Glasses that Blind?

by Ievgen Bilyk

They will appear much sooner than people used to imagine, as modern technology is developing at a rocketing speed. A breathtaking presentation by Google, which buried them in a number of lofty words, took place this summer. By the summer of 2013, it is likely that this product will be available on the market, surely by the beginning of 2014.

The main feature of Google Glasses, promoted during their demonstration at the Google I/O 2012, is the ability to capture every moment of life as you see it with own eyes, and freely share these visual representations with anybody via Wi-Fi. The novelty is primarily oriented on communication through images, the last being seen by its developer Babak Parviz as a “truly evolutionary” way of interaction. These metallic frames with a touchpad, screen and camera are promised to be a progressive step on the way of combining virtual and existing worlds. In fact, a user will be able to see the real world through other people’s eyes on the small screen just above his or her right eye. Furthermore, a person can photograph and create own videos using the built-in camera, as well as send them to others, converting own reality into their virtuality. Finally, Google Glasses are intended to become a part of people’s everyday life, since they are very light and comfortable in terms of both physical and technological perception, and provide many other useful options like weather and price check. Babak is sure that they are about to empower you with new freedom.

Having watched the presentation, I asked myself whether this gadget is so promising, and came up with two objections. The first social problem I see is related to the mentioned vague promises of increased personal freedom. Indeed, Glasses are a “truly evolutionary” development in the realm of amusement and visualization, but not in terms of individual empowerment. They are a perfectly integrated feature of our instagram-and-twitter society, where the fast exchange of visual information is inevitably connected with large amounts of time being blown away on the web. Of course, it is a matter of personal choice how to use GG, but the number of moments really fascinating to see from another person’s eyes is quite limited, as are human possibilities to look at a picture with one eye, and at the world around with another. That is, I am not certain about empowerment, but users will definitely get more distractions in their life. The last fact is not very positive, since cars able to knock inadvertent people down in the street are still not digital.

The second issue to think about is much more prosaic. You will barely have just bought the first version of Google’s product, when the second one with “improved” features will be released. It is a well-trodden way for many big corporations to win over the incredible amounts of money spent on new upgrades. Needless to say, this successful company also knows how to capture the market by selling the feelings of living on the frontier of technology to its users. However, consider for a moment that there is no predetermined way of technological progress which the case of GMO wars teaches us. Neither are there neutral devices, where usage depends on bad or good human decisions. Therefore, one technological frontier simply does not exist. Instead, all technology may have been different; a combination of overlapping and opposing cultural, economic and political interests precede the creation of every artefact.

Judging from the number of likes the presentation of Glasses received on YouTube, many readers of this article are booing right now. Well, on the surface, it is the society we chose: seamless, rapid, as well as visualized to the finest pictures of our evening meals uploaded to Instagram. Whether we need alternative technologies to solve urgent social problems of those who are not lucky enough to live in the developed world, or if we need acute impressions from watching the world through the eyes of your friend flying on a para-glider, is our choice too. Do not blind yourself.

Ievgen Bilyk

3 thoughts on “Glasses that Blind?”

  1. Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the good works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll.

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