Friday, January 24, 2014

Google Glass: Threat or Menace?

"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a cyborg."
    - Borgfellas

Google Glass has been in the news recently: Cecelia Abadie successfully fought a traffic ticket in California where she was cited for speeding and for wearing Glass. And just yesterday the story broke about a man who was treated somewhat rudely by "federal agents" because he wore his Google Glass in a movie theatre.

Glass - and wearable technology - is arguably 'disruptive technology', and so there are going to be some growing pains as more and more people adopt it. Actually, I think there are going to be rather a lot of them in 2014, as in addition to Google's plan to finally begin selling to the general public, there are at least three other outfits (see below) that will be offering their own flavors of "augmented reality glasses".

I finally became a "Google Glass Explorer" last year at Thanksgiving. It takes a few days to get used to them, and they're far from perfect - but I've come to love them a lot.

I've noticed quite a lot of antipathy towards Glass out on the 'net. I'm not sure why this is, although part of it might be that many people seem to think Glass is just a glorified video recorder. And yes, just like your Android or iOS phone, it will record video. But - again, like your Android or iOS phone - it will do a whole lot of other stuff, too. When people ask me about it, I tell them "it's like an iPhone that you wear on your face," which is more or less true although it would be more accurate to say it's "like an Android phone you wear on your face". Because - I'm not sure if this is a 'plus' or a 'minus' - using Glass to its full potential requires that one buy into a pretty hefty chunk of the entire Google and Android ecosystem. So far I've muddled by with my iPhone, but accessing features like SMS texting requires an actual Android phone plus data plan. And as excited as I am about Glass, shopping phone data plans makes me fall asleep. And so progress has been a bit slow.

Popular or not, I really do think that wearable technology is here to stay. It's been around for awhile, but it's only just recently reached the point where using it only looks a tiny bit geeky. It won't be long before it's not geeky at all, and in fact, your wearable device(s) will be virtually indetectable. And then it's only a short road to such things being available as implants. It's going to have an impact on how we deal with issues of privacy, civil rights, copyright law, policing - not to mention making it past TSA checkpoints at the airport.

Wearable Tech for 2014

  • Google Glass - $1500 USD (developer edition); "Under $1500 USD" (consumer edition). Consumer edition shipping "sometime in 2014".

    Google Glass

    Android 4.0.4, OMAP 4430 SoC dual-core CPU, 1GB RAM, 16GB Flash, color display 640x360, Camera: 5 MP still inmages and 720p videos, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth, micro USB port, weight: 50g.

  • Recon Instruments JET - $599 USD (pre-order). Shipping Spring 2014.

    Recon Jet (white)

    Recon Jet (black)

    Android OS, 1 GHz Dual-Core ARM Cortex-A9, 1GB DDR2 SDRAM, 8GB Flash, color "Wide screen 16:9 WQVGA display", which is (I think) 420x240 pixels, "HD" Camera does 720p video, Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, Apple MFi Bluetooth support, micro USB port, GPS, up to 8 ANT+ peripherals, weight: 60g.

    "Recon Jet comes loaded with software catering to endurance athletes: cyclists, triathletes, and runners. They will be able to see their performance metrics (such as Speed/Pace, Distance, Duration, Ascent/Descent, Heart rate*, Power*, Cadence*), and by connecting their smartphone, see caller ID and SMS alerts on the fly."

  • Epson Moverio BT-200 - $699 USD (pre-order). Shipping April 2014.

    Epson Moverio BT-200

    Android 4.0, dual color displays, each 960x540, 23° FOV, front-facing camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, an SDHC card slot for up to 32GB.

    Note: wired connection to Android-based controller.

  • Meta "Space Glasses" - $3650 USD (Pro); $667 USD (developer edition). Shipping July 2014.

    Meta Dev

    Meta Pro

    Meta Pocket Computer

    Intel i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD (CPU is separate 'pocket computer' component), 3D stereoscopic color dual displays, each 1280x720, 40° FOV, twin cameras, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, weight (glasses component): 180g

    Note: the "MetaApp Store" has "500+ applications in development".
    Note: wired connection to Windows?-based controller?
    Note: Prof. Steven Mann is Meta's "Chief Scientist".

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