Mar 212014

Google Glass has been taking quite the beating lately, and if you’re an obnoxious bar-goer wearing a pair in the Bay Area, chances are you’ve recently taken a literal beating. The reason underscores the fundamental problem with Glass – and Google more broadly: they just don’t grok social boundaries. So what does a company having a perception problem with one of their products do? Why post a list of 10 misconceptions about Glass and call them “Urban Myths”, as in “you obviously don’t understand our product, let us explain why you’re wrong.” Google’s attempt to dispel these “myths” does nothing but mischaracterize the actual concerns in an attempt to mollify an increasingly-sour public perception. Let’s take a look.

Myth 1 – Glass is the ultimate distraction from the real world
Instead of looking down at your computer, phone or tablet while life happens around you, Glass allows you to look up and engage with the world. Big moments in life — concerts, your kid’s performances, an amazing view — shouldn’t be experienced through the screen you’re trying to capture them on. That’s why Glass is off by default and only on when you want it to be. It’s designed to get you a bit of what you need just when you need it and then get you back to the people and things in life you care about.

First of all, Glass sits on the bridge of your fucking nose. If you don’t already wear glasses, this is already a distraction. Secondly, the screen is well within your peripheral vision. Maybe Google needs a word other than “distraction” to focus on, because the placement of a device on your face and the presence of the device’s screen within your field of view qualifies it as a distraction. Insisting that Glass is less distracting than a smartphone makes Google sound more willfully ignorant every time the byte squirts out of its PR’s backside.

Myth 2: Glass is always on and recording everything
Just like your cell phone, the Glass screen is off by default. Video recording on Glass is set to last 10 seconds. People can record for longer, but Glass isn’t designed for or even capable of always-on recording (the battery won’t last longer than 45 minutes before it needs to be charged). So next time you’re tempted to ask an Explorer if he’s recording you, ask yourself if you’d be doing the same with your phone. Chances are your answers will be the same.

No shit. No one thought these nerdvision goggles would be 24/7 surveillance devices. Thanks for clarifying. The problem, as I’ve discussed before, is that you can be recording at any time, so in the mind of the average person, that’s all the time.

Myth 3 – Glass Explorers are technology-worshipping geeks

I wonder where people got that impression

I wonder where people got that impression

Our Explorers come from all walks of life. They include parents, firefighters, zookeepers, brewmasters, film students, reporters, and doctors. The one thing they have in common is that they see the potential for people to use technology in a way that helps them engage more with the world around them, rather than distract them from it. In fact, many Explorers say because of Glass they use technology less, because they’re using it much more efficiently. We know what you’re thinking: “I’m not distracted by technology”. But the next time you’re on the subway, or, sitting on a bench, or in a coffee shop, just look at the people around you. You might be surprised at what you see.

The part that begins “We know what you’re thinking…” is a perfect encapsulation of the condescending “you just dont understand” tone Google has adopted with Glass. They’re saying “You say this, but if you were really observant, you’d realize you were wrong” No, Google, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t be surprised. We’re not going to have some heaven-splitting epiphany the next time we take in a scene of people checking their smartphones and tablets in a Starbucks. We’re already familiar with that scene. And we’re not fucking idiots.

Myth 4 – Glass is ready for prime time
Glass is a prototype, and our Explorers and the broader public are playing a critical role in how it’s developed. In the last 11 months, we’ve had nine software updates and three hardware updates based, in part, on feedback from people like you. Ultimately, we hope even more feedback gets baked into a polished consumer product ahead of being released. And, in the future, today’s prototype may look as funny to us as that mobile phone from the mid 80s.

No shit. It’s a Google product, isn’t it? Our Lady of Perpetual Beta?

Myth 5: Glass does facial recognition (and other dodgy things)
Nope. That’s not true. As we’ve said before, regardless of technological feasibility, we made the decision based on feedback not to release or even distribute facial recognition Glassware unless we could properly address the many issues raised by that kind of feature. And just because a weird application is created, doesn’t mean it’ll get distributed in our MyGlass store. We manually approve all the apps that appear there and have several measures in place (from developer policies and screenlocks to warning interstitials) to help protect people’s security on the device.

Because google would never include anything dodgy – like allowing a Glasshole to activate the camera on the device remotely from their Android phone, until they decide to do it.  MyGlass is a Google-made app, mind you. And even though Google may not be implement a certain function, you can bet the intrepid community of hackers will find a way to incorporate it. It’s already been jailbroken, which will allow a user to bypass any privacy feature that Google doesn’t eventually strip out itself. Stay tuned for the pivoting of bullshit platitudes like these “myths” to statements like “we designed it to be free and open” once the device is exploited to its full creepy potential. No one pulls off the Pontius Pilate hand wash as cleanly as the folks in Mountain View.

