There’s a scene at the beginning of Terminator 2 when Arnie walks into a bar naked. The camera moves to the first person and we see what the Terminator sees.
He’s scanning people to see if their clothes will fit him. The display automatically recognises clothing items and sizes, providing real time feedback.
It was augmented reality at its ‘90s best, but it was technology that was firmly anchored in science fiction.
Twenty years on we may have something even better, Google Glass. However, as with the Terminator, and perhaps wisely, there are fears about the application of this new technology.
There will always be opportunities for abuse. Privacy violations through illicit recordings seem to be one of the main concerns. Someone’s already been ejected from a restaurant in Seattle whilst wearing Google Glass.
Will we see ‘No GG’ zones in the future? Perhaps users will be banished to play with the naughty smokers in the back alleys of fine dining establishments.
Then there’s the issue of maintaining attention on attention critical activities. Could Google Glass be a distraction that impairs reaction times resulting in harm to oneself and others? An arrest has already been made in the US for someone driving under the influence. Will usage whilst driving become a punishable offence?
Despite the obvious issues there are other potential longer-term consequences.
If information is so readily and easily available, will it impact our memory functions? Could it adversely affect our ability to interact in the real world without digital assistance? Might technology that evolves faster than we can appropriate wisely, result in an over reliance and subsequent weakening in our nascent abilities?
Big questions with no answers, yet.
But then there’s the other side. Our multiscreen world requires us to regularly inhabit a virtual space eschewing the real world. These screens, despite their many positives, separate us from reality. Google Glass could reconnect you albeit to an enhanced reality, allowing you to move from the multiscreen digital world into a symbiotic no-screen digital world.
With this seamless merging comes huge opportunities. As an immersive learning tool, doctors are already live streaming surgical procedures to medical students.
As a hands free gateway to the digital world, providing valuable access to key functionalities for people with mobility issues. As a contextual social tool, allowing participation in digital social networks whilst in a real social network.
It’s also a powerful content creation device. How long will it be before we see the first Google Glass made movie or the first live movie? The sheer breadth of potential uses is staggering.
One app gives us the best glimpse of what’s to come. Word Lens translates foreign words into your native language as you look at them. There is even voice recognition being developed that could translate actual voice input. That trip to Japan has suddenly become a lot more accessible and fun.
Despite the unprecedented prelaunch hyperbole, its true potential is still unknowable. Similar to smart phones, the possibilities will only be realised when people begin adopting its new language of interaction, and when developers start developing apps that play to this behaviour.
It’s certainly an exciting sign of things to come and the beginning of the era of connected screen-less devices.
Another piece of technology that’s as exciting as Google Glass is the new headset being developed by Emotiv. It detects your brainwaves, which can then be used to control other digital devices.
Experiments using the device to remotely controlling model helicopters or to create simple drawings have been hugely impressive.
But let’s take it a step further. Emotiv + Google Glass. Imagine content, information and functionalities being delivered to your eyes as soon as you think it. It’s something that could make even the Terminator feel obsolete.