Created on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 03:44 Written by Jonathan Fischer / Columnist
There’s a lot of buzz about a new set of glasses manufactured by Google. Although the product hasn’t been released yet, it’s marketed as an “augmented-reality” technology to add to our arsenal of useful everyday gadgets.
It’s also a $1,500 Big Brother strapped to your face.
Soon enough, the government and corporations will be scratching to get a piece of your private space now that this new technology, previously never available as more than a demo unit, will soon be sold to the public. Augmented-reality-type glasses or displays are nothing new, but any product funded by Google deserves special attention.
Google is such an institution, after all, that the Oxford English Dictionary started considering the company name a legitimate verb in 2006. The word refers to the act of searching for anything online.
But the company behind the term has higher ambitions than just being a search engine. Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page wants to expand Google beyond consumers’ time spent online, seeking to channel information directly into the brain. In a 2004 interview, he explained this vision, saying, “You can imagine your brain being augmented by Google. For example, you think about something and your cell phone could whisper the answer into your ear.”
Google Glass fits into this model. We can see in a “point of view” teaser-video for the product that the technology can accept incoming phone calls, take instant photos and videos and display all sorts of information using voice commands via a little glass frame in the upper-right corner of the glasses.
Although the majority of Google’s profits come from advertising revenue, direct advertising isn’t a component of this new technology. Google has already stated, “There are no plans for advertising on this device.”
But in a much less direct way, this device will seriously influence advertising. This will be done through the real problem of Google Glass: the invasion into our lives. I am concerned with real-time data being streamed to the world and our gradual acceptance of inviting corporations into our lives.
George Orwell’s Big Brother consisted of telescreens that could never be turned off, peering into every crevice of the city. If used to its full extent, the Google Glass project appears quite similar when looking at it from a security perspective. We are merely operating on faith that Google will follow its mantra, “Don’t be evil,” and not freely give away this information.
With the technology of a smartphone, including Wi-Fi, 4G tethering capabilities and a built-in GPS, Google Glass provides the company with a lot of information to give away. Every single thing you see, to whom and what you speak, your purchases and what you do in your own home are fair game. Your eyes, in the form of glasses, become the mobile Big Brother Orwell’s novel portrayed.
Our society is already constantly being data-mined for information in order to tailor advertisements based on patterns of interest. Generally, this takes place behind the scenes in our everyday lives: There is nothing so overbearing as to disrupt our tasks throughout the day. We’ve slowly accepted that before watching content streamed on the web, we must endure a 30-second advertisement before viewing. It has become annoying protocol.
Google Glass doesn’t do anything necessarily new, but it adds an ease of access to this information. The glasses will ultimately lead to the success of more tailored content that just expands on this accepted standard in ways beyond what we already know and accept: into our private lives and thoughts.
It’s not surprising that technology has continued to evolve alongside advertising. In a previous column, I already voiced concern about my experience with FourSquare, a popular mobile app that can be used for data-mining (and stalking) purposes. Now, we are faced with an appealing piece of futuristic technology that surpasses the limits of our fingertips.
We must ask the question, “Does Google Glass materially improve our lives?” We can be certain that it will improve Google’s databases of information. If Google makes the majority of its profits from ads, it should be obvious that even if we won’t see ads on the glasses, ads are the purpose of the product. As with the intent of all innovative products released by corporations, this will generate revenue for Google Inc. We must remember this before we continue accepting technology so freely into our lives.
Otherwise, Orwell’s classic quote, “Big Brother is watching you,” might need to be changed to “Big Brother is watching through you.”