Why Google Glass Should Lose the Camera


I love Google Glass the way it is, and love the camera. But I also want people to understand Google Glass in particular and wearable computing in general. Right now, Glass is widely misunderstood.

The problem is that the existence of Glass’s camera is distracting everyone, and causing the public to completely miss what this technology is all about.

Just look at Glass’s reputation in popular culture.

Some guy was questioned by what he believed to be “federal agents” after wearing Google Glass during a movie. They apparently thought he was recording the movie illegally.

The Sacramento Kings basketball team Friday became the first team to incorporate Google Glass technology. Players on the sidelines wore glass so they could record video of what it’s like to be on the Kings’ bench.

Google Glass is seen as the “future of porn industry,” according to everybody. Instead of showing two people mating like rabbits from “over there,” they can film the activity from a first-person perspective, and hands-free. Publicity seeking pornographers rushed a movie to market last summer in order to claim the proud distinction of producing the world’s first Google Glass porno.

An app called Sex with Glass lets partners see sex from the other’s perspective. It’s like having sex with yourself.

Why the Camera Is Unimportant

Google Glass is getting huge press. But nearly all of it is about the camera — the single least innovative and least interesting feature on Glass.

Cameras that mount to your head or to glasses have been around for ages. It’s a trivial application, and easily done.

Here, you want glasses with a camera in them? Take your pick. They’ve been around for more than a decade.

You want a super high-quality video and picture image in a camera that mounts to your face and beams video to the Internet live? This is something everybody has been mislead into believing Google Glass does, but can’t (or, at least, can’t do easily). But the Looxie can.

Another problem is that there is a feedback loop between popular misconception and actual usage of Glass. The vast majority of Google Glass owners use Glass almost exclusively as a camera.

Yes, it’s a great camera. It’s super light for a camera. The quality is good. It gives you a compelling first-person perspective. But, again, the Glass revolution and the wearables revolution are not about taking pictures and videos.

What is Google Glass really all about? It’s about removing a barrier between you and technology. Right now, to use a phone, tablet, laptop or PC to access the internet involves the deliberate and conscious use of the tool, the booting up of a machine, the finding and launching of an app, the navigation to a web page.

It’s not that the minor hoops we jump through are “hard” or time consuming. It’s that they represent a psychological and emotional barrier between us and our information and communication.

Google Glass presents a new relationship with the Internet and with technology.

Here’s one way to explain it. Let’s say you want to remember something — say, what was the name of that actor who played the FBI agent in “American Hustle”?

On one end of the spectrum, you look something up in order to remind yourself. So you go to IMDB look up the movie. “Oh, yeah: Bradley Cooper!”

On the other end of the spectrum, you simply remember, recalling the fact from your own mind. “Oh, yeah: Bradley Cooper!”

Here’s the key thing people don’t understand about Google Glass: Recalling facts using Glass is more like the second one — more like recalling things from memory than looking them up.

Notifications are even more profound. As you’re going about your day, facts and information appear on the Glass screen depending on which apps you’ve installed. Joe Schmo sent you an email. The building you’re standing next to used to be a brothel. The high today is 72 degrees. Today is Janet’s birthday.

These don’t feel like notifications. Delivered through glass, they feel almost like knowledge in your own mind.

The Word Lens app translates foreign language signs and menus into English. It doesn’t feel like looking up the words. If feels like you can read a foreign language.

Exchanging messages via Glass feels a little like telepathy.

And so on.

The feeling is important. It changes your relationship to information, and changes your thinking about that information, and about the relationship between knowledge and context and memory.

Apps will surprise and thrill people with what they’ll be able to do with this new psychological relationship users acquire with information. That’s the revolution. It’s a revolution in our relationship with information technology.

So Why Get Rid of the Camera?

I don’t really want Google to remove the camera. But if that’s what it takes for the public to understand Glass, or to get Glass users to do things that are more interesting than taking pictures of their cats, then I think it’s worth it. They can add it back later after it’s been on the market for a year or so.

As it stands now, almost everybody is missing the point of Glass because everybody is fixated on the stupid camera.

People, it’s just a camera!! It’s not revolutionary, important, new, threatening, privacy violating or Borg-like any more than the two cameras you have on your smartphone or the camera you have on your laptop or the camera you carry around.

So if people can’t get over the camera in Google Glass, maybe Google should just remove it.

What do you think?