Google Glass Grievances

This is a list of potential problems that I’ve thought about with respect Google Glass.

Google Glass patent diagram

Google Glass patent diagram - source: United States Patent and Trademark Office

This is not a generalized oh, my privacy! exploration into the implications of the technology, rather it is an enumeration of specific real-world problems which could result from using Glass. I’d like to also stress that I did not put these words down to pour water on the Glass flame, but to merely point out some valid concerns that I have as a technologist and human being.

I use a bit of rough language at times and a tongue-in-cheek attitude for some of my points because I’m just some guy and this is just some guy’s website.

While much of my thinking on the topic is serious, the nature of this list is not academic, terribly scientific, or even remotely professional.

I am just shooting the shit here with you about the technology.

0. Made by a large advertising machine

Google is perhaps now the largest marketing data aggregator and advertising machine on Earth. Why would anyone want to wear something on a regular basis that has the potential to gather the most detailed data a person could offer up to such an advertising and marketing machine?

All the promotional videos feature one perceived benefit after another for the user.

However, just as with search, Gmail, and every other Google service, Google will be the ones who ultimately gain the most from your use of Glass and related services in the form of raw data.

Basically, all data generated by Glass will pass through some part of Google for use by them in the ways they’ve specified in those long user agreements that most people do not actually read.

1. A transceiver sitting right next to your brain

Do you really want a device containing a transceiver and antenna pushing radio frequency (RF) energy from the ultra high frequency (UHF) spectrum for Bluetooth, cellular, and Wi-Fi transmitting in such close proximity to your head?

While there is not much in the way of definitive evidence showing dangers posed by concentrating UHF RF energy near the human head, I will continue to err on the side of caution in regards to this point. There’s been about 15 years of research into this issue as it relates to cellular telephony and we are not yet sure about the dangers of prolonged RF energy interaction with the human body.

Consider the following quotes:

Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck. More research is needed because cell phone technology and how people use cell phones have been changing rapidly.

National Cancer Institute

While RF energy doesn’t ionize particles, large amounts can increase body temperatures and cause tissue damage. Two areas of the body, the eyes and the testes, are particularly vulnerable to RF heating because there is relatively little blood flow in them to carry away excess heat.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Maybe too early to say what long term implications are, but obviously there is an interaction worth carefully studying here.

2. A potentially dangerous battery

Granted, not too many people have been burned by laptops or had their pants singed by flaming cell phone batteries, or claimed lung damage from toxic smoke produced by burning batteries, but these things and even worse have all happened.

Current lithium-ion based battery technology poses an almost inherent risk of thermal runaway and fire.

Do you want the battery to be right on your head when thermal runaway occurs and it catches fire?

3. Heightened risk of physical conflict

You are certainly going to enter environments on a regular basis where Google Glass will not be welcome.

In some cases, the severity of hostility towards yourself could be dangerously high. Just wearing them in the wrong place at the wrong time could jeopardize your safety and open you up to pain and suffering from those who don’t want to be part of your Glass experience.

Example: punched in the face by an intoxicated bar patron for looking strange or threatening while wearing your Glass. Imagine the results of having bits of Google Glass punched into your face. Ouch!

It’s certainly just a matter of time before the posting of such a YouTube video.

4. Reduced face to face civility

We are already fast becoming a civilization of screen staring bubble dwellers, each in our own little technologically connected worlds and it doesn’t matter how small the screen is or where it sits on one’s person.

The rudeness and general degeneration of direct face to face personal communication with one another brought about by constant smart phone usage will reach a new level with technologies like Glass.

How can I be sure when I am talking to someone with this thing on their face, that they’re even paying attention? Not to mention, I couldn’t possibly have anything resembling what I would consider a conversation in confidence with anyone wearing Glass.

5. Humans can’t really multi-task

This doesn’t stop us from trying and inevitably people will try to do too much while also interacting with Glass. We’ve probably all heard about or seen videos of people falling off of and into things while trying to text on their phones. Will a heads up display design actually prevent this kind of problem for Glass users who insist on trying to do too much at once?

Human beings aren’t well equipped to deal with the information density and distractions presented by a wearable computer, and this will become more evident with Glass as users who cannot text and walk at the same time enter into a whole new dimension of preventable accidents.

6. Shit could be snatched right off your face!

People have iPhones, iPods, and countless other high priced consumer electronics snatched from their hands on a regular basis, particularly in large metropolitan areas.

Likewise, someone could sneak up on you and readily jack Glass right off your face for fun and profit.

What if they miss in their snatching and injure you in the process?

Probably the best you could hope for is that someone else also wearing Glass was there to record the future embarrassing YouTube video…

7. The “Uhura Factor”

We all know how strange people wearing those Bluetooth headsets can look.

They’re in airports, discount stores, schools, driving delivery trucks, and more — that rare breed of technophile who thinks having a plastic protuberance stuck in their ear represents the epitome of effortless technology powered freedom of expression.

Did those things catch on with everyone or what? Of course not, because they typically make their wearer’s appearance resemble something out of a terrible sci-fi movie. That or when combined with the right attitude, the user just ends up coming off as a pompous ass. Glass will probably meet with the same kind of reception by everyday folks who don’t have 1500 bucks worth of gadget on their heads.

Want to have private conversations in a hands free manner using your phone?

Choose a corded headset with microphone instead.

Why? Because it looks fine and helps with point #1 above about injecting RF energy into your cranium because a wired setup doesn’t do that.

That’s the list for now.

If I think of other problems, I’ll revise this article and add them, too.