If you can’t remember how you ever lived without your smartphone, you’ve probably heard about Google’s big project Google Glass. If you haven’t, come out of your cave and, well, Google it. Glass is what they call an augmented reality (AR) head mounted display (HMD). That means a mini computer that you wear like a pair of sunglasses which will display information in front of your eyes and take pictures or video of what you’re seeing. It won’t exactly replace your smartphone for now because it will need to be tethered to your phone by Bluetooth to make use of cellular data services where WiFi isn’t available. But it will have pretty amazing capabilities, controlled by voice commands. Within the next few months it will be tested out by a corps of volunteers and then made available to the public.
As a science fiction writer, I’ve thought about where this kind of technology will lead us within the next decade or two.
On the good side, it might make it more feasible than ever for you to work from home. Just remember that your boss will want to access the headset feed and see whatever you’re seeing. So no surreptitious glances to catch a few moments of Ellen or Dr. Oz, and be sure to remove the headset when you take a bathroom break.
One or two politicians in the States are already making noise about banning Google Glass while driving (too distracting). But a few years from now I’ll bet police will want us to wear connected headsets, so they can catch us speeding or running red lights, and subpoena the video feeds of accident or crime witnesses. They might get permission for that, too. After all, the F.B.I. is pushing hard right now to be able to monitor cellular calls and texting in real time. And, of course, Homeland Security can get just about anything they want in the name of battling terrorism.
Insurance companies will support the police in these measures. In fact, you can bet they’ll offer reduced premiums if you let them tap your headset feed (and thereby confirm that you’re not smoking, drinking excessively, using drugs, or engaging in high risk behaviours).
But it won’t all be business. What about Reality entertainment? Imagine getting home from work and immediately twinning yourself for the rest of the night with a next-generation Kardashian, or even Lindsay Lohan still milking her notoriety. Why, you wouldn’t have to miss a second of her binge drinking, judge baiting, and rehab sampling. Up close and really personal.
Suddenly those one-way expeditions to Mars don’t sound so bad.