The World Through Google Glass

Google launched nearly 20 years ago as a search engine with a mission to organize the world’s information. It has since expanded its offering to nearly all things tech, including email, maps, online advertising, an internet browser, an open source operating system and a Google Apps based laptop, among other productivity and collaboration tools. Indeed, Google has become much more than a search engine.

The latest addition to the tech giant’s gadget arsenal is Google Glass. This wearable computer enables users to take pictures, capture video, browse the web, get visual directions and language translations – among other things – using a touchpad or the “Ok Glass” voice commands.

The Glass Explorer Project launched in February 2013, with early adopters entering by posting a social media message using the hashtag #ifihadglass. In addition to some of the usual tech media insiders, a few tech enthusiasts and beta testers got a chance to try, and review, the Explore Edition of Google Glass.

The Good: Ok Glass, remember this.
For one Explorer the best feature was the ability to capture images and video on the fly. We can certainly capture things with our phones and cameras but with Glassware, you simply push a button and initiate the command.

According to Mykola Bilokonsky, developer and Glass Explorer, “The big difference between the Glass camera and the camera on your phone is that you don’t line up the shot. There’s no viewfinder. There’s no screen to look through…The moment is what you see…You just ask the device to remember it for you.”

This, Bilokonsky argues, is an innovation on digital image and video capture; an innovation that enables the consumer to capture the moment, exactly as he experiences it. Glass is synced with your Google account and once connected to WiFi, it automatically uploads the captured moments to your G+ profile. Capture and share made even simpler.

The Bad: This is your privacy on Google.
It’s really no secret that Google is an advocate for living your life online. In fact the tech giant’s CEO Eric Schmidt has been widely criticized for his views on privacy.

According to technology consultant Jay Freeman, the lack of authentication requirements, paired with the “root” capability of Glass, makes easy work of hacking into someone’s account and monitoring the user’s activity. Freeman argued that this effectively enables hackers to “bug” the user’s Glassware, watching everything seen and heard. “The only thing it doesn’t know are your thoughts,” he said.

Google execs reject the concerns, saying that the Google current policies are adequate for ensuring user privacy. However, the debate continues about how the ability to take a wearable computer into people’s environment will have an effect beyond the user. In that regard, it’s the same privacy concern as having cell phones that capture images and video — and not necessarily an issue Google is responsible for sorting out.

The Questionable: Reality, augmented. The potential for Google Glass to augment the world around us is what falls into question the most. Having a map in the corner of your eye sounds great but it could be very distracting. Would the ever-present camera cause people around you to act differently?

With a smartphone the Internet is always on your hip, or in your purse. With Glass there is no longer even that small disconnect. Would it be possible to ever truly go offline?

One use for Glass may be “augmented reality games;” which occur out in the real world. Picture parks full of people, where each Glass-wearing participant has an imaginary gun with his score and ammo count readily available. This activity might seem odd to outside viewers but it could become commonplace among casual gamers. Xbox has attempted to make you the controller through its Kinect system — could Google be poised to do the same with Glass?

Bottom Line
As with any new technology there will always be a shaky initial development full of starry eyed early adopters singing its praises and those that declare it a flop before it even hits store shelves. While it is yet to be seen if it will become part of our lives as smartphones have, it has stirred wide debate. Its usefulness may show those critics, or perhaps it’s just another revolutionary idea that becomes a footnote.

And if you’re worried about driving with it you could always buy a Google self-driving car.

Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet. She helps readers learn about a range of topics, from home loans to the latest high-tech gadgets.

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