Google’s new Project Glass is going to be a very polarizing thing — if the actual product ever goes on sale. Some people are going to be thrilled to experience “augmented reality” through a pair of high-tech glasses, but some of us are already at the limits of information overload and don’t want our reality any more augmented.
If you haven’t yet seen Google’s promotional video for its new glasses, take a look at the bottom of this article. Instant reactions to it have been very mixed. Many in the geek world are salivating and ready to line up to buy them. Others are listening to experts in the field say that what Google is promising isn’t really possible. Still others wonder if they’re just plain dorky or if they’re likely to create problems. (This short parody of Google’s video paints what might be a realistic picture.) The Washington Post had a good wrap-up of other reactions.
I can tell you that I don’t want the things. I’m no Luddite. In fact, I love technology and keep up with it religiously. But augmented reality delivered through wearable glasses is something I not only don’t want, but it’s something I’ll do everything I can to stay away from. I already have information overload in my life. The last thing I need is to have more graphical information intruding into my thoughts as I walk through life.
The idea behind the glasses sounds logical. They’re supposed to be sort of like an assistant popping up useful information in front of your eyes when you need it. If you’re meeting someone, it can tell you how far away he is. If your subway station is closed, you can get a map showing how to walk somewhere else. If someone sends you a text message, it pops up and you can reply. If you see something you want a picture of, you tell the glasses to take a picture and where to share the picture (on a Google service, of course). You get the idea.
When I’m walking around through life, I don’t want a computer deciding when to interrupt my field of vision to tell me something else. I already have access to all of the information and services that this new thing is supposed to provide, but it stays in my pocket. It comes out when I want to see it, but it stays safely tucked away when I’m not interested or when I’m busy doing other things. I decide when I want it. The Google concept seems to be very, very intrusive to me.
And that’s the core of why I react so strongly against this. It’s intrusive and it doesn’t give me access to anything I don’t already have access to.
We’re said to live in the Information Age, but I frequently wonder if we’re not floating in so much context-less information that it’s not doing us any good. This flood of information isn’t helping us to understand people, ideas or ourselves. It’s not giving us new insight about the world.
As much as I love technology, I’m feeling uneasy when I realize how this information technology is rewiring our brains and robbing many of us of the insight that makes life worthwhile. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the hardware and software that are making themselves so much a part of our lives, but I fear that some very smart people see the trees very well, but they don’t have much conception that a forest is even there.
I don’t want to give up my technology. Anybody who’s been around me much knows that I’m constantly connected to the online world through my MacBook Air, my iPhone and my iPad. So I don’t want us to give up technology or connectedness. I guess I just feel that it’s already intrusive enough — and maybe it’s time to stop and spend some time disconnecting a bit. Maybe we need more insight and a bit less new information.
If you want augmented reality, be my guest. It’s not a direction I intend to go. I strongly suspect it will end up being a geek fantasy that never delivers on the promises of its promoters. Even if it does, though, I don’t want it.