Google Glass will disappoint general consumer

Apparently it has been too long since Apple launched its last market-changing device. Perhaps this is why Apple’s stock fell more than 40 percent over the last seven months and its quarterly profits went down for the first time in a decade, as was reported by the company.

Apple is almost certainly working on something new, and speculations abound: A television, a game console and a smart-watch are among the most popular guesses. However, the current most-hyped new tech device is not from Apple, but Google — an Internet-connected eyewear known as Google Glass.

The main goal of Google Glass is to provide easy access to information on a device paired with a cellphone that is worn on a user’s head. Google Glass also includes a camera that is conveniently located for making videos. The concept has been around for some time — the eyewear company Oakley makes ski goggles that display speed, altitude and incoming text messages.

At first, technologies like Google Glass seem appealing. For anyone who has tried to type a message while walking on the street, it would be an interesting to interact with a hands-free smartphone via voice and have visual feedback at the corner of your vision. But while this technology would prevent people from walking while staring at the smartphones in their hands, it wouldn’t prevent them from looking like zombies.

As it turns out, the human visual system cannot focus on two things simultaneously. When speaking about Oakley’s ski goggles, neuroscientist David Strayer, who for decades studied attention and distraction, warned, “You are effectively skiing blind, you’re going to miss a mogul or hit somebody.” Smart glasses undoubtedly present a risk, whether in practicing some sport, walking or driving.

The second issue is with Google Glass is its purpose. If you look at the website, you’ll see an advertisement campaign centered around the word “share.” Leaving aside the fact that the term has become a cliché, sharing is really only appealing to people who perform activities where first-person movie recording is interesting. If you’re a skydiver or a circus artist, maybe Google Glass is for you — otherwise, your video may not get many “likes.”

Most importantly, there is the concern with privacy. As Google Glass has a camera, most users will be rightly afraid of being filmed, and there would have to be significant consideration of the limitations of users’ videographic rights.

Even though versions for developers are already available, the hyped Google eyewear is not expected to reach the general market soon, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said on Friday. When it does, I doubt it’s going to be of much success, except perhaps for a niche market — a market for people who like to look cool and record first-person perspectives of the accidents they get involved in.

 

A version of this article was published in the Monday, April 29 print edition. Marcelo Cicconet is a staff columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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