Six years ago, when I wrote “Why the iPhone scares the crap out of me,” folks at CNET had to be wondering what they’d gotten themselves into. I mean, who writes about the evils of technology on the world’s leading technology site?
Me, I guess. All I knew was people were already walking around with their phones glued to their ears. They could barely tolerate two minutes alone with themselves and their thoughts. They were already hungry for distraction, addicted to instant gratification, desperate to connect.
What can I say? I knew this new smartphone with its multitouch display and third-party apps was just going to make things worse. I knew it was going to be a game changer. I imagined people walking into poles, stumbling off curbs into oncoming traffic, driving into highway embankments left and right.
Okay, so that was only half-serious, but I definitely was not kidding when I wrote that the iPhone would “without a doubt be the most popular phone” and, more importantly, “I don’t know about you, but that scares the crap out of me. What’s next, heads-up display contact lenses? Has anybody trademarked iLense yet?”
Sure enough, now we have Google (GOOG) Glass. So let’s talk about that. What will life be like when everyone’s walking around with the next big thing: augmented reality glasses? Here are a nine things I bet most people haven’t considered:
The interface is actually less immersive. It’ll be like you’re looking at a 25-inch display about eight feet away, so depending on the app, the interface can be far less immersive and distracting than looking at a smartphone or iPad.
You can’t drink ... I love that Larry Page and company are calling the software Glassware. Just don’t try to take that literally. You can’t get it wet, so you’ll have to keep the margaritas away from the Glasses. And the swimming pool is definitely out.
… But you can drive. Folks are justifiably concerned about driving with Glass, but I think it could be a killer app if it’s done right. Car companies have been working on heads-up displays for years. Imagine being able to see and hear directions without having to look away from the road. Other features can be disabled by an accelerometer if you’re going faster than you can walk or run.
Hello glasses, goodbye headsets. Thanks to a cool innovation called a Bone Conduction Transducer, you’ll apparently be able to listen to audio without a headset. Sound will be transmitted through your skull directly to your inner ear, or so they say. The implications for public pornography and phone sex are, however, bone chilling.
Handle with care. Besides the whole liquid thing, they will without a doubt be fragile. These are glasses you definitely will not want to drop or sit on too many times. That’s why I like the contact lens display idea. Hey, you never know.
Get ready for a new kind of Reality TV. When you tether Glass to a Droid device or iPhone, you’ll be able to record whatever you want without anyone knowing it. YouTube is going to explode with the most personal stuff you’ve ever seen. Privacy concerns? Don’t make me laugh.
Yes, it will fry our brains … No, not in the literal sense, but our attention spans have been getting shorter, our ability to focus has been deteriorating, and we’ve been exhibiting more and more addictive behavior for years now. We can barely read anything longer than a few paragraphs without feeling that need to Tweet, text, like, whatever. Welcome to our ADD world.
… And make us fatter. Is there any doubt in anybody’s mind -- what’s left of it, anyway -- that Glass will provide us with yet another way to become even more slovenly slugs than we already are?
American innovation is alive and well. We’ve lost our manufacturing muscle and China will without a doubt be a bigger economy, but American innovation doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of weakening. In spite of our bloated federal government and out of control regulations, Silicon Valley continues to invent one big thing after another.
All that said, who am I to stand in the way of the next big thing? But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For more of the same, check out: The PC’s Dead: So What’s Next?
Steve Tobak is a Silicon Valley-based strategy consultant and former senior executive of the technology industry.