Google is adding several new features to its Google Glass platform, all of which could make the augmented-reality headset a more versatile device.
On the privacy front, a new locking mechanism can keep the device’s embedded screen secure from unauthorized use; in order to unlock the hardware, the user will need to tap and swipe a particular pattern, according to a posting on the Google Glass Google+ profile page. (In many ways, this is similar to the current locking mechanism for Android devices, which require the user tap and swipe the screen in a certain way in order to access the underlying operating system.)
Google Glass will also support Hangout messages, including text and images—boosting the device’s usefulness as a communications platform. On a similar front, Glass users can upload clips to YouTube, which could exponentially increase the amount of stunts-gone-wrong uploaded every day to the video-sharing service.
But the most auspicious feature—and the one that everybody seems to be chattering about—is the ability to snap photos simply by winking. “Whether it’s capturing an amazing sunset on an evening walk, or photographing your receipt for the lunch you’ll need to expense,” read the official posting, “you can now stay in the moment and wink to take a picture instantly. If you want to turn it on, just swipe over to Settings.”
Google envisions a future in which Google Glass performs all sorts of duties via winks. “Imagine a day where you’re riding in the back of a cab and you just wink at the meter to pay,” the posting rhapsodized. “You wink at a pair of shoes in a shop window and your size is shipped to your door. You wink at a cookbook recipe and the instructions appear right in front of you—hands-free, no mess, no fuss. Pretty cool, right?”
Well, cool for everyone except those privacy advocates who view Google Glass as far too invasive for widespread use. In recent months, a small (but growing) number of cafés and bars have banned the device’s use in their establishments; meanwhile, early Google Glass users are finding themselves stuck with the derogatory moniker “Glassholes” by people who find the headsets obnoxious. While it’s easy to dismiss those reactions as typical mistrust of a new technology, the hardware’s ability to surreptitiously record footage is liable to antagonize those who prize a modicum of privacy, even in relatively public settings. (Basing functionality on winking, can be easily interpreted as lecherous, probably won’t help Google on that front.)
Anecdotal stories about “Glassholes” aside, surveys taken over the past year indicate widespread ambivalence about the technology. Earlier this year, BiTE Interactive (in conjunction with YouGov) conducted a survey that found only 10 percent of respondents would wear something like Google Glass regularly; almost half (45 percent) thought the device would be too socially awkward or irritating to wear outside. Another survey, conducted a few months later by Opinion Research Corp. (and paid for by IT-staffing firm Modis) suggested that only 34 percent of respondents who made more than $100,000 a year would consider buying some form of wearable electronic—whether Google Glass, Apple’s much-rumored “iWatch,” or some other device.
But even a relatively small number of people wearing Google Glass could translate into millions of dollars of revenue for Google, and so the experiment continues apace.