The cyber headgear is not so much a pair of specs as wearable computer-phones, each with a tiny display, camera, bone-conducting speaker and microphone mounted on a spectacle frame and perched just above the wearer’s right eye.
Google glasses will go on sale to the public early next year, and some analysts are predicting as many as nine million people will be wearing them by 2016.
That prospect is regarded with horror by technophobes and privacy advocates. The latter group believes Google Glass wearers will be able to film other people surreptitiously.
Worse, some believe a few of the many developers now working up “augmented reality” apps for the cyberspecs might develop one that would allow wearers to “undress” people they’re looking at, in the manner of some airport body scanners.
In Las Vegas, an establishment that’s politely called a “gentlemen’s club” has likewise banned Google glasses, announcing that persistent wearers will quickly find themselves in the tender care of the club’s bouncers.
DoubleClick believes it won’t be long before many Australian bars and restaurants adopt similar policies. And a good thing, too: there’s enough surreptitious surveillance of our activities these days.
If you haven’t come across Google Glass until now, here’s a quick rundown on how the things work and what they can do.
Glass doesn’t, as some folk fear, project images direct into your retina. The business side of the specs sits slightly above your right eye so you should still see quite plainly what’s in front of you. But look up slightly and you’ll get the illusion of a 25-inch high-definition screen floating in space a few metres in front of you.
You can use it to roam the internet (Glass connects via Wi-Fi), dictate email, snap photos or videos, display maps, make a phone call (it connects to your mobile via Bluetooth), use augmented reality to display wanted locations or nearby friends, flash up news headlines or reminders, or check a flight departure time. And much more.
Glass wearers control their cyber-shades by talking to them. Everything is done by voice control, beginning with the command, “OK, Glass”.
If you fear you may look and sound an idiot talking loudly to yourself while walking the streets with your cyberspecs, you’re not alone. Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman last week said he had been trying the glasses and found talking to them “the weirdest thing”.
Schmidt also admitted a new etiquette would have to be developed to deal with use of Google Glass in public places. “There are obviously places where Google glasses are inappropriate,” he said.
Indeed, Google has already named some situations where Glass should not be worn. That includes while driving: having the effect of a 25-inch telly a few metres in front of the windscreen is not conducive to good driving.
Also scuba diving, though for a different reason.
“Liquids can get into the electronic components, leading to corrosion,” Google says.
Thoughtfully, the company also advises against wearing Glass while operating a jackhammer. “Glass can’t protect your eyes from flying debris, balls, sharp objects, or chemical explosions,” it says.
Places where Google Glass should not be worn include casinos (which fear cheating signals), cinemas (for fear of bootlegging), government offices (you may capture the workers doing very little), courtrooms, military installations, children’s playgrounds, public toilets or gymnasium locker rooms.
And, DoubleClick would like to add: friends’ homes. Who wants to have a guest glassing away in the lounge or worse, the dining room, while dinner’s on and you’re trying to get some conversation flowing?
Other companies are said to be racing to develop something similar. They include Microsoft, which is expected to produce a working product next year, according to US tech industry analyst Brian White.
A prototype could even emerge in June at E3 video game show, he has suggested.
Chinese search firm Baidu is also said to be working on a Google Glass clone.
Many of us have learned to block Google’s tracking software, which seeks to follow your every online move and send you ads based on what it perceives to be your interests. So maybe we’ll get used to Google Glass wearers, too. But don’t expect to find a pair of the wretched things at our place and hopefully not in our local watering hole, either.