Any adult in the U.S. with a spare $1,500 plus tax — and no fear of looking like a dork, being called out (or worse) as a digital Peeping Tom or fearful of being hacked themselves — will have a limited opportunity to buy the Explorer version of Google Glass on Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. EDT.
The Verge’s Nathan Ingraham broke the story early yesterday afternoon after getting his hands on an internal Google brief on the matter. The company confirmed the story in a Google+ blog post a few hours later, saying it had planned to make the announcement next week but “it looks like the cat's out of the bag now.”
The post went on to suggest that it was opening the program up to get more feedback from an even more diverse group of Explorers that have so far been handpicked by Google (#ifihadglass), referred by a friend, won a contest or had access through their schools.
“Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better,” the Google post said. “But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback, too.”
“In the year since Google Glass was first shipped, it has been lauded as the future of computing, criticized for hastening the death of privacy, and mocked for looking silly,” writes CNN’s Heather Kelly. “People wearing Glass have been banned from bars and restaurants, given tickets for distracted driving, and dubbed ‘Glassholes.’ It's been a busy year.”
“As wearable tech develops and devices become ever more sophisticated, a lot of brands, agencies and publishers are counting on it,” Adweek’s Melissa Hoffman wrote earlier this week in a story that broke the news of a study from market research firm Toluna that found that two in five consumers are concerned with “the potential for hackers to access private data, the ease with which others could record their actions without their knowledge and the potential for private actions to become public.”
Google Glass got some good PR earlier this week when Dr. Stephen Horng of Massachusetts' Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center credited it with saving a patient’s life. He used a pair to quickly access the medical records of a patient with severe brain bleed who could not remember what blood pressure meds he was allergic to.
“It’s literally the holy grail of hospital IT,” John Rodley, co-founder of a startup called Twiage that is developing an application for Glass for ambulance attendants to relay information to ERs, told the Boston Globe’s Callum Borchers.
And VentureBeat’s Richard Byrne Reilly reported that “the U.S. Air Force’s ‘BATMAN’ research team at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is beta-testing Google Glass for possible use on the battlefield.” Organizations such as the New York Police Department, Virgin America Airways and the Navy are also testing it. While the Air Force “likes what it sees” so far, the technology “is not a silver bullet.”
In an interview with Boston Business Journal’s Sara Castellanos, attorney Merton E. Thompson, a partner in Burns & Levinson LLP, chalks up a lot of the controversy over Google Glass to the “FUD” factor: fear, uncertainty and doubt.
He compares the uproar over privacy to when hand-held cameras first hit the market and “it was shocking to people that anybody could have a small box in their hand and press a button and capture an image.” Now anyone with a smartphone can readily record anything anywhere — and that’s a net positive, as least to a keynote speaker Thompson heard at an International Association of Privacy Professionals summit last month.
“He made the argument that the wave of the future is that everybody has a camera on them at all times, and that will actually enhance people's personal freedom and liberty. It allows the individuals to call out the bad actors and document the peeping toms and rights abusers.”
Indeed, responding to the question, “What are some things that cops know, but most people don't?” on Quora recently, police officer Tim Fry responded in part: “That in the majority of states you can record anyone (including police) in public, and without their permission. Likewise, when not in public you can record any interaction you're personally involved in (in most states; check your local laws).”
It’s no doubt also entirely legal for Angelo's Pizzeria to beam the image of a sizzling slice to anyone wearing Google Glass who’s in the vicinity of its storefront. Whether it’s a good idea to do so or not likely will play out more in the data than in the damnation.