The Glass Ceiling Is Lower Than You Think

23 February, 2013 09:13PM ยท 3 minute read

Over the course of the last few years Google have been developing a rather interesting piece of tech they have come to call Google Glass. This week Google have opened up applications from people in the United States to “test drive” a pre-consumer ready Google Glass and provide feedback to Google to refine its development. 28min 45sec (to 41min 20sec) in The Exastential podcast episode “An Orb of Technology” Clinton and I discussed our preliminary thoughts on Google Glass. Not much has changed in the intervening 8 months to change what I said at that time. Admittedly with a better look at the current evolution of Glass it’s clear that they’re trying to make it less of a distraction visually however it will still be distracting and require refocussing the eyes regularly to use.

The bigger issue here is where do you use Glass? Notwithstanding its limitations, the dangers of distraction when using it and the cost of buying one - where can I use one? Clearly not when driving a car. That’s too much of a distraction and no different to operating a mobile phone when driving which is already illegal in most countries.

Consider wearing one around the house. The camera/video on my smartphone or compact camera or DSLR will be far superior and I can’t surf the internet as effectively as when using an iPad or Nexus Tablet. For that matter, are my desktop or laptops broken? Certainly you’ll get less concern around your house than out in the street.

Well then how about on the street? At the swimming pool? In a restaurant? There are already laws regarding what and who can/can not be photographed/filmed with/without consent and it’s obvious when someone holds up a camera that they’re taking video or a photo. With Glass however you could be recording video at any time and although a small indicator light on the front indicates when you are recording, it could easily be disabled in software or if not the average person on the street would likely not know what the light meant and would just assuming you were filming them. Taking candid photography can even carry fines or jail time in some countries so clearly out in public is a big problem. Would anyone really risk it? I suspect some might, but when lawsuits start happening I suspect they may stop.

The office is also one of those grey areas but for a different reason. Using Glass within Googles walls I’m sure it’s fine but surely in any other company having such a device would be less useful for work and hence be prohibited in the same way many employers block Twitter and Facebook on the corporate network. Your boss wants your undivided attention so wearing them in meetings is unlikely to be permitted. Until a way could be found to utilise Glass to improve an existing common office task I suspect they will not be used in business environments.

There is no doubt that Google Glass is futuristic, geeky and very tech-lust-worthy; perhaps even cool, but the question is will it ever be a mainstream product? Due to privacy laws and concerns I suspect the Glass ceiling is much lower than you think for a product like this, and the Glass will likely remain a very niche product like the Segway.