Google Glass User Fights Ticket to Defend the Future

Abadie’s Google+ profile flaunts her decision to drive with Google Glass.

Update 10:40 EST 1/16: San Diego traffic court Commissioner John Blair threw out a ticket citing software developer Cecilia Abadie for wearing her Google Glass visor while driving. Blair said there was not enough evidence the Glasses were turned on at the time she was stopped to convict her under a distracted-driving law usually applied to people who drive while watching TV. Blair did not address whether driving while Glassed was legal or not. Abadie was also acquitted of speeding.

A California software developer dubbed an explorer by Google and a scofflaw by the California Highway Patrol appeared in court today to fight for what a new Gartner research report said is the future of real-time decision-making and virtual manipulation of everything from Big Data to engineering prototypes.

Cecilia Abadie denies she was doing 80 mph in a 65 mph zone when she was pulled over by the CHP Oct. 29, but proudly admits wearing her early edition of Google’s Google Glass augmented-reality goggles.

She just doesn’t agree with the CHP’s contention that Google Glass is a television.

Abadie, who works at virtual-reality sports software developer Full Swing Golf and was one of the first “explorers” chosen by Google as early testers of Google Glass before they were released, wears the goggles for as long as 12 hours per day, using them both as a way to pull email, driving directions and other information into her view and to push pictures, Tweets, updates and other information out to professional and social networks in a process she describes as “living in transparency.”

In a TEDx talk posted to YouTube Dec. 20, Abadie defined Google Glass not as an early wearable electronic or innovative accessory, but as part of a progression of human awareness and connectivity to a wider, more richly networked future that might be possible with digital enhancements that connect individual humans to networks of others rather than just show them pictures. “We are evolving what I like to call our new digital brain,” she said. “The technology around us becomes like glue that brings us together and connects us… [into a] planetary network of connected nodes.”

The California Highway Patrol, unfortunately for Abadie, considered wearing Google Glass to be the same as watching television while driving. One of the two citations Abadie was given was for speeding. The other was for “driving with a monitor visible in violation of California Vehicle Code 27602.” Fighting that perception in court is “a big responsibility for me and also for the judge who is going to interpret a very old law compared with how fast technology is changing,” Abadie told the Associated Press for a Jan. 16 story.

The CHP wasn’t interested in interpreting evolution by the side of the freeway; it interprets anything with the potential to take the driver’s attention away from the road as dangerous and potentially illegal. Abadie’s attorney William Concidine insisted in several interviews that wearing the goggles isn’t illegal, but boiled the key issue down to a point much narrower and more practical than Abadie’s: “The officer can’t prove [the glasses] were operating.”

A San Diego traffic court may not be able to rule on the appropriateness of living the future while driving in the present, but that’s exactly what Abadie was doing, according to a Jan. 14 Gartner report that predicts the future of reality is an augmented one.

The adoption of augmented reality (AR) is just beginning in both consumer and business environments, but will accelerate quickly as technology improves and users realize the benefit of having a full-time data-visualization, virtual-networking, virtual-design, real-time information feed with them at all times, according to Gartner analyst Tuong Huy Nguyen, who wrote the report. “Augmented reality is the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects,” he said. “It is especially useful in the mobile environment because it enhances the user’s senses via digital instruments to allow faster responses or decision-making.”

Augmented-reality apps that translate the text of foreign signs to a language familiar to the driver, give real-time directions indoors or outdoors using GPS, or let users scroll through virtual versions of documents, objects and statistical models can not only make access to that data more convenient, they can change the way humans perceive and interact with the data. That should make knowledge workers far more productive but, more importantly, let them approach problems from novel directions and find solutions that were never available before.

Even in far more simple implementations (making technical information or instructions available to workers without a hand free to type out a search or flip a page), AR could deliver quick and immediate benefits on very specific tasks.

The potential boost in efficiency could make AR successful more quickly among users who work with their hands rather than those who use their hands primarily to type, Nguyen said: “AR is most useful as a tool in industries where workers are either in the field, do not have immediate access to information, or jobs that require one or both hands and the operator’s attention.”

Abadie plead not guilty to charges that she was speeding and that she was watching television. The court’s decision has not yet been announced.


Image: Cecelia Abadie