The Future of Glass

500px-Google_Glass_logo.svgSince Google released a developer-focused version of their Glass product last year, we’ve learned quite a bit about some possible uses, and some possible technical and social issues behind the product. Businesses are starting to ban Glass from their establishments. People are getting mugged for their Glass, and for using their Glass. One man was questioned by DHS/ICE for having his prescription Glass unit on in a movie theater.

Nearly every problem that society at large has with Glass starts with the unit’s camera. When Google designs and builds the final Glass product to be released to consumers, some changes are going to have to be made that take the incidents above into account. Here are some features I’d like to see in the final Glass build.

Note that I do not own Glass. I was invited to participate in their Explorer program, but I didn’t have $1,500 to put down on a BETA product that would be released a few months later for half the price. I see some value in having technology a bit early, but not quite that much.

Physical Camera Slide

My ASUS netbook has a physical slide for the camera. You push the slide over, and a piece of plastic covers the webcam. I’ve never seen it before, and I haven’t seen it on any laptop since, not even the newer version of that netbook. It makes me wonder why they took it out.

Glass has a red LED that lights up and blinks when the camera is active. Folks are given plenty of notice that they are being filmed or photographed. That’s not enough, though, to assuage the fears of the more ignorant or technophobic of our populace.

Look, now the scary camera can't see you.

Look, now the scary camera can’t see you.

Glass needs a plastic slider that is manually activated by the user, that covers the camera with the same color plastic as the rest of the unit. For a black unit, the plastic may need to be a white or a grey. The idea here is to eliminate the little black dot that makes people poop their pampers.

If Google doesn’t deliver on this, you can expect a large amount of plastic caps and sliders to enter the accessory market.

Encrypted Storage

Glass is in a very unique position, literally. It’s always out, and it’s always mounted on your head, even when you’re not necessarily thinking about it. They’re going to be a very easy target. A man was harassed in a movie theater by federal agents, and had his Glass yanked off of his face, seized without probable cause or a warrant. The agent then proceeded to search through photos and video on the device, even the ones with dates way outside the range they were worried about.

These units are going to get stolen. They’re also going to be seized by police who assume that they’ll find evidence of a crime on it. Police also don’t like the idea that they’ll be recorded, so a few may take it away just to prevent that. Google Glass will be the subject of a supreme court case within the next 5 years, you can bet on that.

temp_crypto_screenBlackBerry and Android devices offer full device encryption. iPhone offers limited encryption facilities that are available to apps that wish to use it. Google Glass needs encryption, too. The only hangup is entering a password, PIN, or key into glass might be a bit of a trick; input is normally given through voice, and that’s unsuitable for something you wish to keep secret. I think I’ve figured it out, though.

Glass is very closely paired to an application on an Android smartphone. It’s a fairly good guess that an iOS app will also be created either before or shortly after the commercial launch. One possible way to send the encryption key to Glass would be to store enough information to facilitate the connection to the paired app, and then use the mobile phone keyboard to type out the PIN or password. Various rules could be set to lock Glass. For example, I could instruct the unit to clear the crypto key if it’s removed from my head. Confirmation from the paired app should be required before mounting USB storage.

Two Batteries

Glass is an entire band that goes around the head. Only one of the temples are used to store the logic board, camera, prism, and battery. The other 60% of the unit is just used to keep it on your face. I’d imagine the weight difference between the sides is noticeable, and to someone with OCD, this might be a bit of a bother.

Some Explorers have noticed that Glass doesn’t last very long when it’s used. It chews through battery during tasks like camera recording, map navigation, and even things as simple as music playback.

Let’s solve two problems at once. Put a second battery on that other temple.

A Final Thought

Just glancing at it, you have no idea it's a smartwatch

Just glancing at it, you have no idea it’s a smartwatch

When Android Wear and the Moto 360 were announced, I immediately thought “Glass Replacement”. I wasn’t the only one. Look at it this way:

Moto 360 is a small screen that runs a stripped down version of Android, and takes voice commands. It’s mounted on your wrist.

Google Glass is a small screen that runs a stripped down version of Android, and takes voice commands. It’s mounted on your head.

All Glass really adds is always-there, arms-free accessibility, and a camera. The screen is also a different shape. While the two devices could serve unique purposes each, I really don’t see average everyday people buying both. I see Joe Everyman buying one or the other, depending on needs or preference.

If only one of these products could survive in the market, my money’s going on the watch. The lack of a camera makes it a far less controversial product, you’re not advertising that you have a smartwatch just by wearing it (it looks just like any other mid- to high-end watch), and I imagine that it will cost less than Glass.

What features would you like to see in the consumer version of Glass? Leave a comment and let me know!

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