Since starting the Creative Good blog in 1997, I’ve never seen a post here get the response generated by The Google Glass feature no one is talking about. It went viral shortly after I published it on Feb 28. Here are the sharing counts on major social networks as of today:

• Facebook: over 16,000
• Twitter: 6,300
• Google Plus: 1,400

That’s just for the English-language version. The column is now also available in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Russian, and Dutch. The press has picked up on it, too: WSJ.com, the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Dutch newspaper NRC Next have all quoted the column or run excerpts.

Well, some press has picked up on it. Sadly, no technology journalist among the U.S.’s mainstream media has commented on the issues raised by the column (please correct me if I’m wrong!). However, since the column was published, we did learn that…

• JetBlue has announced a possible use of Glass at airports (via The Verge, leading tech blog)

• the New York Times is part of an initial group of likely apps for Glass (via The Verge, mentioning NYT)

…which feels like a bit of a disconnect. The response to the column shows that many people – from normal folks to techies and everyone in between – have some questions about Google Glass. Real questions about what it means for their experience on the streets, in restaurants, anywhere in public. The technology press doesn’t seem to be responding to those questions. In all of this, Google had one – just one – public response that I could find. In response to the WSJ.com piece, a Google spokesperson had this response:

“It is still very early days for Glass, and we expect that as with other new technologies, such as cell phones, behaviors and social norms will develop over time.”

In other words: get used to it.

Is this the best we can hope for, from the tech industry?

  1. Your blog generally produces more affirmative, silent nods from me than any other.

    But with the Google Glass thing… I dunno. It’s a new tech, one that we knew was coming. Cameras on glasses, wearable computers… well, of course. I don’t like the idea. I don’t want to hang out with someone wearing Google Glass. I don’t want one myself… but… you seem angry.

    If we hate it and it isolates us, we won’t use it. If it adapts to humanity and humanity adapts to it, it will become popular, and then we’ll have restaurants banning it (happened), or teens or doctors doing something cool, or schools will have to block it, or whatever.

    But tech is a frontier. We’re going to change. We don’t write letters with a pen anymore unless we value that experience. Everyone in the room has a camera and a supercomputer in their pocket. It’s like personal drones, the cloud, or whatever… we know this is coming, we don’t know how they will be used.

    So… Google’s “well, it’s early days. We’ll see what develops,” is exactly right.

    Your central point is a good one (think about the user experience of everyone around the wearer), and is actually a business opportunity, and part of the quest you champion so well.

    But get angry? I dunno. Google Glass is just a (rather boring, actually) obvious development, obvious tech direction.

    • Just to clarify – I’m not commenting on my own subjective experience of Glass but observing the thousands of people who have shared the column, hundreds who have commented, and numerous blogs & media sources that have weighed in… and comparing that with the lack of response from the very company bringing Glass to the marketplace. Whether that makes one angry is a different matter.

    • Maurice Patapon says:

      Yeah I’m angry too, for reasons you obviously can’t fathom. You think the only tech that survives and propagates are things that people “value the experience” of? Did it ever occur to you that some technologies that end up ubiquitous have more than one purpose, and that one of those purposes (even the primary one) may have nothing to do with the “user”? (In fact this whole reduction of human being to “users”, aka “consumers,” is disgusting in itself.) Seems like you DIDN’T really get the point of the blog article – it’s not just how other people experience glass-wearers, it’s to what nefarious uses a legion of human recording devices could be put.

  2. Over time I’ve noticed that most assertions that the press is not covering something are incorrect. Too bad your GG column didn’t have a catchy tune or some dancing; then it would have *really* gone viral! Your essay is something I would like to revisit and re-cast the hypotheticals just as a series of assertions, just for my own thinking. Like most people I have a lot of other stuff going on. In the meantime, we’ll find out next month how people feel about the geo-located ubiquitous person-centered video stream when memoto ships http://memoto.com

  3. Technology press is notorious for distorting the truth for the sake of stock valuations. I said in my comment on your original post… OK at the end of my comment… This has more to do with GOOG (the stock price) than Google’s User Experience.

    As for “getting used to it” … riiiight … like we all got used to Google Wave.

    Sometimes a whale has to beach itself before it can reconnect with the sea.

  4. I discussed it some with friends. We wondered if adding a blinking light when it’s recording would be enough to solve this. Then at least you know if you ‘re being recorded.

    As for the inevitable passive recording, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I can imagine several scenarios where I would really want it (mostly to compensate for my poor memory).

  5. It just needs a blinking red light when recording – and can email all those recognized by facial recognition a consent form. If not approved they show up as big foot or a swamp monster in the video.

  6. I think more talk about (or action against) products like Glass may happen only if/when enough people are actually bothered by them. Yet for this to happen, there needs to enough product on the street.

    Now, some might say we better act sooner than later, and I’m not necessarily disagreeing. However, not sure Google (or any other innovative company) can be “held for questioning” before it has committed the crime. Assuming it’s crime, which is another complicated and important question.

    Actually, this goes beyond the tech community, and I think coverage by other kinds of journalists might be at least as important, if not more. Thoughts?

    • Given that Google has admitted to wrongly accessing people’s personal data via their Street View camera car (see NYT story), I think it’s more than reasonable to ask the company to say something – anything – about the data that will be captured via Glass.

  7. For the futurists, gear junkies and generally curious out there — there’s a new(ish) sci-fi series called Continuum that features hypothetical real-world applications of the technologies discussed here. It’s about a detective who follows a group of criminals into a portal that sends them from 2077 to present-day Vancouver. Among her standard-issue police gear: Google Glass-like tech, controlled by a brain-computer interface.

    I’m not a diehard sci-fi fan, but the Kurzweillian theme of this show is very interesting.

    I think season two starts in April (SyFy channel), but it looks like several formats of season one are available on Amazon.

  8. Maurice Patapon says:

    Speaking about the “experience” of non-users, where were you when everybody in the city started walking around glued to gadgets? For many people older than 33 or so, this is ALREADY an experience we would rather not have.

    If you are opposed to the brave new world promised by legions of google glass wearers, take a stand people. Enough of the pseudo-democratic arguments about what the people want, the user “experience”, etc. What world do you want to live in? Next step: anticipate the arguments of the tech boosters. “It will make us all more secure, since everything will be recorded” (This argument is already made by Robert J. Sawyer in Hominids) Actually that’s the only one I can think of but that’s because I wouldn’t wear one of those contraptions in a million years… The first time someone looks at me with one of those things he’s getting a punch right in his glass.

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