Google Glass - cool or creepy?

 

Rory Cellan-Jones tries out the Google Glass

It's either the most exciting technology product of recent years, or the 21st Century equivalent of the Sinclair C5.

It promises to reshape our relationship with the online world - or turn us all into cyborgs, invading each other's privacy with careless abandon. Say what you like about Google Glass, it's certainly proved a talking point.

I've spent the last 24 hours trying out Google's wearable computing device, talking to people who are developing apps for it, and gauging the reaction of onlookers.

The product - which is still a long way from being ready for consumers - has been in the hands of developers for a few weeks now, and many of them have converged on San Francisco for the Google I/O conference.

Google Glass

When I had a couple of hours to try it out I found that, like any new interface, Glass had some rough edges. The screen looks rather bigger and more useful than I'd expected, like a reasonable-sized TV seen across a room. But you need to learn a series of touch commands on the arm of the glasses, and often I found myself stuck halfway down a long series of menus, swiping back and forth and getting nowhere.

At the moment, there is a limited amount you can do with Glass - it's like a smartphone without any apps - and for many of the functions you may be constrained by the quality of the 3G connection on the phone to which it is paired. You may also feel a bit daft walking down the street and shouting to yourself, "Do I need an umbrella tomorrow?"

Rory Cellan-Jones wearing Google glasses in front of the Golden Gate bridge 'A strange Brit talking to himself': Rory tries Google glass in San Francisco

The voice recognition in the device is very smart - and even seems to understand my English accent - but again, once you leave a strong wi-fi connection, everything seems to become a little harder. And what about those privacy worries inherent in a device which can be recording without your subject knowing?

Start Quote

You may feel a bit daft walking down the street and shouting to yourself, 'Do I need an umbrella tomorrow?'”

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When I took Glass for a stroll on the beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, the elderly dog walkers there were more amused about a strange Brit talking to himself than anxious about their privacy, although the majority felt the whole idea was rather more creepy than cool.

Where Google's big idea impresses most is as a camera. Because it captures exactly what you see, you get the kind of pictures you often miss with a camera you have to ready for action. And when it comes to video, the footage is much steadier than what you often see from a shaky camera phone.

We began our filming by visiting the world's most enthusiastic early adopter, the blogger Robert Scoble. He's certainly mastered the art of Glass photography - as you can see from his picture of us filming him.

Shot of Rory C-J taken with Google glass This shot was taken by Robert Scoble (reflected in camera) using Google glass

Despite his promise never to go a day without the product - or something similar - he has a few words of caution. The price needs to be right, he says, and the product has to be able to do a lot more if it is to appeal to a wide audience.

By the sound of it, there will soon be plenty more apps. Developers big and small are in San Francisco, showing off their projects. Rajiv Makhijani and two friends who won a Glass hackathon, are now developing a social gaming idea, which sounds to me like Foursquare meets match.com. Bigger players, including Twitter, Facebook and Evernote are also thought to be working on apps.

Software developers and privacy campaigners give their opinions on the Glass

What strikes me in San Francisco is the sheer fascination and excitement of many people when they see Glass for the first time. It feels to me that we are ready for a new way of interacting with the web.

Google Glass may be clunky, and it certainly isn't going to win any fashion awards. There are serious debates to be had about its legal and social implications. But we may look back 10 years from now, and say this was the moment when wearable computing stepped out of the sci-fi films and into real life.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 563.

    550. CURTAINS 2012
    5 HOURS AGO

    Software have to pass the Turing Test first.

    -----
    Probably, but it will and within the same timescales. Researches across the world are 'reverse engineering' the brain to help them write the code.

    We're buidling 100 petaflop machines now as well, capable of simulating most human brain functiuons.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 562.

    As the law stands, there is nothing illegal regarding filming in public. This is just a technological advance that makes recording video very easy and hands free. Anybody can take a camera out and start taking pictures in a public place and they would be well within the law. makes me laugh, people worrying about this when CCTV camera's which don't reduce crime, are popping up everywhere.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 561.

    People saying that there is no such thing as privacy in public.

