Google’s Project Glass unveiling has erupted an enormous spray of commentary from the tech industry. There’s an aura of excitement, but so many pundits are quick to point out the technical and practical flaws behind Google’s project and point fingers at the company for trying to create artificial hype over a product they may never build.
I’ve adamantly defended Google as they’ve weathered through this storm of negative PR surrounding anti-trust, privacy issues and their so far futile foray into social. Project Glass is facing similar bashing, and I’m defending Google once again, not because I have a fanboy allegiance, but because I like the idea and I’m glad they’re trying.
Roberto Baldwin of Wired Gadget Lab published an article on the topic with research from leading universities concluding that from a purely technical standpoint, it’s unlikely Google would be able to pull off what they’ve shown in this video. Technology doesn’t yet exist, particularly in such a wearable form factor that allows the transparent display to dynamically focus in accordance with the eye. The very transparency of the glasses display also poses brightness issues as people inevitably shift between low light and bright light environments.
Tumblogger Joe Stracci whom is likewise not keen on the notion takes a much more superficial, and dare I say naive stance to Project Glass’s unveiling, citing three key points that I’ve paraphrased economically:
1. Wearing these glasses will invariably be a pain in the ass (or on the face)
2. Google doesn’t care about ‘helping you explore your world’ but wants to exploit your every action to control your life, and subsequently throw targeted ads at you
3. Google is clueless to the dynamics of the technology industry and is therefore putting this video out there to hope to gain some feedback.
No one is wrong here. I just think too many people are interpreting Google’s video and their motives incorrectly. It’s a project, not a product. It’s not like they’re hyping this concept so they can reach into people’s pockets with something that is no better than vaporware. I’m sure they’ve considered the technical difficulties and know that this is a tall order. But Google’s just showing us their vision - ‘this is how we see the future, do you think it’s awesome too?’
But then again, it’s silly to seek judgement from the public on a project that likely won’t bare any fruits for at least a couple of years. People change, societies change and so will their sentiments towards technology. That’s the fundamental backbone of my gripe towards much of Joe Stracci’s arguments - yeah, it probably seems stupid today to have people with 20/20 vision wear glasses constantly and have it tickle the top of their noses; but it probably seemed stupid years ago that something so restricting as skinny jeans would end up becoming a fashion staple.
As long as there’s sufficient value, people will adapt.
All this reminds me of one of the most eye-opening technology articles I’ve ever read - Neal Stephenson’s 'Innovation Starvation'. He points out that today’s society collectively has a problem with executing on ambitious innovative dreams and sticking to ideas, but instead letting them slip when suddenly it seems even mildly unfeasible.
The reaction to Google’s Project Glass is just the perfect manifestation of this - we think we knows so much and we think we’re just so goddamn smart. We’re fickle, we’re in a bubble of omniscience and therefore, we’re way too quick to shoot down ideas that step beyond the confines of our rationality. As technology lovers, we’re meant to love technology and believe in its ability to stretch that boundary.
But instead, too few people believe in that motive anymore and suddenly Google’s gone all corporate on us - unveiling this video to bathe in the PR aftermath, and working on this product simply to sell better ads.
Perhaps that’s true, but heck, Project Glass is awesome. If only people would stop teaming with their over-arching hubris and see that this is something - as tech lovers - we wanted all along. And at least there’s someone out there trying.