Google has been working on its Project Glass since last year and will be sending out the device to developers early this year. I have previously blogged about this and other initiatives from key influential players such as Apple and Microsoft. While it is important for the industry to embrace the opportunities that such initiatives offer, it is critical that it also address the related issues and the hurdles that need to be overcome. Not all of these hurdles will apply to every device, or indeed, every type of device; for example there are relatively few challenges for players who are looking to deploy a fitness wearable.
Let’s take the most commonly touted issue: privacy. Issues such as privacy commonly arise if the wearable device has a camera and whether the user is filming at a specific time. While in many places there are no laws regarding filming in public places, many people may object if they perceive they are being filmed. It is important to remember that many businesses have restrictions on filming and photography on their premises and regardless of whether the law states that you may film in public places, a next-gen wearable user may be rightfully ejected from a business or other private property for wearing such equipment.
Issues of privacy remain even where the device does not store images or video as a matter of course – if it has that capability, people will be concerned that it is being stored and secondly, about what those images will be used for.
So the key question here is while we look forward to the launch of such smart glasses by these players, are we as a society ready for this? Many people have objected to the Google Street View since its launch. Prior to publication Google blurs people’s faces and licence plates and allows the removal of images where the person in the image objects.
Despite facing nearly 30 legal actions and bans in 23 countries, Google have still been able to expand the project and many bans have been overturned. However, the ferocity of the initial reaction to the project demonstrates the reaction that could face AR smart glasses if they were more widely implemented. Google has ensured that people will get to know if they are being recorded; however, it is still not clear how they intend to do it. But one thing is for sure, smart glasses look all set to integrate technologies such as augmented reality more seamlessly into human life.