A few weeks ago Google announced Project Glass, or Google Glasses.
A number of people I’ve spoken to are quick to mock these as another bluetooth headset. While I agree that walking around with a bluetooth headset hanging on your ear and no one on the phone is a generally stupid idea, I think that computerized glasses are something much bigger and far more important.
Humans Conforming to Machines
The typewriter was invented in 1868, and we have been conforming to its shape ever since. Our technology does incredible thing, but it still breaks our bodies. Our devices inflict all manner of pain on our backs’, necks’ and wrists’. Tablets and mobiles aren’t an improvement in this regard. They still make us crane our necks’, and strain our wrists’. This is because we must contort our bodies to work with the shape of our technology. It’s a massive design flaw and the only people who benefit are orthopedists, physical therapists, and ergonomics professionals (who make a staggering amount of money for assembling chairs and installing wrist wrests for large corporations).
Computers as Glasses
If Google Glasses are light enough, they will represent the first powerful consumer computer that conforms to human physiology, and this excites me as both a technologist and as a vertebrate.
The combination of a camera, microphone, accelerometer, GPS and small heads up display in an always-on computer could do unbelievable things (which may one day be another post).
Making These Things Magical
The trick will be giving users a ton of control over what notifications will be sent to the user’s glasses. If your eyes are pinging every time you receive an email, tweet, Facebook update, or text message you might go insane. Limiting the active functionality is how you make computerized glasses empower users instead of distracting them. Having geographically activated modes could be cool. What I mean is that the device automatically shifts it’s configuration based on where you are, and possibly who is around you.
They work differently if you’re:
- At work
- At home (and alone)
- At home (with people around)
- Walking in a place you’ve been before
- Walking in a place you’ve never been
- At a museum
- In a store
The opportunities are endless, especially if the devies can recognize who you’re with.
On a personal note, I will be quite peeved if Google neglects us prescription glasses-wearers.
These can’t come fast enough for me. Bring on the future!
Princeton University is hosting a Turing Centennial Celebration on May 10 – 12, 2012. The event honors of Alan Turing, the “father of computer science” who earned his Ph.D from Princeton University in 1938.
Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will be speaking on the 10th, and I’ll be in attendance along with the Princeton Tech Meetup (where I spoke this past Monday).
If you’re interested in attending the free event, register with Princeton.
If you’d like to join the Princeton Tech Meetup check out their page on Meetup.com. It’s free to join, and the group is wonderful.
Either way, let me know if you’ll be in Princeton on May 10th.
Question: “If we take Chrome apps to its logical conclusion: Do you like Samsung 5 Chromebook? Do you see any there at SXSW?”
Browser As An Operating Systems
Rumors circulated for years that Google was creating an operating system environment within a web browser. It’s a natural leap for Google because it benefits greatly from Internet expansion. Due to ubiquitous broadband (at least in the States), and relatively fast, and inexpensive processors have given this idea legs: an inexpensive machine that only accesses the Internet and other software that runs in-browser.
Google has a fun habit of releasing mostly-baked products into the market. They do so with everything: Gmail, Google Music, Android, G+, Chrome (browser). Now, they are doing it with Chrome OS.
When you buy a Chromebook, you are essentially paying to enter an open beta. That’s all well and good if you’ve got the cash, and don’t mind tinkering with partially completed software & hardware, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m happy to beta test a free product from time-to-time, but I won’t pay for the privilege.
What is Chrome OS Good at?
- Browsing the web
- Basic to intermediate word-processing & spreadsheets
- Editing content from within a CMS
Where Does Chrome OS Fall Short?
The Law & The Cloud
Technology moves fast. Regulations and laws creep when they move at all. Steven Levy put it best:
“…the legal and regulatory framework for cloud computing is still evolving, as we are reminded by the government subpoenas for digital information on people tied to Wikileaks. If we’re going to make the leap to the cloud, we’ll need renewed assurances that personal data on the servers of Google or other companies will enjoy the same protections as the information stored on our personal hard drives and in our desk drawers” (Wired).
This is a big deal because with every passing month, the US government has become more aggressive in expanding online search and seizure.
Are People Using Chromebooks at SXSW?
While I’m hesitant to use SXSW attendees’ behavior as a measure of good tech decisions, I have not noticed a single Chromebook. Mostly I’ve seen a ton of Macbook Airs & Pros, Lenovo Thinkpads, and iPads.
Where is This Headed?
For better or worse, our computers are going to become increasingly more dependent on the cloud. That being said, I do not believe that Chrome OS is the answer. Over the next few years we will witness an operating system convergence.
Apple: iOS & OSX will merge
Microsoft: Windows 8 is all about convergence of the desktop, television, phone & tablet
Google: Android & Chrome will become one
Chrome OS is kind of a neat idea if you can already do all of your work in-browser, and can mentally get past the privacy/ legal issues.
Personally, I can’t do all of my work in-browser. I can’t ignore the privacy issues, and completely surrender all of my data to Google. I am deeply troubled by the imbalance between meatspace and cyberspace civil liberties (which is not Google’s fault).
All that being said, this really is an individual decision based on personal values, and use-cases. If Chromebook is all you want and need, enjoy. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a Macbook Air.
On a philosophical and political level, I’m deeply troubled. Philosophically, I think more privacy is the direction we should be moving. However, politically I don’t want to see that privacy come as a result of government regulation. As we have seen with copyright law, when governments get involved, things get ugly fast. Google’s actions here have captured the attention of government leaders in quite a few countries, and I guarantee it’s going to case problems down the line. Ultimately the people who will suffer most from government internet regulation will be smaller website operators., not Google.
Killing YouTube Data Collection
All that being said, I have no problems sticking it to Google for grabbing at more data. Here’s a simple way to kill Google’s data collection on YouTube:
Courtesy of Lifehacker