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Letís Celebrate Independence from Handsets!
Author: Jeremy Herring
July 1st 2013 -

Google likens its Glass prototype to the next logical step in evolution, taking the mobile phone handset and eliminating the handset portion entirely. Iím assuming the end-game in this endeavor is technology that is actually fused with our bodies in some fashion. Nevertheless, the brainiacs at Google are confident that a wearable hands-free device is imminent and they intend to keep Google on the cutting edge of the revolution.

It is a fascinating bit of technological gadgetryÖ by leveraging the technologies already found in the devices we carry with us, Google Glass becomes a touchless interface, responding to verbal commands and providing discreet audible and visual responses. Itís like a hands-free headset for your current phone except that ALL of the smart phone functions are performed hands-free AND it is as wearable as a pair of glasses so thereís really no handset involved. No typing, swiping or clicking involved Ė just simply verbal commands and eye movements coupled with an occasional touch of the device frame. Itís only been released to a limited beta test market but already there are competitors attempting to get a jump on the trend in order to not cede the entire market space to Google if and when they finally unveil it for consumer purchase.

This is the period when Google is trying to work out the bugs that can prevent it from being a hit with consumers. Glass suffers from unacceptably short battery life but this is simply an ever-persistent problem because battery life is basically a result of battery size. Every time a smaller phone comes out there are complaints about the poor battery life.

The medical community is also concerned about the extended exposure to a free-floating visual apparition in oneís peripheral vision causing eye strain or an acceleration of visual deterioration. Currently there are simply no long-term medical studies to cite which address such concerns. It could be that the wearer is going to suffer the same level of eye fatigue as any user of a traditional device or years down the road it may be revealed that heads-up mobile devices cause your toenails to crack Ė thereís really no way to know at this point in time.

There are also the privacy and safety concerns being raised. The presence of a plural image can distract a person during critical periods, such as while driving or even simply walking down the street. Weíve all seen the results when a distracted texter walks headlong into a sign while looking down instead of looking ahead or some other humorous illustration but there are equally deadly outcomes to such behavior. Legislatures are already cracking down on texting while driving or using handsets while driving so many will likely see no distinction with a wearable hands-free device if it is as easily abused and not so easily discarded as a handset.

Google has also already had to go before the U.S. Congress to respond to concerns regarding Glass and privacy laws and the product isnít even on the market yet. At least with a handset device it is very apparent that someone is recording you because they must hold up the handset to capture pictures or video Ė not so with a discreet, wearable device like Glass. While Google wants to assure Congress and the consumer public that it has addressed such concerns, once the device is out in the public domain there is no controlling what less restrained people might do with it. Of course itís not even other consumers we always need to be worried about as Google has had its own share of privacy violations ranging from the recording of intended-private information with its Google Maps enterprise to the way it treats aggregate data gleaned from current mobile device users. (The same debate raged a few years ago over Appleís handling of privileged user information) Even now there is already discussion about how the safety features can be disabled, allowing a Glass wearer to covertly record anything in front of him as well as apply such digital tools as facial recognition and instant background checks on anyone who simply passes in front of the wearer. Thatís a little creepy but not out of the realm of technological possibility.

I have no doubt that Google Glass will indeed lead to a revolution of our current obsession with our personal digital devices. I am equally sure that as much as there are naysayers who pointed to mobile phones as causing brain tumors, car crashes and ADHD, there will be naysayers who will point to the potential risks inherent with a wearable device, no matter how small, as justification to call into question the entire technology. Lastly, I am certain that if Google brings Glass to the consumer market, it will be a hit. Just remember to practice a little common sense!

 

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