- Created on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 18:44
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By SHEILA PRITCHARD
When Google first told consumers about Google Glass in 2012, it seemed like an unattainable product of the future with a cyborg aesthetic and futuristic name.
Since then, roughly 10,000 people have dropped the US$1,500 for the test version of Google’s smart glasses. The future may still be in beta, but it’s here.
If Glass becomes widely used, major societal changes could follow suit.
In one of the first independent studies of Google Glass and as part of research into U.S. consumer habits, Adobe Digital Index, which is based on anonymous data collected from over 600 media and entertainment sites, found the device is used predominantly to access media and entertainment.
“As devices such as Google Glass grow their sales, they will have an impact on online video viewing,” concludes the Adobe blog post. “It’s not impossible to imagine that by the 2016 Rio Olympics, your office mates will be walking around wearing a device watching streaming video while you think they are working.”
On its most basic level, Google Glass has a smartphone-like display that hovers above your right eye’s field of vision.
It receives audio cues for notifications, fitness tracking and navigation and includes 100 per cent hands-free access to a quality camera, Google search and instant messaging.
With the potential to revolutionize industries such as health care, law enforcement, intelligence, armed forces, aviation and education, Glass could significantly benefit society.
Nonetheless, Adobe’s data shows Google Glass looks to be strongly headed for use as a media-consumption device.
Websites seeing the most browsing time on Google Glass are media and entertainment with 54 per cent. Glass is not just for people who upload their life moments to YouTube.
Feature films, documentaries, television programming, video games, and music will all be accessible by Glass.
“I’m excited about the entertainment aspect,” says Niagara College second-year New Media student Sam Curtis, 22. “Glass could really change the way people watch their favourite TV shows or play their favourite video games. It seems like it will bring the sound and visuals to a whole new level, and I think it will make things more interactive and user-friendly. I’m interested in what music options will be available too.”
Subscribers to Google’s music streaming service will be able to call up artist discographies and craft new playlists using voice controls, while the Sound Search feature operates like Shazam, a program that will identify songs in the environment.
“From a consumer perspective, music is such a key part of people’s lives, from commuting to partying to being in the moment to just kicking back and chilling out. We know that our consumers and our explorers love music,” Ed Sanders, the director of marketing for Google Glass, told Entertainment Weekly in November.
“I think it’ll be a key part of the experience and something we’re intrigued to see where it goes.”
To show off the gaming promise for Google Glass, the company is working to create games users can play when the head-mounted computing devices reach consumers later this year.
Google engineers have created five Glass “mini-games” that are available now as preview versions for the early Glass users, known as “Explorers”, so they can play with them and see how they work.
The games were unveiled online on Jan. 27 and were accompanied by a brief video showing off some of the games and their features.
“With tons of tiny sensors and a screen that fits neatly above the eye, Glass is an exciting new place to play,” the website states. “We hacked together five simple games that experiment with the unique features of Glass and demonstrate some of the possibilities for gaming.”
Charlotte Da Ponte, 26, of Welland, says she doesn’t think Google Glass is much different than other smart devices already on the market.
“As revolutionary as this may be, it is not so hard to imagine. We have already reached the initial stages with smartphones and other portable technology with browsing capability. I guess my question is how would this be dramatically different than people capturing events on their iPhones and smartphones?”
Some analysts question whether Glass will have mass appeal once it hits the market and compare the device to the Segway, which is considered a geeky curiosity that never lived up to its hype. Angela McIntyre, a research director for Technology Research Gartner Inc., says “the retail price for Glass will have to plummet to $200 to make a significant dent.”
Other researchers say the Glass technology could present numerous problems that range from mildly annoying to dangerous.
One of these problems is the potential all-around loss of privacy.
For the wearer, there is the risk that their activities and actions can be monitored by the manufacturer for the purpose of gathering information.
For people who are in the vicinity of the glasses, there is a risk of them being filmed, photographed or researched without their consent.
It is also yet unknown the long-term health effects of the product and if it is harmful to vision. In fact, on Google’s Glass FAQ page a warning states, “Don’t let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision.”
And, most certainly, there is the concern Glass will be distracting while driving or in the workplace.
Grant Irving, 29, of St. Catharines, says even if the price does drop, he’s not interested in the Internet giant’s smart glasses.
“It’s an invasion of privacy. I think it will be distracting for people, which could create dangerous situations and antisocial behaviour,” said Irving.
“And I think it is way too expensive for what it is. My smartphone can already do most of the things these glasses do.”