Thursday, February 23, 2012

1. Privacy
The outcry over people beaming images back to Google's data centers will be deafening, far worse than complaints about Google's monitoring of Web browsing habits. Google engineers are said to be actively discussing the privacy implications of the glasses. But the company's history of repeated privacy blunders suggests controversy is inevitable.

Google has the technology to enable facial recognition with its Google Goggles app, but has avoided doing so for fear of privacy problems. And that's the real shame here, because augmented reality glasses should be able to do things like present the name of the person you're looking at. That kind of technology will be available eventually, at least to police departments. But as a society, we're not ready for it.

2. Redundancy
Augmented reality is cool. But putting the technology into a pair of glasses isn't strictly necessary. Everything your Google glasses might be able to do, your Android phone will do better, particularly given the assumption that the glasses will be intended for periodic rather than constant use.

3. Cost
For several hundred dollars, you'll get what? Services already available on your smartphone. Augmented reality makes a lot of sense if you're, say, a NASA astronaut who needs to see Space Shuttle schematics in your visor while you're on a space walk to make repairs. Augmented reality makes less sense for consumers. A more cost-effective solution might be a smartphone scaffold for mounting your phone on your baseball cap.

4. Health
There's already enough FUD about mobile phones and brain cancer. But even the most scientifically-minded are likely to balk if Google's glasses rely on anything more powerful than Bluetooth to transmit and receive data. And that's to say nothing of the potential health effects of visual distraction and impairment. No one wants their last thought to be, "Hey, Google Maps says I'm walking across Highway 101... "

5. Liability
And if there are health risks, there will be liability problems. People will wear Google's glasses while driving, despite explicit warnings not to do so. They will collide with elderly pedestrians and someone will get hurt. Someone will end up going cross-eyed. There will be lawsuits. And some politician will hold a hearing. Add the cost of an insurance policy to your Google Glasses bill. ...