Not long ago, Google introduced Glass, the next generation of ubiquitous computing. As more and more beta versions of the wearable technology become available, people are beginning to form concrete opinions about its applications and possible repercussions.
A discussion amongst four Colorado State University students in the journalism program captured some concerns and benefits surrounding Google Glass’s foreseeable public introduction.
“I just wonder about the implications of [accessing] Netflix while driving,” said Colleen Canty, a junior journalism and technical communications major.
Canty, like many others, primarily voices concerns about where technology such as Glass is compelling society as a whole. According to her, the entire value system is shifting. People no longer value quality time; they are in a constant flux, always scrambling to capture the moment and never to live in the moment.
Contrarily, Deanna Cox views Glass as a potential solution to that enigma.
“What if Google Glass could change the way we vacation and have fun?” Cox asked, addressing the group. “What if we could be more invested in what we are doing while still being able to document it by just looking at it with Glass on?”
Currently, Glass is available only to those included in the testing and application development process. However, Google is preparing to make the technology publicly available this year.
By using simple voice commands following the prompt “Ok, Glass,” users can quickly read texts, check email, snap pictures, record video and more. The technology wears like glasses, with a small camera lens positioned just over the eyebrow.
The flood of articles citing privacy concerns has made the implications of such a technology clear. Student’s mimicked those concerns during their discussion, raising questions about the inconspicuous nature of the glasses and the recording capabilities.
Despite the fact the technology is not yet publicly available, glimpses of potential conflicts have surfaced. In October 2013, a California woman was ticketed for wearing Glass while driving. The ticket was later dismissed, however, it was an eye-opener to many states that, shortly after, passed legislation banning use of the technology while behind the wheel.
Jillian Keller, a junior journalism and technical communications major, pointed out one of the key issues surrounding the legislation.
“She had it on, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she was using it,” Keller said regarding the incident in California.
Predictions can be made surrounding the blend of technology and driving. One need only look at the struggle officials have faced with enforcement of the laws regarding texting and driving. The issue, as Keller articulated, is in the ability to prove use and not simply possession of the technology while behind the wheel.
Perhaps the most voiced concern regarding Glass, though comes in the midst of Edward Snowden’s now infamous leaking of top-secret National Security Agency paperwork, revealing that the agency has collected untold amounts of information about U.S. citizens through phone and email data.
Skyler Leonard, an English and journalism double major, points out that technology like Glass only simplifies collection of personal information for the government.
“When you can already give up private information through email, what kind of information could you give up through what you see everyday?” he said.
However, since Snowden leaked data revealing government monitoring activities, Google is one of several companies to publish secret orders it has received from the government requesting customer information. Google, along with Apple and Microsoft, also sued the government in an attempt to declare the requests for information a violation of users’ privacy.
To many, the issues of privacy raised by Glass are overstated. Glass has little more capabilities than the average smart phone when it comes to recording and taking photos. Furthermore, students discussed many benefits Glass offers.
“It’s efficient, it’s productive, it makes sense,” Canty summed up.
Canty is not the only one who voiced positive aspects of Glass. Leonard spoke of possible work applications within journalism.
“The thing that I think is really cool is [interviewing] would be really helpful if you had Google Glass as a journalist,” he said.
For better or worse, the students all agree on one thing: the technology is not a passing trend.
“I don’t think it’s a fad,” Cox said. “I can picture every single person wearing one and connecting with each other that way.”