Google Glass: Obnoxious and invasive at any price

Google Glass: Obnoxious and invasive at any price

Summary: Products like Google Glass will face numerous adoption challenges because they present issues in any number of social situations where privacy or desire to be "off the record" is most cherished.


Google has stated that no advertisements will be allowed in third-party apps on Glass. I think it is highly unlikely that Google is going to make Glass an advert-free zone. It is far more likely that it intends to reserve ad network promotion for basic device functionality so that app developers cannot abuse the system. 

More likely the advertising on the device will have to be targeted according to the user's Google+ profile and to search context, through queries such as "Okay Glass, show me pizzerias in a one mile radius."

Based on my "+1" of pizza restaurants on Google+, I could see the device popping up overlays if I'm near a particularly good one, such as a place with a particularly high Zagat rating. And it might even show me pizza restaurants that have paid for particularly high AdWords placement as well.

What we think of "advertisement" will be defined entirely by how much Google "juice" an AdWords customer is willing to pay for in order to get in front of literally as many eyeballs as possible. These will not be "pitches" for product as such, but jostling for position on an augmented overlay.

Geotargeted and context and query-based visual augmentation will almost certainly make up the bulk of the revenue model, at least initially.

But I also see Glass as a supplemental ecosystem for the existing Google Play application store, particularly for Android smartphone apps that have the ability to extend their reach into the new device through "telemetry" or Glass-optimized user interfaces.

There may be other types of Glass-oriented content that Google is looking for developers to produce that the wearers can consume and can be monetized. Perhaps industry or interest-specific augmentation overlays, much like the way dictionary add-ons for word processing packages were sold to the medical and legal industry in the 1980s.

In terms of enhancing our overall communications and collaboration experience, I'm not yet convinced it is going to raise the bar. We already have the capability to do pretty sophisticated video chat and video conferencing with smartphones and PCs and it still only has limited use.

Where I do see this making some impact is in social networking. Clearly this would be a win for Google+ and a blow to Facebook. "Liking" and "friending" people could be an act of simply pointing at an icon floating in space over somebody's head, as opposed to having to look up their profile.

The adult film industry will certainly use this device with consent, but imagine what unscrupulous, ethically-challenged sociopaths might do with Glass. 

Status updates could be dictated and photo-sharing services like Instagram could be made obsolete. So it might add some transparency to Social Networking as opposed to it being the chore that it is today.

Still, I think the technology platform has to prove itself before it becomes more than just a more sophisticated replacement to existing Bluetooth headsets. 

At the moment Glass uses very commodity system-on-a-chip (SoC) with fairly off the shelf display, camera and battery tech. Google will need to develop the technology a little further if wants to put devices on the market that are usable for more than just a few hours at a time and can really make use of the life-logging capabilities as opposed to running out of gas after 20 minutes of video recording.

They will need much lower-power SoCs and more sophisticated battery chemistry, so that the majority of the heavy lifting is done by a wireless tethered smartphone instead. Google can certainly get millions of Glass devices pumped out with the current reference design, but it may not be palatable in its current form due to short battery life.

Social and technology limitations aside, there is a significant vertical pivot in all of this. Medical, law enforcement, private security, scientific research, pharmaceutical, and aerospace. Any profession where hands-free device operation is an asset.

Even if Google Glass flops in terms of mass-market adoption, the vertical applications are tremendous, and on that alone the technology should be considered successful if it gets penetration into those industries.

There's another industry that Glass is going to get penetration, and it should be obvious to everyone — pornography.

Google may not intend the product to be used in that fashion, but let's face it, first-person, close-up perspective views of sex acts are as much the holy grail of the adult industry as wearable computing and life logging is in the collective consciousness of science fiction. In fact, the two have often come hand and hand with each other. 

Natalie Wood with the "Brainstorm" lifelogging headset, 1983.

For example, the production-cursed 1983 Douglas Trumbull film "Brainstrom" starring Natalie Wood and Christoper Walken depicts a lifelogging technology similar to Glass — which also has the ability to record sensation and emotion — that is misused and is exploited by one of its inventors to chronicle his bedroom exploits with women, and then share it with his colleagues.

