. Glass covers your eye(s).
"The Glass screen is deliberately above the right eye, not in front or over it."

Translation: We understand how important eyes are for social interaction. That's why the Glass screen is positioned off to the side, where it's really annoying.

Seriously, Glass is lopsided -- the battery is on the right side -- and it draws your eye in a way that gets old after a while. The ergonomics have yet to catch up with the technology. A helmet with a full visor display would be more comfortable for long-term usage. Hold out for the consumer release.

7. Glass is the perfect surveillance device.
"Let's be honest: if someone wants to secretly record you, there are much, much better cameras out there than one you wear conspicuously on your face and that lights up every time you give a voice command, or press a button."

Translation: If you want to sneak a video of someone, use your mobile phone.

Google nails it, while missing the forest for the trees. It doesn't matter what the device does; it matters how the device is perceived. And putting a lens on your forehead is bound to make people wonder, especially people who don't know a search box from a browser (see previous page).

8. Glass is only for those privileged enough to afford it.
"The current prototype costs $1,500 and we realize that is out of the range of many people. But that doesn't mean the people who have it are wealthy and entitled. In some cases, their work has paid for it. Others have raised money on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And for some, it's been a gift."

Translation: Suck it up, poor folk. Learn to code. Then you might be paid enough to earn Glass. And hold the whipped cream on my Venti Mocha. We sure are glad Tom Perkins complained about "the rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent" so we don't have to.

Sorry, Google, but Glass Explorers are privileged -- I write that as one of them -- if not in the context of San Francisco real estate and tech salaries, then in the context of the world with a rising gap between rich and poor. When Larry Page says he'd rather leave his wealth to Elon Musk than to charity, it's clear that the world looks different through the technologist's lens than it does through the blinders of poverty.

9. Glass is banned... EVERYWHERE.
"Glass functionality mirrors the cellphones (down to the screen being off by default), the same rules apply."

Translation: Banning Glass is no longer a guarantee of free media coverage.

We in the media cannot resist bans or prohibitions -- they're simple enough for all of us to understand -- but "Glass Banned" stories are getting old. The outrage over Street View grew tiresome and we all moved on. We can do the same with Glass, and maybe even explore some of the nuances.

10. Glass marks the end of privacy.
"When cameras first hit the consumer market in the late 19th century, people declared an end to privacy. Cameras were banned in parks, at national monuments, and on beaches. People feared the same when the first cellphone cameras came out."

Translation: Social is the new normal. Now please post more frequently to your Google+ page. We're beginning to think you might resent us because we forced you to join our social network.

The flaw in this argument is subtle. Glass is not the end of privacy. It's the end of privacy as we knew it before the mobile revolution. It's another drop that dilutes our privacy. But it's fair to say that Glass isn't unique or solely responsible for diminishing privacy. All of us, with our desire for free services and our mobile devices, are to blame.

And more than that, our government and other governments are to blame, for no country recognizes the unqualified right to communicate privately over public telecommunications channels. Privacy is not dead. Rather it has become the exception. And Glass doesn't improve the situation.

Nonetheless, for all its flaws, Glass is a worthy project. Google deserves praise for risking failure and for pushing the envelope. Glass may not survive in its present form, but the second and succeeding generations of the technology will be even more worthwhile.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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