Mind reading with Google Glass!

02 Jun 2013
Posted by Kiran

Google Glass is in the news these days with everyone either raving about how cool it is or about how idiotic it makes the wearer look. There is even a new term to describe anyone wearing a Google Glass: they are called "Glassholes"!

Is this going to be the view from Google Glass?
Image source: Twitter stream of @57UN
Update (02-Oct-2013): The link to the tweet, from which I originally got this image, just results in a "Page not found" error on the Twitter website. It appears that @57UN's twitter account has either been deleted or has been compromised. However, I was able to obtain a version of the above image off of Google cache and have now put it up on this page directly.

Jokes aside however, Google Glass provides serious indications for the future of augmented reality as well as Google's ambitions in that future. While Google Glass is still nascent technology with only a few niche early adopters using it today, the day can't be far where this technology is as all-pervasive as the Android phone is today.

I did not really pay much attention to Google Glass until I saw a tweet in my Twitter timeline recently with this picture. This picture, though a joke, does make me wonder whether the future will indeed be something similar.

Many technical writers out there have written at length about the privacy concerns with Google Glass. Most of these concerns are around how users of Glass can surreptitiously monitor, take photographs of and record other people. However, I have a different take: regarding the privacy of the Glass users themselves.

Today Google gets most of its revenue through advertising. For this, it requires data about its users: their preferences, their habits, where they stay, where they work, etc. Using this data a detailed profile is built and that is what allows Google to show us highly targeted ads across the web.

Google Glass will be linked to our Google accounts, similar to the Android phones most of us carry today. However, with a phone we have better control over when it connects to the Internet and which sensors are turned on. With Glass, the use-case demands that it be as hands-free as possible. For this reason, it comes with technology to track eye movements!

With Android, Google is able to keep a close watch on our lives: the journey's we make, the people we call, the websites we browse, the applications we use, even the content we posses. Android already provides a constant stream of data updates about its users to Google allowing them to amass vast knowledge of our activities and preferences. In my view, Glass simply takes it much further. With Glass and its eye-tracking technology, Google will soon be able to capture, track and store data about every fleeting glance that we throw at some product or person!

Imagine yourself walking down the street and a product — say a camera — on display catches your eye. Your eyes linger on that camera for more time than you would usually spend on window-displays, and Wham! Google now knows that you are interested. Next, you will see more and more advertisements for cameras, perhaps even for competing products from companies that pay Google better.

This is perhaps as close as Google will ever get to reading our thoughts! Do we really want that kind of information passing on to Google without our knowledge or consent?