The adult film industry will certainly use this device with consent, but imagine what unscrupulous, ethically-challenged sociopaths might do with Glass. 

If you think "sexting" is something to be wary of, and you're concerned about having your children exposed to it, that's nothing compared to what Glass has the potential to be misused for.

Google Glass will make some sort of industry impact in 2014. Whether that is strictly with early adopters, "prosumers" or use in vertical markets, this is difficult to say. It's also hard to tell this early on whether or not the product is acceptable in its current form given the limitations it has in terms of battery life and just how exactly it might be monetized by third-party developers.  

What is certain, however, is that there is a nearly universal negative reaction to the life-logging and stealth recording capabilities of the device. Regardless of how cheap Google Glass eventually becomes due to efficiencies in mass production, it's obnoxious and invasive at any price and its potential for abuse by the ethically challenged and sociopaths among us is virtually unlimited.

Is Google Glass an obnoxious technology at any price? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Google, Emerging Tech, Hardware


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • At least we can assume

    that we might be being recorded and not do anything bad if we see a person with "the glasses". It will keep people on good behavior and help to more quickly locate criminals like in the boston bombing. In certain private places, there can simply be a sign to take them off. If they are not off, we know it and the person can be told to leave.

    Also, we could have 'reverse' glass to see whose behind us waiting to pounce. This could also be extended to a 360 degree of our vehicles to have a more complete view around us. This will have the opposite effect of those who say it will be worse for driving.
    • It isn't always about "good behavior"

      I am not "bad" or "doing something wrong" because of a medical condition I had no control over being born with. If I can keep it to myself then it is none or your business.

      Because of you and Google, I will be treated like a pariah. I've already lived the life of an outcast because of people's misunderstandings and it cost me in the 5 digit range to have a surgeon reverse some of it. I won't react if you and Google pay me the $10k+ you'll soon owe me.

      You don't think I'm going to be upset at your decision to reveal what I've decided not to? These are things that in the past got people killed, neutered like a dog, put in isolation, or had an ice-pick taken to their brain so all they could do was drool. And that was just in the last 100 years or so and the ice-pick bit was done 40,000 times in the United States with supreme court approval.

      Wearable computing devices like this pose a very real threat to me and millions like me.
      Dave Keays
    • ...or...

      ...alternatively we could all just stay home and masturbate.
      Schla Cter
    • Simply unreal.

      The dream lives on.

      All your ideas are nice, its not going to change the fact people will still not like to be be recorded by Google goggles.

      You can always tell the people who dont get it.

      They just love the wonderous idea of future tech arriving at our doorstep and dont want anything to interfere with idea always is, make 'em sound like they will save the world, how could we resist such a marvelous product right?
    • The government will hate them...

      Upon release, the rampant abuses of power being perpetrated by our own government and law enforcement agencies will start appearing even more often on YouTube and whistle-blower sites. This will cause a huge increase in regulation on these devices to the point where people will just give up on them. I'm sure the government will spin it like the regulations are to protect the public. In reality, they don't want the public to see what they're really doing to U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, they will continue using even more invasive types of surveillance devices against us unfettered.
    • Mind your own business

      Nothing like a fascist asshole who thinks it's his job to keep an eye on me. I see you coming with those things on and I'll pop you in the face, son.
  • LOL

    I used think Scoble as an ....., but this picture proved it to the world. :D
    Ram U
  • Paranoid Delusions

    Wow, and I thought my mother-in-law was bad. Scared of technological advancement much? This is a terrible article, full of animosity towards Google I imagine...judging from the writers employment. Trying to bring out the fear and paranoia that is so easy to feed to the sheep.

    With the world full of camouflaged cameras and high speed information sharing, the issues described are long past.

    And driving...really? You can't see the potential here? How about enhanced driving vision? Objects such as pedestrians and road obstructions could be highlighted and brought to your immediate attention. In the future, I could even see external cameras that could assist with dulled vision due to fog or darkness. Your route highlighted right on the road...I could totally see this going to a HUD type system.
    • Very Different contexts...

