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Friday, 19 July 2013

Google wants to change the world – but do we want to be changed?

Google's Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass
There has rarely been a single item of technology that has caught public interest as much as the launch of the Apple iPhone did in 2007. Google's wearable technology Project Glass is now looking to capture that same interest.
By overlaying information into a heads-up display, users can access an Android OS while going about their day. A new promotional video shows happy Californians skydiving, enjoying ballet and flying lessons, all the time being augmented by hands-free image and video capture.
Fifteen million views in its first week on YouTube show that the Google augmented reality glasses have overtaken the iWatch as the most coveted piece of wearable technology that you can't own yet. There has also been an influx of ideas on social media sites speculating around possible uses for the kit. But will Project Glass be a commercial success?
It's hard to tell. Apple's great success was the iPhone, which has now made smartphones the norm and seen over 35 billion apps downloaded on the App store in just seven years. Since Sir Jonathan Ives and Steve Jobs asked the development community to think differently about communications, there has hardly been a stone unturned in the quest of the app to disrupt traditional media and business. But other technologies have been less revolutionary or have failed to take off at all: tablets are, in all honesty, just bigger smartphones, and 3D TV has done down like a multipack of Findus lasagne.
With the Glass project, Google are asking if the iPhone revolution could be repeated, and at the same time

 stop a generation of people spending half their waking lives staring at their hands. By hoping to inspire a new wave of creativity, Google could finally challenge the smartphone's dominance.

A new site release, coinciding with Sergey Brin's appearance at this week's TED 2013, had Google offering people a chance to get hold of the new tech ahead of time. By seeking "bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass", Google encouraged people to submit ideas via the Twitter hashtag #ifihadglass and earn the right to become an "Explorer", thus getting your hands on a pair before the expected 2014 launch.
If you have ever fancied being an startup entrepreneur but couldn't find the inspiration, you could do a lot worse than taking a look through some ideas listed under #ifihadglass. I mentioned in a post last year that Project Glass, if realized  could have profound impacts on fields such as engineering and medicine. Already ideas have been offered up around augmented surgery, education and crowd sourced knowledge sharing. The would-be "Explorers" still have to part with $1,500, plus the flights to the US, for collection.
At the same time, the company is pushing Google Now, a predictive recommendations engine that can send you push notifications about anything from traffic warnings to places of potential interest and recommended dishes in a restaurant. Brin's vision of a world where "…you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all — the information would just come to you as you needed it" will be one step closer, when Glass and Now pair up, as they inevitably will.
The question is: is this what we want? Do people really want Google telling them what to do, all day? "Based on your previous choices, you might like to try the dover sole?" I honestly don't know. But in the meantime, Project Glass does look cool; a lot cooler, at least, than those boxy cameras worn by cyclists and skiers. I might submit some #ifihadglass ideas on to Kick starter.

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