    Utter rubbish.

    Would you walk up to a random stranger a photograph them, or go stand next to someone to overhear their conversation?

    Of course you wouldn't, out of respect for their... privacy

    Unless you're one of those people that just doesn't know how to behave in public

  • Comment number 560.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 559.

    Most of the worries below have been advanced before in respect of other devices & technological advances. That's not to say we should ignore the challenges, but the "terrorists and paedophiles" brigade really don't help us understand the issues. It's inevitable, so let's respond sensibly.
    And the Turing test wouldn't apply to an "enhanced human" - they're already human!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 558.

    Another load of biased trash from Rory (esp the video). What makes these any different from a mobile phone for privacy? At least unlike a phone the finished version may have a red record light.

    If he thinks he looks stupid using voice then what about the myriad of Bluetooth Siri and Google Now users? You don't even HAVE to use voice, so what's he moaning about?

    Google Glass is the future's beta.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 557.

    Every effort must be made to keep these out of the hands of paedophiles and terrorists

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 556.

    You realise Google created these so it can cover reality with adverts...

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 555.

    @509.Nicola1776 and @553 DJ205, et al:

    Why oh why are so many people on here fixated that the only reason someone would want these are because they are either a paedophile or a terrorist?!

    In fact, computers (incl. smartphones,etc.) and the internet are useful tools for them too. I guess, since you've clearly used both of these to comment here, that MUST mean you are one and/or the other.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 554.

    Another big nail in the privacy coffin lid. We will become a planet of drones, our movements, relationships, purchases all predicted.

    R.I.P. our sense of self.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 553.

    There are many, many places where I would not want anyone to wear these things. Toilets, changing rooms, schools, playgrounds, etc. I'm sure 80% of the users would be innocent, but how long would it be before these are christened the 'Perv Specs'?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 552.

    Google Glass: Creepy or Cool? I say creepy as the glasses probably don't work for everyone. Suppose you don't see well out of one eye that can't be corrected with regular glasses? Are you safe navitaging through life with one good eye that is partially distracted or obstructed by video content?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 551.

    "528. Lance Paterson
    I'd also need assurance it was attuned only to my own voice. Just in case someone walked up to me and yelled "Search YouTube - Celine Dion Sings AC/DC - Play All - Lock Interface"."

    Brilliant.

    As for fitting them inside specs. I imagine there will be clip on attachments at some point. Although blue tooth headsets never really caught on like people thought they would...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 550.

    549.MrBoy
    7 Minutes ago
    you'll be able to augment your IQ by a factor of miilions.

    +++

    Software have to pass the Turing Test first.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 549.

    548. CURTAINS 2012

    Yes, you're probably right about that. Thinking about it, we won't need 'optics' at that stage, but the implants will come - I give it somewhere between 15 to 30 years max, and it won't be just for web access, you'll be able to augment your IQ by a factor of miilions.

    Scary, but highly likely ;-)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 548.

    547.MrBoy
    Just now
    545. CURTAINS 2012

    How would the optics work?

    My guess would be that the lenses would create a virtual image by interfacing directly with your visual cortex, nano dendrites might be able to make the necessary connections? That's a guess, I'm not an expert.


    +++

    That's more of an implant rather than a contact lens

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 547.

    545. CURTAINS 2012

    How would the optics work?

    My guess would be that the lenses would create a virtual image by interfacing directly with your visual cortex, nano dendrites might be able to make the necessary connections? That's a guess, I'm not an expert.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 546.

    Pay your taxes Google.

    Stop stealing from British citizens!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 545.

    544.MrBoy
    3 Minutes ago
    Folks, this is version 1.0 of new technology. By about version 6.0, this will probably be available in a contact lens.


    +++

    How would the optics of that work?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 544.

    Folks, this is version 1.0 of new technology. By about version 6.0, this will probably be available in a contact lens. Society’s attitude to privacy will change and the driver of that will be IT. IT capability is increasing at an exponential rate, in twenty years, the computing power of an iPhone will be available in something the size of blood cell.

 

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