Google Glass surprised the world- consumers and tech professionals alike- when it was unveiled last year. It was heralded a game changer in the world of technology; an indication of things to come within the smartphone arena.
But now developers have been able to trial the device, several concerns have arisen around the Glass’ threat to our privacy and security. So is Google Glass really a feat of technology, or should it be brushed off as foe, a device that will put our privacy at risk?
So what exactly is Google Glass? And why is it causing such a stir?
According to Google’s Glass website, the device is a wearable piece of tech that allows you to take photos and capture videos just by using your voice, sharing everything you witness live on social sites such as Google+.
Because Glass is positioned at your eye line like a pair of glasses, you can get directions from anywhere in the world without having to fumble around with paper maps, or bump into things using a smartphone app.
Because the device is activated using voice recognition, you can simply command it to do anything you wish; dictate and send a message; translate anything you say into another language; even ask Google to answer any burning questions you might have preying on your mind.
Sounds good, hey? So how could Glass change the way we communicate? Will Glass become the new smartphone?
In many ways, Google Glass has been embraced as a major development in the world of technology. Not only has Google managed to design such a high-functioning device, but it has also attempted to sculpt the future of mobile machinery.
We live in a world where every other person owns a smartphone, in many cases two. But how often do you see partners sitting across from each other in a restaurant in silence, checking their phones for messages instead of talking? I can’t tell you how often I have been bumped into or trodden on on account of a fellow pedestrian concentrating more on their phone’s screen than on where they are walking. So surely Google Glass could revolutionise the way we access our mobile communication?
With Glass, if you have a message, a notification pops up, allowing you to read it discreetly without even having to touch your phone. If you want directions, or want to take a photograph, there’s no need to suffer from the embarrassment of looking like a tourist; no-one will even know you are doing anything.
And with wearable smartphone technology appearing more and more at events like Mobile World Congress and the Consumer Electronics Show, it would seem that Google is onto a winner. But is that so?
The main concern amongst developers trialling Google Glass is the issue of security.
Because the device is not kitted out with the ability to create a PIN, it leaves the device vulnerable to hackers. Although hackers are a problem for all online and mobile applications, hacking into Google Glass could turn out to be more problematic than we expect. For instance, if a hacker was to access your Google Glass device, they would be able to see your every move and hear your every command via the device. This could easily mean that hackers could access your personal passwords as you type them in, even recording passkeys and unlocking systems on doors, buildings and safes.
However, while specialists have warned that this is a major flaw of Glass, they have also made it clear that security could be tightened up by implementing a PIN system, which, because of Google Glass' design, could easily use an iris identification system built in.
It seems to be that while developers are concerned about matters of security, consumers are worrying about how Google Glass could affect our personal privacy.
One developer who was trialling the device reported that public response was mixed. When he went into a café, fellow customers felt uncomfortable with the fact that the user could be filming or taking photos of them without warning. Some members of the public have aired their concerns that videos could easily be recorded and uploaded to social sites such as Google+ before anyone even had the chance to question what was going on, leading to discomfort regarding privacy rights.
Other critics have claimed that Glass is yet another means of Google recording and analysing our every move- what we do, where we go- causing people to question whether Glass really is a good thing.
On the other hand, some observers have suggested that Glass’ ability to inconspicuously record events could help in certain situations, and could even become a large part in helping police investigations by providing witness evidence in the form of video recordings.
Based on reviews from the lucky few who have managed to sample the device, it seems that, from a user’s point-of view, there are other issues holding Google Glass back.
First of all, there is currently a lack of apps. Some developers have claimed that the device is like a smartphone, but with no apps, giving it far less potential of replacing your smartphone. That said, we must remember that Glass is still a long way off from being released to the general consumer, whilst apps such as Twitter and Whatsapp are reportedly in the making for the device.
Users have also experienced an inherent problem with Google Glass; the fact that the device is primarily activated using voice recognition, there’s no avoiding having to talk out loud, seemingly to yourself, while using it.
One developer reported that people he encountered were less concerned about issues relating to privacy and more baffled about the strange-looking man talking to himself. Voice recognition is a feature built into most smartphones, kick-started by Apple’s personal assistant service, Siri, but it is a feature that is largely underused by consumers. I’ll be the first to admit that the only time I activate voice recognition is when I’m at the wheel of a car.
Another disconcerting issue created by Glass, according to some critics, is the suggestion that its users will lose the ability to hold a normal conversation. One user remarked that while it is easy to concentrate on important tasks while wearing Google Glass, he did find himself getting distracted from time to time when he received a notification. Although this is no new thing- people regularly check their phones or reply to messages amidst a conversation, or at the dinner table. The only thing with Glass, though, is that other people don't know that you’re not concentrating one hundred per cent on the task in hand, which, according to some analysts, will change the way that people interact in the future.
After looking at both the pros and cons, it seems that Google Glass has evoked mixed responses from both industry specialists and consumers. While the wearable smartphone-spectacles have carved a way in creating technology of the future, there are still many issues of security and privacy, not to forget functionality, which need to be ironed out.
Critics have suggested various means of solving the current issues facing Google Glass, including additional security measures and a removable screen to indicate to others when you are and aren’t recording a video.
However, there’s no denying the fact that Google has made a huge dent in creating an insight into how wearable technology will be the next big thing.
Written by Charlotte Kertrestel