Myth 6: Glass covers your eye(s)
“I can’t imagine having a screen over one eye…” one expert said in a recent article. Before jumping to conclusions about Glass, have you actually tried it? The Glass screen is deliberately above the right eye, not in front or over it. It was designed this way because we understand the importance of making eye contact and looking up and engaging with the world, rather than down at your phone.

Whoever said “a screen over one eye…” is an idiot, not an expert. Google understands the importance of social interactions so deeply that they built a device that sits on your face and is capable of surreptitious recording of your interactions. But it doesn’t “cover” your eye – that would be a distraction for the person you’re talking to!

Myth 7 – Glass is the perfect surveillance device
If a company sought to design a secret spy device, they could do a better job than Glass! Let’s be honest: if someone wants to secretly record you, there are much, much better cameras out there than one you wear conspicuously on your face and that lights up every time you give a voice command, or press a button.

Once again, Google caricatures a rational concern about privacy to make it easier to defend. Yes, there are more capable surveillance devices on the market, but they’re not being billed as a mainstream piece of consumer electronics. And the bit about “lighting up every time you give a voice command?” You might think that means Glass has a recording indicator light, but that’s not what they said! There is no indicator light for recording; Google claims that the illumination of the screen should serve as ample enough warning to bystanders. But that person could be doing something else besides taking a photo or shooting video. That’s the point of a big red fucking light. And as I mentioned above, Google bypassed the “voice command/button press” necessity themselves when it allowed Glass to be controlled via smartphone.

Myth 8 – Glass is only for those privileged enough to afford it
The current prototype costs $1500 and we realize that is out of the range of many people. But that doesn’t mean the people who have it are wealthy and entitled. In some cases, their work has paid for it. Others have raised money on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And for some, it’s been a gift.

In some cases, user’s wealthy or entitled employer has given them a pair. Three other people on the planet have somehow convinced others to pay for theirs. And still others have received them from other wealthy people, probably because they successfully expressed their entitlement to them. This myth is basically saying “People who own Glass aren’t necessarily the 1%ers making people in San Francisco homeless, so please don’t punch them in the face on sight.”

Myth 9 – Glass is banned… EVERYWHERE
Since cell phones came onto the scene, folks have been pretty good at creating etiquette and the requisite (and often necessary) bans around where someone can record (locker rooms, casino floors, etc.). Since Glass functionality mirrors the cell phones (“down to the screen being off by default), the same rules apply. Just bear in mind, would-be banners: Glass can be attached to prescription lenses, so requiring Glass to be turned off is probably a lot safer than insisting people stumble about blindly in a locker room.

Wow-either we’re getting to the end of a too-long list or Google are absolutely shitting themselves by putting this one in there. Once again, Google wants to draw a comparison to cell [sic] phones that does not apply. It is obvious when you’re using a smartphone for nefariuos purposes. IT IS NOT THE CASE WITH GLASS. And invoking a threat to safety by banning Glass in locker rooms? The stench of desperation could knock out a fucking horse.

Myth 10 – Glass marks the end of privacy
When cameras first hit the consumer market in the late 19th century, people declared an end to privacy. Cameras were banned in parks, at national monuments and on beaches. People feared the same when the first cell phone cameras came out. Today, there are more cameras than ever before. In ten years there will be even more cameras, with or without Glass. 150+ years of cameras and eight years of YouTube are a good indicator of the kinds of photos and videos people capture–from our favorite cat videos to dramatic, perspective-changing looks at environmental destruction, government crackdowns, and everyday human miracles.

What a bunch of drama queens. No one thinks Glass “marks the end of privacy”. Anyone claiming that probably also said “but they cover one eye!” Besides, you fuckers cornered the market on that era when you introduced Gmail. What Glass is is the ever-present possibility of imposition on personal space in a way that a smartphone can’t achieve. It’s a device that by its presence makes the social interactions that people currently engage in – rare as they are these days – awkward. That may change, but we’re not close to there yet. That’s the reaction people are having to Glass. It’s not an overreaction and it’s not a lack of understanding. Google needs to get over themselves and stop trying to explain itself to the general population like its talking to a 5 year-old.

 Posted by at 10:23 am

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