It’s making the headlines once again after a long radio silence and like all things related to Google Glass and the headlines, the news isn’t good. Google is ending its Explorer program for Google Glass and going back to the drawing board. This program, for those who don’t obsessively follow all things tech, was where a person such as you or me could write an application (including written essay!) to be allowed to buy your own Google Glass and test it out. It sounds pretty cool, except for the part where Glass itself costs $1,500. That price tag caused my attention to wander, but I also don’t want to pay more than $200 for a smartphone, so I might not be the best person to ask.
The reason why I’m concerned, however, isn’t because I was a Google Glass aficionado but because I’m concerned about what the Glass setback will mean for the trajectory of electronics that we carry with us daily. I first became interested in just how far our cultural obsession would go when I noticed that I literally haven’t been more than ten feet away from my smartphone since I bought it in 2011. I also read a study that claimed that a third of Americans would sooner give up sex than their smartphone device.
All of those things started swirling around in my brain and pretty soon I had the framework for the two novels that I’ve been working on since 2012: a not-too-distant future where instead of a smartphone that you need to charge and can drop and could lose, you get a nice little microchip implanted in your brain through a quick and painless process that can be done right there at the store. Of course, being a science fiction novel, things have to go horribly wrong with that idea, but at the time, I still felt that the trajectory was such that we were on track from going from devices we carry with us every day to devices that we wear on our bodies to devices that are actually inside us.
Does the lukewarm embrace (or even outright rejection) of Glass indicate that this path might not hold? Maybe. It’s also true that the first device in a completely new category doesn’t often win the race; the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone by a longshot, but it’s the one that convinced everyone that smartphones were must-have gadgets. There are a lot of things that could be responsible for Glass faltering; I personally blame the price tag and the admittedly interesting but also convoluted Explorer program. Will Google keep going with Glass and try something else? Or will wearable computers seem like a dead end?
I really hope we haven’t reached a dead end, not because I’m a huge fan of the whole idea, but because I really want my story to still be relevant by the time I’m done writing it. Science fiction is littered with examples of stories outdated by the forward march of time but it would well and truly suck to be outdated before I’ve even finished the book.
3 thoughts on “Google Glass And What It Means For The Story I’m Writing”
It’s tough to know how far a trend will go. Between 1850 and 1950 we went from trains being the new hotness to everyone having a car in their garage and planes flying loads of people across the country for prices middle class families could afford. Naturally, people figured the next step was flying cars, but that’s still not materialized.
In 2005, Apple released the iPod Nano, continuing a trend of smaller and smaller music players with more and more space. I think we all remember the Saturday Night live skit with iPods so small the newscaster couldn’t even see it.
I have a hard time imagining brain interfaces or voice interfaces completely supplanting anything using the hands in the near future. Manipulating devices with the hands is so natural that it’s embedded right there in the word “Manipulate.” That said, if it was less of an interface and more of a conduit for searching the web. IE, you go to recall from your memory what the date of the Boxer Rebellion was and your brain chip queries wikipedia and then plants the memory in your mind so it’s like you’ve always known it, then you’d have a device that’d be used by practically everyone…
In the near future, definitely not. It’s actually much further away, if it ever does get here. Sometimes the path diverts; early plans to go into space involved huge-ass cannons instead of rockets, but that didn’t exactly pan out.
That being said, in defense of the idea of a brain interface as it relates to my story, the neural implant actually allows for complete virtual reality immersion in addition to serving as one’s smartphone. So basically, a fully function Oculus Rift inside your head. So there’s more of a reason to get one.
What I think would be cool with a brain interface like that would be to connect electronic sensors into your brain that could act as additional “senses” that could be added/removed/upgraded at will. Like, what if you could connect a magnet to your brain on a long trek through the forest so you could literally have a sense of direction from the Earth’s magnetic field and feel when electronics are powered on by their varying electric fields? Or what if you could augment your sense of sight with an ultrasonic range finder? The possibilities are endless!