On Wednesday, April 4, Google released a concept video detailing what the company sees as the next generation of communication devices: smart glasses. Running on a version of the Android operating system, the portable yet chic specs are somewhat similar to today’s smartphone technology. Dubbed “Project Glass,” the glasses sport an array of apps that blend online convenience into daily life. A showcase video demonstrates a number of features, including directions from Google Maps and video chat with real-time view-sharing via the embedded camera.
But with these various features comes a haunting trade-off: More of your personal privacy is lost. One of the most conceded user rights in recent years, many of the technological advances of today have eaten away at our basic privacy protections. Facebook has been notorious for not only flip-flopping privacy options but also for collecting massive amounts of user data in order to drive up its profits from would-be advertisers.
Google has also gained a reputation for collecting data in order to individualize the search engine experience, as well as personalize ads
in mid-search. With Google’s smart glasses utilizing location data
due to the on-board Google Latitude software, you can consider your
With that in mind, imagine what would happen if the recently proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act were passed. Allowing the government to ask for user data from companies, it creates an almost Orwellian atmosphere. Now the government can legally survey where you are and where you’ve been in the past. This breach of privacy is a detail that we should be keenly aware of.
Another topic to consider is the potential harm these smart glasses could do to the health and safety of consumers. According to a 2011 estimate by the National Security Council, 1.2 million car accidents were the result of drivers distracted by speaking on their cellphones. Now, with the advent of wearable computing devices, how much of a distraction will they create for drivers? While the usage of voice commands almost ensures that drivers will not be looking anywhere besides the road, the overlay display on the lenses of the glasses creates an entirely new and dangerous diversion.
Lastly, the niche that smart glasses could potentially fill is already overflowing in a world of smart devices. From a study conducted by the Gartner marketing firm, 491.4 million smart devices were sold in the fourth quarter of 2011. Along with that, the market is currently dominated by a multitude of Android devices, with the Google brand consistently holding around 50 percent of the quarterly market share. Although Google reigns supreme with its OS available on more devices than the competition, they create a saturated market. This may hurt Google’s chances at finding a substantial market base for its brand of smart glasses.
Needless to say, Google’s “Project Glass” was a powder keg that took the world by storm. While it may be too early to predict the exact impact smart glasses will have on today’s increasingly connected societies, one should be aware of the possible trade-offs involved in this advancement. Just as the popularity of Facebook has created a less private user climate, the prevalence of smart glasses may spell a new era for humankind: a world where we may be uplinked with the internet everywhere and anywhere. In the end we, not only as consumers but as another generation, must dictate the technological advances that affect our lives.