Fun with tech.
Jim Hunt writes:
Google Glass. It's a bit odd.
With everyone staring and pointing at the metal and plastic unibrow it's hard not to be self conscious. It being very orange probably didn't help. Not exactly inconspicuous. And it gets hot. Like mega hot if it's doing any sort of processing at all, which also runs the battery down in minutes. And it doesn't really do anything useful just now. And it's madly expensive.
But it's easy to get very excited about how its clunky star trek style, overheating and general lack of utility will disappear in future iterations leaving a slick, smart, and capable device with a number potential uses only limited only by the ingenuity of app creators.
Having tried Glass out I understand how incredible a tool it could be for situations where remote assistance is important. Glass included in a medical kit to enable a specialist to assist a doctor or untrained bystander in an emergency. Like an upside-down 'Mechanical Turk', the device providing smarts (from another person or artificial intelligence) leading a real person who brings the dexterity and understanding of the environment that's so hard to recreate in a robot. Telepresence is a powerful tool with many applications.
And wearing Glass for just a couple of hours I'm now also sure society will quickly become accustomed to devices like this, with understood rules on when it's appropriate to leave them in your pocket, even if just they make the average person initially uncomfortable today.
But trying Glass brought to mind these wider questions about wearables and portable computing that I found super interesting. I don't have answers, so if you've any thoughts please do comment below.
Remembering vs. what actually happened.
The first thing many people asked was if it was recording. Did you see this?
Your experience of an event as it happens and how you remember that same event are different. Really different. Dan Ariely put it well when he said "One of the ways time works in our favour is to help us forget or misremember the past in a way that makes us feel better about ourselves."
Sensors like Glass record everything exactly as it happened. But your memories are the main moments sequenced into a coherent little story. This story might not be quite true, events might not even be in the right order, stuff is missed out, and importance is weighted towards the strongest (happiest, most painful, most exhilarating) moment and how you were feeling at the end.
What happens to someone with fast, easy and 'always-on' access to what actually occurred in its entire unedited, unsympathetic detail? How often is your memory a more pleasing version of the real event? Would sticking with memory instead of the recorded reality leave you more or less happy in life?
Interacting with wearables.
Glass is bit of a contradiction. Very private with a screen only you can see. But Glass has the least private and subtle methods of control as it currently is.
"OK Glass". Everyone in the room knows what you're searching for. Reach up to your head, make twitches and winks or other obvious tics and your friends are bound to see. Using a touchscreen might seem antisocial but it wins hands down for keeping things private.
Iris tracking might make these interactions more private and robust, or some completely different way to interact with the device will solve this problem. But the current ones don't work well in public situations.
(I once had a lunch with one of the Google team that was developing voice recognition and automated speech. He was adamant that the reason people didn't use voice to control devices more was all down to it being imperfect. He suggested that if you made the algorithms accurate then everyone would use it. I didn't agree then, and still don't now. For me the lack of privacy when using voice as a control method is a major issue. But then I am rather shy.)
Flow - the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task – is considered a strong contributor to creativity. I can't think of a better tool to bring yourself out of flow than a set of glasses pushing the latest social media update straight into your eyes.
"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking of it," wrote Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. An omnipresent screen is making you consider that information as it arises. With that always going on how can anyone correctly prioritise their focus?
Are devices like this are actually making us more productive in the most valuable way? Sure, it'll help if you've a long stream of little things you have to do. In this case the timely reminders can certainly be useful. But shouldn't computing be helping by doing these small tasks for us, rather than controlling our day to make sure they get done?
This would free all of us up to do what people still do best: creative and conceptual thought, and problem solving. Surely that should be the ambition of technology and innovation, rather than just a more complex way to keep yet another list.