Google Glass: the examined life

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Google’s Glass Project made a spectacular debut last month by skydiving from a helicopter and joining the press on stage while documenting the whole event live with their ‘Google headsets’ (no official name has been given to the product.) It does make you wonder though; what would the hype have been without such a dare-devilish stunt?

Instead of just dominating the digital realm, the Google Glass Project is one of Google’s next steps into entering the physical realm. Other examples of where Google has begun to make headway are with its new Google Nexus 7 tablet and, of course, its new Google Fiber service unveiled in Kansas City, USA. The tablet’s main purpose it seems is funneling users into Google’s ecosystem: namely the Google Playstore. The Google Fiber (claiming to be a 100% faster than current broadband) holds dear the idea that with an increase in freedom (faster download/upload capability) comes an increase in innovation as we have seen when broadband connections started replacing dial-up connections. Innovations such as music and video streaming only among many.

The Google Glass Project is still a work in progress and only some of us will only be able to get our hands on those headsets next year. Their going rate is set at US$1 500 each, although, it has been rumored though that they will drop the price in order to serve the current smartphone market — a bold move indeed.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin shared that he is currently testing “a new mode of Glass which automatically takes a picture every 10 seconds without any distraction or disruption.” Okay, so you are connected to the internet every waking moment of the day and every step of this augmented reality gets documented. The idea behind this project, Brin said, is to let you “enjoy and share life’s moments without being tied down by technology.” Sounds a lot like lifelogging. It also sounds a lot like oversharing.

The aforementioned concept isn’t that new as one might think. Microsoft computer engineer, Dr. Gordon Bell, has been using his Sensecam (a camera shaped as a cigarette packet hanging around his neck) since 2003 and has started his lifelogging project in 1998. This was part of one of Microsoft’s research projects called LifeBits; recording your daily life from retracing one’s steps when looking for your car keys, to finding out what exactly happened in that bicycle accident.

Taking photos every few seconds was only one among many of this project’s elements as Dr. Bell started cataloguing his phone calls, lectures, television and radio experiences. All of these are stored digitally. More than 170 gigabytes have been catalogued — growing at about a gigabyte each month.

Socrates is famously quoted for saying “The unexamined life is not worth living.” An idea I hold dear that refers to the self-questioning about life and other things. Google though, seems to be taking this concept up on face value and drastically so. Critics and sceptics started voicing their opinions with the use of parodies shared on YouTube. Questions raised concerning the fear of contextual-ads constantly popping up in front of you, other vision impairments that cause distractions and lead to self-injury or a man finding out about his cheating wife. As far fetched as these parodies may seem their satire should be taken note of.

When the time comes when I have to choose between submitting myself to the power of Google’s advertising spell on the one hand and all your friends walking around with these and policemen, doctors or extreme sportsmen start using them both for the benefit and the entertainment of our lives, I am pretty sure I know where I stand.

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