Google Glass and Beyond

Google Glass, the first product of “smart” wearable electronics, went public in 2013 through the Glass Explorer pilot program. Separate from the traditional wristwatch, Google’s most recent invention makes an augmented reality possible (click on this link for a sample experience), visually displaying smartphone-like information before the reader’s eyes, receiving and responding to voice commands, filming what the viewer is watching, and so on. Legal issues are already arising due to the use of Glass. A woman “was pulled over in October on suspicion of going 80 mph in a 65 mph zone on a San Diego freeway. The California Highway Patrol officer saw she was wearing Google Glass and tacked on a citation usually given to people driving while a video or TV screen is on in the front of their vehicle.” This case might or might not set a precedent regarding the product. Perhaps of some significance, a judge threw the case out due to lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that she was guilty.

Surprisingly, a great number of people don’t even realize this innovation is upon us and will be the cultural rage very soon. While virtual reality utilizes computers to generate computer-based experiences synonymous to our own, augmented reality actually enhances the one humans already utilize. Similar to heads up displays (HUD) active in military weapons controls and futuristic video games, wearable electronics will supplement the visual world. To put it in more technical terms, computer scientists describe augmented reality as “the interaction of superimposed graphics, audio and other sense enhancements over a real-world environment that’s displayed in real-time.”

Most wearable electronics appear clumsy, not fashion forward, and somewhat complicate to use, but Glass’s applications are anything but. Instead of HUD’s controlling weapon systems as a prosthetic limb, Glass displays the weather, sales, and Facebook profiles without the hassle of reaching into your pocket. Glass can scan an ancient building and instantly pull detailed or quick information into your field of vision. The top right of your screen will detail directions to your favorite restaurant. In a sense, each person will have his or her own Iron Man’s Jarvis. Most groundbreaking of all, with technology in bionic eyes advancing, one can conjecture that wearable electronics will be similar to wearing contact lenses.

Augmented reality technology offers applications aside from aiding in everyday life. Gaming and the entertainment business will see technology capable of revolutionizing their respective industries. Role-playing games, such as SIMS, would morph into situations where humans would literally play their fantasized roles. Prototypes from Georgia Tech involve a zombie killing game where players’ wearable electronics sync them into a community 3D projection. In the utmost applications of augmented reality technology, televisions and games will project through the device onto blank walls. In light of this, it’s distinctly possible that movie theaters, televisions, and gaming consoles will become retrograde and quaint things of the past.

Google has marketed its Glass project as a smartphone for the eyes. Of course, people will need persuasion to ditch comfortable smartphones for what some might initially consider a goofy smart-headdress. This probably won’t be too much of an issue insofar as most people have become accustomed to the ever-changing technological world and strive towards new and groundbreaking technology. However, some more disturbing consequences may arise as bionic eye technology advanced. Miniaturizing such technology would make Google Glass obsolete and transform the technology into contact lens gadgets, and next would be implantations into the human eye. In this scenario, accessing the Internet would humans exposed to Big Brother– or Matrixlike situations. Among other things, private and government Internet administrators would hold the power to alter human’s visual experience, potentially manipulating the main avenue most people use to perceive the world.

The emergence of augmented reality technology might well shake the foundation of how we “see” things. Most industries will use the potential applications, making a more productive and electronic world, as well as a more invasive means of monitoring others. Observing these unfolding developments will add another interesting dynamic to our ever-evolving, technologically dependent world. It’s hard to imagine people not using Google Glass once it grows in popularity, whether anyone likes it or not.