Through the Looking Google Glass

| Particle Debris

If God Had Intended Humans to Fly...

Now that Google Glass is being widely tested and written about, reactions are all over the map -- as they should be. That's a good sign for a new technology: our inability to come to consensus on the technical and social aspects at first. But in the long term, the technology always settles out.


I think it's actually a good thing that so many people are making fun of Google Glass. It's a measure of the disruptive power of a new technology that different people view it in different ways. When people don't quite know how to react something as amazing as Google Glass, it means that we have some social sorting out do. But humans are supremely adaptable. It's our forte. We do that in spades, and the Internet is our modern tool for that adjustment.

Image Credit: Phandroid

Consider this parallel. I am reminded of stories of missionaries, in previous times, taking pictures of people in far away lands, then showing the photos to them. In some cases, the reaction was one of fear or concern. The state of "capture" of the person's image was seen, in some cases, as evil, a dark magic. All of us think this is laughable because our culture has changed and us along with it.

When we don't know what to make of something new, like Google Glass, it's tempting to dismiss it. Or focus on the potential evils. In this case, the easy way users can capture images and video in a crowd. The fact that it makes people around the user uncomfortable, it may turn out, isn't sufficient to undermine the technology. In the end, our culture changes to adapt. And, as usual, some people will never fully adapt. Just look at how many of our parents never full embraced computers and the Internet.

If you'd like to get a hands on feel for how Google Glass really works, here's a great introduction over at Phandroid. The section, "Google Glass: Day in the Life" is by three users, Chris Chavez, Steve Albright, and Rob Jackson is especially helpful and will suggest how users (and passers by) are reacting to the technology.

Sure, a Saturday Night Live skit may be great fun, but it doesn't begin to build a framework for how we'll move forward with Google Glass, especially as the hardware sinks into invisibility from a distance. (That is, unless you're accustomed to letting comedy shows define your life's most important values.) Some will console themselves that GG will fail in society, but it won't.

Google Glass is too important to the technical development of homo sapiens. One might even say that a new species of humans is preparing to branch out. Some will be on that path and some will be left behind. And those screaming from behind will be the most vocal that they own the only true path and vision.

Isn't it always so?

Tech News Debris for the Week of May 6

Google Glass and the intrinsic technology aside, it's a popular thing for a company to say that it wants free and open competition. It makes the company look, outwardly, cheerful and honest about its service to the customer.

In fact, most companies view the competition darkly and do everything they can behind the scenes to crush the competition. Corporations are like organisms. They need to consume resources and destroy the competition in order to flourish. In that sense, can any company, looking out for its own survival ever truly be ultimately chivalrous? Jonny Evans explores: "EU, Motorola, Apple: How long will Google's 'Don't be evil' fiction last?"

Some of the best articles on the Internet are works of supreme technical passion. They can tend to be long, perhaps even tedious, but when you're done reading, you've been taken on a vast technical tour de force , bursting with insights. Such is this article in which Gary Bloom goes on the hunt for the perfect iPad writing tool.

The context is this: As the iPad hardware and software develop, it will become more and more a content creation tool. And so, we can't just pigeon-hole the tablet as a cute consumption tool, or we'll miss the technical flow forward.

If you've ever thought about a writing project on an iPad, you must read: "Crouching Nouns, Hidden Verbs: my search for a great iPad writing tool." By the way, just for reference, I have also reviewed UX Write and came to the same conclusion.

I know that TMO readers continue to wonder and worry about iWork '09. Peter Cohen is concerned as well. Mr. Cohen doesn't have answers, but posing the question to Apple, often, in productive ways, is part of the process. "Four years later, iWork apps need Apple's attention."

Part of me wonders if the lapse in Apple's attention to iWork is because the Internet has become such a powerful publishing medium that local content creation is just no longer on Apple's radar. Think about it. Almost everything you read is created with specialized Internet tools to be read on the Internet. If you really need to build a spreadsheet, you can always go find a PC running Windows and Excel.

Developers continue to wrestle with app economics. Here's a good discussion that points, in turn, to other articles worth reading as well. "The Psychology of App Pricing." An excerpt.

I completely agree with Lex, even though he is wrong. There is something magical about 99 cents. $4 is cheap in the grand scheme of computer pricing and cellular subscriptions but the reality is that many people immediately dismiss apps above $1.

I've experienced this many times. I'll be asked for a recommendation for a specific type of app. If I recommend a $0.99 app they usually buy it on the spot. If I recommend a $1.99 app, they cringe slightly and "think about it". If I recommend a $4.99 app, they go into spasms and grab a free alternative."

As we close in on a million apps available for iOS, one has to wonder: What have the developers gained? What have we gained? This is why I and others write reviews. To tell you that, yes, a $25 iOS app really is worth the price. Otherwise, how would anyone know? Certainly not from the "reviews" in the App Store.

Image Credit: Lisa Bettany

Finally, have you ever wondered, in a photographic sense, how the camera has evolved in the iPhone line? Here is just a fantastic photo-centric article, showing how the quality of the camera system in the iPhone has evolved over the years. This is must reading, um, viewing: "How does the iPhone 5 camera compare to previous iPhone cameras?"


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays. 

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Google Glasses will be seen as the Stanley Steamer of integrated computing. It’s a fine first step but will soon be superseded by second and third generation efforts that will be much much better. For an idea of what the future of human/digital integration may be more like I’d suggest you watch Ghost in the Shell, either the first film or better yet the two series.

“Don’t be Evil” was always a fiction. That’s why it was such a joke from day one. Everyone KNEW that Google only meant that they would not be MS. Of course it was understood by nearly everyone from day one that if they grew big enough, eventually they would be, and they have. Corporations are ALWAYS about profit. Ethics is not part of the corporate DNA. If it is then shareholders will revolt and demand a board and CEO that are more concerned with profit.


