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Talking back

A science blog, sans blague

Could Smartglasses Be the Next Big Tech Bust?

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Google Glass

ScientificAmerican.com just ran an article on smartglasses. Not just the famous Google Glass, but a whole crop of smartglasses that are supposedly going to change everything: Big things afoot for the face in Tech Land.

I dunno, this technology just doesn't make sense to me. I could be wrong, along the lines of DEC chief executive Ken Olsen's infamous quote that there was no reason for anyone to have a personal computer at home. I concede that there could be a few neat uses for these gizmos, perhaps in a surgical suite, on the factory floor or to guide a disoriented Alzheimer’s patient on the walk home.

Beyond special needs, I just don’t get it. I wear glasses and most people at work don't anymore. And the millions or billions that have been spent on surgery to get rid of eyewear for good suggest that a computer fashioned as a glasses-like device, no matter how small, is a non-starter. Sit at a window table in any restaurant when the light is just right and watch the women (and men) check themselves out in the plate glass. Donning headwear with a little chip attached is not what people are hankering for.

I'm no Luddite, but it seems that technology works best when it integrates without any visible seams into an existing social and commercial ecosystem. The smartphone is a good example, letting you run your life from something that fits in your pocket. My guess is that's as far as people really want to go when internalizing microchips. There's no deterministic geek dialectic that mandates a sequential staging from mainframe to mini, followed by the desktop, then a handheld device and later Google Glass and ultimately perhaps a neural implant.

People want a computer as a companion or an assistant. They don’t necessarily want one in their face. R2-D2 is cute. The person in the next seat on the bus talking into a pair of smartglasses or blinking his right eye furiously into a lens sensor to transmit a Morse-code-like text message just plain isn’t.

Source: Antonio Zugaldia/Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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