Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, introduces the Google Glass Explorer… (Getty Images file )
Tired of reality? Bored by the few spare restless moments of your life not connected to the Internet? There's an app for that. More specifically, there's a device for that.
Google has been holding demos for Glass, its new wearable eye computer, at SXSW this week in Austin, Texas. Using voice commands and gestures, users will be able to send email, take photos and video, surf the Web and use GPS navigation without breaking stride. In other words, it'll be like having an iPhone glued to your head except for the part where you look down at a screen and accidentally walk into traffic. Your eyeballs will BE the screen.
Even though Glass looks like something you'd have to cryogenically freeze yourself to get in the distant future, Google aims to have this Star Trek-ian gadget available for purchase (for a mere $1,500!) by the end of this year or early 2014.
For some, Google Glass represents a watershed moment in humanity's mastery of information technology. Me? I'm more than a little frightened by it, and not just because it makes you look like a super-dorky cyborg. Nor am I worried that this is the beginning of the "Terminator" movies come true—that computers will become intelligent, rise up and send Robot Arnold Schwarzenegger to murder us.
I just think Glass goes too far in converging real life with the Internet. Smartphones already have made it difficult for us to truly unplug ourselves—so can you imagine how hard it would be to disconnect if you were used to mounting the Internet on your face?
People could watch cat videos on YouTube instead of talking to a friend at a bar or catch up with "The Walking Dead" instead of interacting with their family at dinner.
I also worry that dependence on a device such as Glass will continue to erode our so-called street smarts. Last year, I was puzzled when a woman with her face buried in her iPhone asked me, "Hey, can you tell me where the Willis Tower is?" I turned and pointed 50 yards away to the skyscraper that pointed a quarter-mile into the sky. "Oh! Sorry, I just couldn't find it on my GPS!" she said. I can imagine a scenario in which a signal loss could cause Glass wearers to suddenly get lost in their own neighborhoods, freak out and curl into a ball until 3G service returns.
And let's not forget about the creepers. Glass potentially could allow people to make homemade porn on a date (although it could just mean that "Hey baby, take off your glasses" will be the first line uttered before every makeout session). But it also could allow people to become stalkerbots and take photos and videos of strangers in public without them even knowing and use facial recognition software to Google search them. Yikes.
That's why I applaud a warning about Glass posted pre-emptively by 5 Point, a Seattle dive bar. On the bar's Facebook page, the owner says if future Glass owners don't remove them when entering the bar, "ass kickings will be encouraged for violators."
Of course, I don't encourage physical violence when it comes to dealing with obnoxious users. I can think of a punishment way worse: taking the batteries out of their super glasses.
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.
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