I will have to object about “in the long term technology always settles out”, though I’m not sure what is meant by “settles out”.  If you mean that technology eventually wins and humans evolve to accommodate new technology, then I can point to much heralded technologies or products that did not catch on after an initial burst of excitement.  Segway is one that I always liken to Google Glass.  Bluetooth earphone use has died down.  Supersonic civilian aviation died with Concorde.  The list is endless.  Some economic, others more social.  The latter are products that signal the user’s contempt, or at least total lack of consideration, for other people.  The same kind of sentiment that drives a guy to install a thousand watt stereo in his car then cranks it up in the streets for all other motorists and residents to hear whether they want to or not.  Google Glass is an amazing technology but it will not be a 24/7 device for all the objections that people have raised against it.

On a different but related note, someday soon, somebody has to articulate a right to anonymity.  There is something not just right with a total stranger surreptitiously grabbing a photo of you and through facial recognition and big data instantly getting your full profile.  We have to have the option to block these data aggregtors from gathering information about us.

Lee Dronick

There has been wearable surveillance video cameras before the was the Google Glass. Of course the Glass does more than just record, but some of the other products are not readily identified as such. Camera hidden in ball caps, writing pens, tie tacks and such.


Aardman articulates… 

a right to anonymity. . . We have to have the option to block these data aggregtors from gathering information about us.

Hear! Hear!


Surprised at your religious conviction on GG, John. The facts aren’t in.
And don’t be too quick to dismiss the comedians. No one made fun of the iPhone. Everyone raced to emulate it.
GG may be neat, but I wouldn’t hang the development of the species on it just yet.


I have to agree with geoduck. I’m not opposed to the utility implied by Google Glass, but the form does not follow function, not even close. I’ll wait for the next iteration. Or the one after that, we’ll ‘see’. wink

Sorry, Goog.

(And i actually drove past Google headquarters earlier today, for the first time. I didn’t spy a single ‘glasshole’ anywhere in the surrounding area. Was a silicon Valley kind of couple of says, went through Cupertino as well. Even from the exterior, the mindsets and missions of the people inside could be measured to an extent).



You make some very important points about not simply adoption of new technologies, but our cultural adaptations around such adoption. I also concur that, at the dawn of its introduction, and certainly prior to it, we don’t have sufficient exposure or experience to predict our collective response to it, or in what way it will shape our evolving culture. Even those technologies that are rejected serve to shape that culture, in that they help to point the direction in which successful technologies may be found; and thus what we reject is as important an evolutionary determinant as is what we accept and adopt.

@aardman: While I take your point about ‘settles out’, and do not pretend to speak for John or what he intended by the comment, I think this is the larger context in which to interpret it. A technology coming to equilibrium with human adoption does not mean that that technology finds a place in our everyday world. Indeed, it may be flatly rejected. Even so, and even in that rejection, an interaction has occurred that inevitably helps to shape our interaction with our emerging technology, as subsequent offerings attempt to solve problems that the rejected offering did not.

As for the Google ‘Looking Glass’, it promises to alter our future no less than did that alternative universe through which Kirk, Sisko and a coterie of Starfleet’s best stepped into provide an alternative to our own; though hopefully not as dystopic.

Regarding dystopia, we have yet as a race, though we have come close, deployed a technology whose everyday use would terminate our existence; threaten it, certainly (nukes), change it, obviously (computers), destroy us - not yet, and doubtfully. We are hardwired as a species, and as is all life on earth, for self preservation. We will change, but I am confident that we will ever chose to endure. If Google Glass, or any new tech, is to have a future, it must fit within that context of thriving and growing humanity, thus it must address and fulfil a need (the educational exposure to the Hadron Collider is a great one), even if it is abused (e.g. today’s PC’s; they help us solve problems and simultaneously serve criminal intent inimical to our better interests). This may require several iterations before we reach that equilibrium, by which time, it may no longer be ‘Google Glass’. MS introduced tablet computers first. Apple found the solution to humanity’s problems with it, hence we now use iPads.

Regarding your picks, I agree with Johnny Evans’ basic premise. Google’s Android is neither open nor ‘free’, nor is is Google a charitable organisation. It needs to make a profit to survive and hence must compete and protect its IP, which it does with alacrity and ruthlessness. Apple, MS and others no less so.

As for Gary Bloom’s piece on writing tools for the iPad, combined with Peter Cohen’s take on Pages, it leaves me feeling that for now, ‘good enough’ may simply have to be ‘good enough’ until it’s not. Hopefully soon, we will have a plethora of optimal options. 

Loved the camera tour. It’s only getting better.

John Dingler, artist

Hi John M.,
That article could have been accurately reflect the intent of the device: “Google Spy Glass: Day in the Spy’s Life, You.”

John Martellaro

By “settles out,” I meant that the developer recognizes that there are some things the customer doesn’t like, that inhibits growth and acceptance, in parallel with customers slowly accepting the change and embracing the good things. A common ground is found.

After all, if smartphone customers had been universally against GPS tracking (with or without a warrant), location services and possible leaks of our contact data, the smartphone would have been a dead technology. Yet it thrives.

The real question to ask is: “If Google Glass, in a next generation or two, becomes so miniaturized that we can no longer detect whether a person is wearing them—or regular eyeglasses—will we still be so alarmed to be in their presence?”

When the social stigma of wearing GG and the social nervousness subsides, what’s left?  A very useful technology. That’s how I see things settling out.

Lee Dronick

See today’s Joy of Tech comic

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