Rooting for Google Glass DIYs

[Damaged skin on the Terminator is rotting from gangrene]
Cleaning Man at Flophouse: “Hey, buddy. You got a dead cat in there, or what?”
[the Terminator visualizes: ‘POSSIBLE RESPONSE: YES/NO; OR WHAT?; GO AWAY; PLEASE COME BACK LATER; FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE; FUCK YOU’]
The Terminator: “Fuck you, asshole.”
“The Terminator” (1984) via imdb.com

I’m currently following reports on Google Glass and other wearable technology that allows you to — literally — see the world differently.

There are a lot of concerns, mostly regarding the ability of these glasses to unobtrusively record video or take photos. And yes, there is the potential for abuse here. Esp. when all you need is the blink of an eye to shot a photo.

But while privacy might be the crucial topic for the beginning of the 21st century, I think discretion is a close second. Seriously — why shouldn’t we be able to deal with privacy issues? Personally, I love taking photos, including at social events. But when I go through the photos I have taken, I delete those where the motif looks like a Zombie — or worse. As a photographer, I have a certain responsibility, and even when I have told others to put all photos online, I delete those that are just … unfortunate. And there are always some.

If the users of these glasses do not show the same discretion, their bad. It will make them — and hopefully only them — not welcome at social events. It will have repercussions.

Other uses — beyond the circle of friends or acquaintances where some kind of social contract works — are more problematic. For example, face recognition is a really hot topic. Seeing personal, even “below the belt” information about strangers might be interesting. I see the potential. No more misremembered names, no more missed opportunities in dating. However, there is also talk about using images from Sex Offender Registries. These kinds of virtual pillories provide photos that can be matched to people on the street. And yes, it might be a really useful information to see that the “charming” person in front of you is a serial rapist.

But what about people who are in the registry for “very strange reasons” and whose name will not be removed? For example, they got into the registry when they were children for — really — innocent stuff. Or for streaking. Or they were wrongly convicted. Might be the minority, but they lives are hell as it is. That goes beyond hell. But hey, they are in the registry, not my problem right? Well, yeah, until there is a recognition error. Even recognition rates of 99.99% can wreak havoc if enough people use this kind of software. Just suppose the software mistakes an innocent person for a criminal. It would not be the first time that an innocent person is ostracized or even lynched for a crime this person did not commit. Our society has a very dim view on sex offenders and is prone to dispense its own “justice” (so much for “rape society”).

But despite all these possible problems, errors, and misuses — I am personally rooting for smart glasses. Just imagine what will be possible if you can record things from your own perspective. You have a specific skill? You can simply record it and put it only to allow others to learn from you. No more mental mirroring or obscured actions — you see what the teacher sees.

Or how about a series of guides for social situations? Not only to see the kinds of problems the other sex faces. There are people who have difficulties with social situations, because they do not know how to act. And even the best “for dummies” guide cannot capture everything. But recording, e.g., a visit to the opera, might provide these people with beautiful learning material. And sure, it should be cleared with the persons who are shown in the video. Or, given that modern point-and-shoot cameras already have algorithms to recognize faces, the faces of these people could be automatically obscured. But frankly, I think these smart glasses have the potential for a lot of brilliant “Do it yourself” instructions.

It’s going to be an interesting piece of technology and I can’t wait for it. 🙂

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