23 May, 2013

A Vision Of The Future Or Something to send you mad?

Melbourne Herald Sun, Thursday May 23, 2013
Your latest nudge towards insanity has just arrived, should you care to take it, and is already generating its waves of followers and developers. I watch these things with a mixture of excitement, curiosity, and denial, but no amount of closed eyes and head in sand will make this one go away.

This latest innovation is Google Glass. Basically it shrinks a tiny internet screen and mounts it on the corner a spectacle lens, so you can wear it all the time. Now you need never be without your computer in front of your eyes. Any breaking news, or tweets, or funny YouTube cats, can be immediately transmitted to you whatever you might be doing, wherever you might be.

Google Glass is a micro computer that you wear like spectacles. It has wi-fi, Bluetooth to your mobile phone, takes photos and videos, and transmits them through apps developed by CNN.

Yes, all the serious players are there - The New York Times, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter are in, and through Elle you can get the latest fashion advice.

There's useful stuff like Google Maps, so as you drive your friends and partners around you can pretend you really do know where the destination is, even as you are guided by your specs.

Google are trying to differentiate this service from normal social media. At the Google I/O Developers Conference two weeks ago in San Francisco, scores of code cutters came to compare notes and wear their dinky little Glass specs. Like mobiles, before long you can expect the apps to come flooding in for any task you could mention. Google provides the developers with the app building kit, encouraging them to create lots of content and make the technology popular.

Already, Elle offers you delights like horoscopes, and a chance to see Suri Cruise and her fashionista wardrobe. Seven years old and already a celebrity supermodel. Tom and Katie must be thrilled that their daughter is the subject of a blog that attracts 100,000 views a month.

Right now all the stuff I'm describing is still in a developmental stage, with Google Glasses distributed to developers who pay $1500 for their Glass Development Kit. Nevertheless there seem to be thousands of them already out there. Certainly the conference was filled with geeks wearing the one-eyed contraptions.

And knowing the speed of the computer industry, it can only be a matter of months before they start getting into eager hands. The more optimistic might put them on Santa's list.

The one thing you are mercifully spared from is advertising. Google has set a firm "no ads" ruling into its developers' agreement. Applications must also be free to download. So at the moment it is very much a plaything.

Of course once the user base has built up, expect to see the birth of a new medium.

If you check out some of the YouTube snippets already playing, you'll see how every aspect of life and fun - from hang gliding to trapeze flying, from big dippers to birthday parties - are captured by the camera sitting on the face.

One of the I/O developers was proudly showing off a hack he has developed that takes a photo when you wink. And you don't have to wear cumbersome headphones either, to receive calls from your mobile phone. The spectacles' arms transmit sound through the bones of your skull direct to your hearing.

One internet reader commented: "OMG is anyone else disturbed by this? I think I'll just wait for Release 2.0 where Google will have direct access to my ocular nerves and brain." It's getting that way, isn't it?


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