Google’s has created its own brand of wraparound style smart glasses that’s set for release in the latter-half of 2012. The Google glasses are meant to bring interactive search functionality directly in front of the wearer’s line of vision. Depending on the product’s success, the potential societal impact may be immense. Even if they are not a success, the release of Google’s inexpensively priced smart specs may change how society views and uses smart technology in the foreseeable future.
What are They?
Google’s smart glasses are glasses that are made to display real-time information directly in front of the wearer’s field of vision. It is created by Google X, a laboratory with a secret location that is owned and operated by Google. The exact specifics concerning the glasses are not certain, but rumors and leaks from Google claim that they work by gathering information based off of images taken by the attached camera. The information is streamed on a small screen that is located on one of the lenses. Wearers of these smart glasses may use them to gather information on locations and even people. The glasses are said to be based on a version of the Android operating system and will likely have Internet connectivity and GPS. Users are able to control the device through a combination of head movements and speech commands. Google’s smart glasses are set for release by the end of 2012 and are expected to be relatively affordable at between $200 and $600.
Impact on Society
The arrival of smart specs will likely have both a positive and a negative impact on society. On the positive side, wearers of the glasses will be able to gather information when and where ever it is needed, particularly when they are unable to use their hands. The potentially negative impact of this type of technology can present numerous problems that range from mildly irritating to dangerous. One of these problems is the potential all-around loss of privacy. In terms of the wearer, there is the risk that their activities and actions can be monitored by the manufacturer for the purpose of gathering information. For people who are in the vicinity of these glasses, there is also a risk of loss of privacy, particularly if they are being filmed, photographed or researched without their consent. While there is no evidence that this may occur, Google is reportedly taking this privacy risk seriously and taking steps to ensure that people are aware if they are being recorded.
Another potentially negative impact on society is that users of this technology will suffer an ever decreasing attention span and a reduced ability to concentrate. As with other so-called smart devices, smart glasses run the risk of consuming the wearer’s attention. Because this type of wearable technology is unobtrusive in appearance, it can easily be worn at times when a hand-held smart device would be out-of-place. This can make it difficult for people to concentrate or be an active participant when dealing with family, work or when performing other chores or tasks while wearing the glasses. As a result there may be an increase in rifts in marriages or other relationships due to a dependency on the use of this type of smart device. Wearing smart glasses may even prove dangerous in certain situations where undivided attention is necessary, such as driving or operating heavy machinery. This type of inattention may result in an increase in accidents, injuries and even deaths.
Impact on Technology
The creation of smart glasses is not new or unique to Google. Other companies have been working on smart glasses, with some doing so primarily for the military. Smart technology is also behind other eye devices, such as anti-glare smart glasses. Anti-glare smart glasses also use a camera, but instead of gathering information on people, places and objects, the camera analyzes the amount of glare and adjusts the level of glare protection accordingly. Although Google’s concept is not a new one, it can still have an impact on technology, particularly when it comes to smart, hands-free devices. Depending on its success, there will likely be an increased need for other hands-free and wearable devices, such as smart contact lenses. While they are already in various stages of completion, smart contacts that will have a heads-up display in the field of vision are still being developed. The success of Google’s smart glasses may encourage the continued research and development of these types of contacts.