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They call me Mr. Glass

July 1, 2012

Am I the only one who keeps thinking about Unbreakable every time Google talks about Project Glass? Probably.

Anyway, the internets are all aflutter about the Project Glass demo at Google I/O last week. And I agree the whole skydiving – biking – rappelling – biking part was pretty cool. But here’s the problem I have with many of the reactions to the demo: they’re suffering from a halo effect, letting the cool part of the demo (which was, again, very cool), color their perceptions of Project Glass. Because, really, what exactly did Google show? A streaming web camera. Head-mounted. Which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly rocket science.

You know what the actual technology demonstration of Project Glass reminds me of? The picture taking and sharing videos? It reminds me of Microsoft Surface. The original big table. The world’s greatest technology for rearranging photos. Researchers have spent years working on large interactive surfaces, but they’ve struggled to come up with compelling apps beyond rearranging photos.

And now Google is trying to bring us Project Glass, and what’s their big technology demo? Taking pictures. You know, that thing the phone in your pocket can already do. It can stream videos too. And make phone calls. Surf the internet. A variety of other stuff. Rumor has it Apple makes a bundle on them.

If you’ll indulge me in my “hey you kids, get off my lawn!” moment a little longer, what exactly is the problem that Project Glass is designed to solve? That it’s too difficult to pull your phone out of your pocket? Ok, there are certainly some edge cases where that’s true. But how often do they really happen in your day-to-day life (unless, y’know, you skydive for a living)? Here’s my basic issue with Project Glass as shown: it imposes a constant cost (wearing the headset all the time) for an occasional problem (those few times you want to access or capture information and you can’t get to your phone). I’m not sure that’s really the future of computing; seems more like a niche product.

Which is not to say that I think wearable computing as a whole won’t be an interesting space. Heck, we’re already wearing computers by carrying them in our pockets. And I think more peripheral displays, like Pebble, are promising ways to monitor and interact with information in a lightweight way. Because then you’re only paying the occasional cost (glancing at the watch) when you have the occasional problem (can’t pull out your phone).

So yeah, great skydiving – biking – rappelling – biking demo last week. But Project Glass? Color me skeptical.

From → Musings, Technology

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