Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, was spotted wearing a Project Glass prototype.

Last week, Google created a new Google+ page to unveil Project Glass, which has a team from Google X–a lab focused on long-term projects–working to incorporate artificial intelligence technology into a pair of augmented-reality glasses. The webpage includes a video of what the technology “might enable you to do” by demonstrating what the world would look like through a pair of Project Glass lenses. As a man goes about his daily life, the glasses overlay his vision with text messages, maps, calendar reminders, and weather alerts. Some of this information is displayed automatically, while other features are provided in response to voice commands. The ability to take photographs, upload content, and video-chat are also part of the demo.

So when will this innovative technology be consumer-ready? The prototype may be further along than many realized, as Google co-founder Sergey Brin was seen sporting a pair at a charity event on April 5. The Washington Post reported that consumers may very well have these glasses in hand by the end of 2012, with each pair running anywhere from $250-$600. Google, however, has announced no formal release date. In fact, the media giant explained that it was sharing information about Project Glass in order to “start a conversation” with the public and solicit feedback.

And that feedback has varied. While tech enthusiasts look on with anticipation, skeptics are expressing concern over the legal and practical implications of this latest Google gadget. A video created by Tom Scott, “Google Glasses: A New Way to Hurt Yourself,” shows a wearer of these advances specs as seeing little of the real world through a haze of distracting updates and digital requests. Likewise, the parody “ADmented Reality” demonstrates how a constant stream of unsolicited advertisements could easily crowd one’s vision.

As we have seen with texting and driving, the temptation to multitask is simply too much for some consumers. Imagine the damage that could be caused by a driver who has a YouTube video superimposed into his line of sight. There are also privacy concerns, as the AI functions require real-time access to information about a person’s surroundings. The amount of data the glasses could collect and process may be off-putting for some. But who knows, similar concerns were voiced when smartphones were introduced, and the masses seem to have decided the benefits outweighed the costs. According to Google, the purpose of the technology is to “work for you–to be there when you need it and get out of your way wen you don’t.” The problem may not be the technology, but rather consumers’ unwillingness to put down their smartphone or take off their Project Glass lenses.

- Katie Kuhn

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7 Responses to Google Prototype Has All the Functions of a Smartphone–Without the Phone

  1. Sam Beutler says:

    This is a pretty cool project! I personally hope it comes to the market. In addition to the privacy implications, or the text-messaging while driving problems, what about Fourth Amendment concerns? Police essentially would have, after seizing these glasses, a complete record of everything the person did, saw, looked at, walked near, etc. It could be like a record of your thoughts for police officers to use…or at least the closing thing to it. Pretty scary…

  2. Dave says:

    Just like many consumer devises before this (i.e. cell phones, boom boxes, head phones), there will certainly be adaptions needed by consumers and by the technology companies themselves. While I doubt that people will want to wear this particular device, the idea of a heads up display of some sort make sense in the long run – perhaps meshed into more traditionally styled glasses.

    As it stands, it is hard to see what this technology truly offers what a cell phone does not. But the great companies create markets where there previously were none. Google needs to position this device in such a way that creates a need or at least a perceived need. The demo video doesn’t seem to look beyond traditional cell phone functions.

    Additionally, speaking to someone with a camera perpetually plastered to his face certainly raises questions related to privacy and common social interaction. But if the last 25 years have taught us anything, people learn to adapt to new technologies as they adapt to us.

  3. Christina Santana says:

    Great post Katie! I think Lauren has made a great point in distinguishing between the privacy concerns of the owner of the glasses and of third parties. Lauren is also right that the glasses could potentially be used as a mechanism to allow the wearer to browse the online profiles of strangers in the area, which is worrisome and does invite serious privacy issues. However, I am more worried about the ability to use these glasses to video record. While other smart phones already have this capability, the ability to video record third parties in an arguably more discreet manner could make the privacy concerns regarding unauthorized photos and voice recordings much more pervasive.

  4. Lauren Gregory says:

    I think R.L. raises a good point in that consumers do have a choice whether or not to purchase these glasses, and therefore perhaps they are waiving any privacy concerns they might otherwise have. However, from the description above, it seems this technology has the ability to collect information about a wearer’s surroundings — including information about third parties who just happen to be in the wearer’s proximity but haven’t consented to this type of invasion. I don’t know enough about the tort of invasion of privacy to be able to gauge whether or not these third parties would have viable claims, but it does seem that this issue merits further discussion. While First Amendment concerns might support the access and/or publication of certain private information in some contexts, I doubt the same would be true in cases such as this, where one person wants to access information about others around them for purely private use (such as, for example, knowing whether he or she had any Facebook friends nearby). There wouldn’t be any legitimate public benefit to outweigh the third party’s privacy concerns in that situation, would there?

  5. R.L. says:

    This seems like a neat product to try, but I don’t know how practical it would be. However, I would think that Google has already anticipated vision problems with the glasses and addressed that issue. If they haven’t, that would be a huge oversight. I also think the privacy concerns are a non-issue. Those that do have privacy concerns will simply not buy the glasses, and those that don’t care will.

  6. Andrew Harline says:

    While I think that our use of technology is headed in this direction, I don’t think this is the product to do it. The way these look, I think the only people that would wear them are Google employees and people who want attention. I think the post makes a good point about the potential for unwanted advertisements. If these cost only $250-$600, it seems Google can make much more money by slipping advertisements into the user’s video stream. For now, I think that Siri is a much more viable option.

  7. Jeremy Gove says:

    First, they created a Google+ page, how did anyone find out about the glasses then? I figured that attempt to rival Facebook died out already. Second, will the ability of these glasses that are ripped from “Back to the Future II” take us back to cellphones of the “Back to the Future” and Zach Morris generation as well? If I got my weather on my glasses I don’t need it on my phone too. I agree that this could lead to a very troubling privacy problems but caveat emptor may apply. If you want the internet an inch from your brain this may be the price you pay.