Google Glass: The Evolving Future of Wearable Technology

Glass is Google’s attempt to bring a wearable device that integrates with other Google devices and services. Although wearable technology is not entirely new, users are still deciding if its purpose is to replace phones, tablets and laptops, serve as an extension of those devices, or become something completely different. Many also wonder what the long-term effects will be of wearable computing. As is the case with the introduction of many new technologies, Glass is drawing both criticism and praise.

The camera for Google Glass may be one of most used features of the device, but may also be the most controversial. Some doctors are using it to teach during surgeries, and others are using it with cooking and to-do apps. However, there has been at least one restaurant that banned the device, many articles have been critical of Glass, and it has been parodied on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

“As far as Google is concerned, any social quirks, tensions or paranoias Glass produces now are just temporary side effects — the kind of things we always confront before a new device becomes necessary, accepted, even beloved,” reports The New York Times. “Yet there’s always a gulf between how creators intend for their tools to be used and the way people actually use them.”

In a sense, the philosophy behind Google Glass is nothing new. “We’ve used technology to extend our physicality for thousands of years,” said Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist who works for Intel and studies the relationships between people and their digital tools. “We had armor, we had boomerangs to extend our reach, we had bows and arrows.”

Wearable devices have been around for years, although not widely available. Thad Starner, professor at Georgia Tech, created a Glass-like computer while a student at M.I.T. in 1993, and Steve Mann, researcher and inventor, built a wearable computer with a camera while a student at M.I.T. in the early 1990s.

Part of Google’s strategy is to further integrate Glass with Google Now, a digital assistant that interacts with all of a user’s Google services. “It is a corporate strategy by now familiar: create products that make life easier while enmeshing you ever more thoroughly in Google’s product ecosystem,” notes NYT. “The more personal information you give Google, the more useful Now and Glass become — and the more you rely on them.”

There are a limited number of apps available for Glass so far, which makes it difficult to determine how it might affect a user’s information habits or everyday behavior. Users can send and receive texts, talk, send videos and pictures, get directions and perform Google searches.

There have been Glass users who have expressed their frustrations with the device. Some are expecting more information on the screen display, while others say that navigating is cumbersome and awkward.

As users continue to test out Glass, and other wearable technologies, questions arise if consumers are paying too much attention to their devices. But many are finding uses for Glass despite the initial first version headaches.