      Camera's that are on the street are there to catch bad guys. At least that is the theory. Google glass is about catching you at a moment that you might not consider appropriate.

      When you are on the street you are not going to converse certain topics and do certain actions. In a restaurant those topics that you did not talk about in public become topics, and you might do certain actions. It is about degrees of privacy here. With Google glass all privacy goes out the window. That is and will remain unacceptable.

      Next about enhanced driving, yes that already exists and is brought to you by the cars. The problem with google glass is that it is disconnected from the car. When you tilt your head will the landscape tilt? Google glass will not have the enhanced vision built in, but devices in the car will. Thus when you tilt your head the device does not tilt meaning you become sea sick as the two fields of vision have become disconnected.

      If this system is implemented as HUD like it already is in cars, yeah I agree.

      And finally, do we really want to see Scoble in the shower? No offense on Scoble I knew the guy when he was working conferences for Fawcette and he was then a nice guy. Or how about this picture: Sorry, but this is a picture of pervs! You know that Uncle that you really don't want to hang around because he is creepy...
    • You dont get it at all.

      Its not just one person, or two. You have no idea clearly about anything about society.

      You can sit around and shout about paranoid delusions, but it must be the majority of society.

      But I dont think its so much us as you. You just have no idea.
  • I'd get them at about 1/3rd the price

    And I'd get them just so I could wait outside Jason Perlow's place and then film him surrupticiously. Have some vision man. You don't have any expectation of privacy when you're outside anyway, and for all you know someone could be filming you with a high powered lens from a half mile away and you wouldn't even know it. In that comparison, Google Glass is useless, get over yourself.
  • Actually correction on star trek adoption...

    In Star Trek google glass has been used twice;

    1) Episode in StarTrek NG when an evil race wanted to control the Enterprise through a game displayed by the glasses

    2) Star TreK DS9, Gem'ha'da use it to control their battle ships

    Personally I see Google Glass as evil as Star Trek sees it as evil...
  • How very... High School

    There are always those that greet new and exciting technology like angry little monkeys, throwing poo at that which they do not understand.

    Set aside the misspellings in the article (unforgivable in those that aspire to be professional journalists)... the point of article is rather paranoid and not very forward looking.

    One assume a technology journal wants to be forward looking, but this attempt to make it look "dorky" because... well... you don't like or understand it is not in keeping with what a technology journal's mission / vision / values.
    Mad Scotsman
    • What's with the pretentious... ellipsis?

      No attempt at making Google Glass look dorky is required. They look dorky. When someone wears one, they look like a dork. Look at any picture of someone wearing one. They look like dork.
      • Not so rational guy

        Beauty, ugly, dorky are all in the eyes/mind of the beholder. The line between dorky and cool can be VERY thin indeed.
        • Perhaps because

          You look at that model girl with Google Glass and your mind strip her off the Glass and all clothes? This is how human "vision" works by the way.

          Now, Google Glass could do that stripping for you too, to "enhance" the subject before you. Like, augment an "crocodile" to look like a model you like :)
    • Sorry, but thats the way its going to be.

      Sorry. But true.
  • Now that Jason Perlow hates them....

    I want a pair.
    Royce Cannon
  • I don't know

    Something about Google Glass is wrong for humans. A HUD works because it is in context with the environment, but when something out of context is superimposed over your primary view, it is just plain distracting. Humans don't function this way. That's why there are distracted driving laws.

    I think this is a miss and the breakthrough will come with some sort of holographic projected interface.
  • Agree completely

    Some would like to comfort themselves with the notion that adversity to this technology betrays a fear of innovation. To be honest, Google Glass is not innovative. It borrows old ideas and takes them in a completely predictable direction. True innovation searches for and takes all the objections into account rather than crassly steaming forward just because the technology enables the platform. So miniturization got past the tipping point where you could put your iphone on your head. Are you kidding me? Is this all you could come up with? Software may save this very obvious platform, but it is still a crass and obvious next step. C'mon show some real imagination by addressing the challenges so nicely listed in this article rather than storming off the field with your baseball bat.