Ready or Not, Glassholes Are Coming Back

Every big tech company is working on computer glasses. Neither of them really want to go first.

They all remember how Google Glass, and the “glassholes” that used to wear them in public, became the laughing stock of the world. So they’re waiting, spending their time, refining their prototypes, and making sure every now and then that investors know that, no, they’re missing the first potential iPhone-sized opportunity for the iPhone. Will not let go after slipping.

But now Google itself is taking the next step. And are you dreading the moment Big Tech’s all-seeing gaze turns on people’s heads again or are just counting down the days until you can own a hands-free camera-computer , you must know that we are on the verge of conflict with them once again.

Google shared this image to represent its prototype AR glasses.
Image: Google

Last Tuesday, Google revealed that it will publicly begin testing camera-equipped augmented reality glasses, and the company’s blog post has several statements designed to assure you that it’s the era of glassholes again. from will not. Google claims it’s starting with “a few dozen” testers, and that the cameras and microphones on its glasses “do not support photography and videography.” They collect visual data, but Google wants you to imagine use cases like “translating the menu in front of you” – not recording someone by yourself at the bar.

The company’s support page has a full list of frequently asked questions such as “What is the image data used for?”; “How long is it stored?”; and “How do I know if I’m near the products being tested?” An LED lights up if Google decides to save the images for analysis, and it promises to delete them after 30 days.

For now, Google says its testers won’t use them in schools, hospitals, churches, playgrounds, and the like — though it says nothing about restaurants and bars, where Glass famously got into trouble. were supposed.

If you hate the idea, there is probably nothing I can say to convince you otherwise, and neither would I necessarily want to; I’m not going to pretend to know if there’s such a gadget should exist in the world. I think you should realize that if Google’s trial doesn’t end in utter disgust, it won’t be long before Apple, Microsoft, and others throw their long-awaited specs in the ring.

And in 2022, I really wouldn’t bet on hate, mainly because we have a decade of calling things publicly, documenting every element of our lives, to prepare for what’s to come.

From the day a team of Google skydivers descended on the Moscone Center with the first public Google Glass prototype in 2012, mobile camera use has exploded. Not only have phone cameras completely destroyed point-and-shoot, but they have also changed societal norms. In 2012, it was still a bit awkward to whip out a camera at a bar or restaurant; now, that would be weird No For taking selfies with friends or especially for taking some shots of delicious looking food. And afraid you might accidentally capture a stranger in your shot? It’s such a common everyday occurrence that Google uses the “magic” background person eraser as a selling point for its Pixel phones.

Snap Pixie is a self flying camera.
Photo by Vajren Pavic/The Verge

Furthermore, mobile cameras aren’t just making films when one thinks about taking their smartphone out of their pocket; They are flying in the air. Anyone can now buy a self-flying camera from Snap for $230 to robotically film public spaces, and we’ve had most of a decade to get used to the idea that maybe someone else’s The camera is looking at you from top to bottom. The vast majority of the consumer drone revolution happened Later Google Glass – The DJI Phantom was not released until 2013.

Google Glass brought livestreaming and instant video publishing to the masses even before the widespread adoption of 4G LTE. This is why you can record the police and possibly hold them accountable. (Remember when Google Glass pundits wrote about the concept of “surface surveillance,” a form of reverse surveillance where people use their own cameras to watch bystanders? were taken.)

Police slam an elderly man to the ground on June 4, 2020 in Buffalo, NY.

Police slam an elderly man to the ground on June 4, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. Somebody was making a film.
Image: Mike Desmond / WBFO-FM Buffalo

Public spaces are now full of cameras mounted in every direction, and there is little hope for privacy outside your home. Society has not faced many successful challenges for the proliferation of cameras. And even if filming was illegal, how would you police it? It’s not easy to tell if someone is actually recording, checking TikTok, or even getting things done on the go.

As my former colleague Alice Hamburger said in 2014, we are all glassholes now. And I think this has only become more true through the pandemic, as even technology holdouts have begun to rely on pocket computers for bare necessities like socializing and food. Over the years, I’ve seen people who swear by technology for things they personally can do with Amazon, DoorDash, Facebook, Instacart, and more. And I suspect some of them will now be more open-minded about the benefits of the technology.

Even the headsets cannot bear the kind of stigma that they faced due to the pandemic. VR usage exploded during the 2020 lockdown, even though overall sales numbers are still relatively small. The modern rise and fall of virtual reality and the rise, again, of something that has happened Later The fatal 2012 launch of Google Glass.

The pandemic may also reset some of our social norms such as masking, which has the easy side effect of obscuring your identity from cameras as well as reducing the spread of germs. It’s not too hard to imagine countries that would tolerate other head-wearing gadgets as well, with citizens wearing a bane-like mask. You might remember a time when Bluetooth headsets were considered too dirty and rude to wear in public, and now they’re completely normalized.

Snapchat’s fourth-gen Spectacles are the first with AR, and the company is rolling them out privately rather than selling them publicly. Be careful after the glass.
Photo by Amanda Lopez for The Verge

Besides, Google isn’t the first to dip its toe in these waters. Snapchat is now on the fourth generation of its Spectacles camera glasses, Meta’s Ray-Ban stories, and you could argue that Meta’s Project Area testing is pretty much the same as Google’s right now. No one has yet produced the kind of stench that Google Glass experienced a decade ago.

Sure, that could change if the pair of glasses of the future prove to be more intrusive than our current phones and drones. There are certainly going to be serious questions about data collection and privacy, especially given the track record of some of the companies that make them.

But in 2022, I think the big challenge facing Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Snap is figuring out how to build AR experiences we’ll actually pay for — compared to the ones already offered. In a more compelling or convenient experience. As we wrote in May when Google teased some real-time language translation specs, the company has an interesting idea:

It’s so hard to watch that video and see the glasshole. But vaporware is also very easy to recognize.

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