It was seen as the future of the Web and mobile devices. Google Glass was the thing we all saw in movies about the near future. It was a TV, phone, computer and all in a very personal device. It opened the door to a virtual world of augmented reality, instant information, facial recognition; but is, according to rumours leaking onto the internet, a device with serious unforeseen drawbacks.
Google planned on making a huge splash with its latest and greatest life-changing product but a competitor jumped in, shipping over 50,000 units of the VuzixM100 headset in November of last year. Figures for sales from both manufacturers are placed at close to 1,000,000 units shipped or in the process of shipping at this date.
As early as December of 2013, just weeks after the products were in use among the consumer public, there were some tragic incidents leading to the discovery of a single thread linking fatalities and serious injuries; all victims were Google Glass users.
Product problems arise
It wasn't until there were survivors of some odd and heinous accidents, such as walking into open holes, off cliffs, into traffic and other situations caused by the glass distraction that officials started drawing a corollary betwen the tech-glasses and the incidents.
"The number of fatalities is what's so disturbing," commented Dick Roundtree, the New York City Safety Commissioner. "People are just walking out into traffic and getting run down at full speed. The drivers can't stop in time and it's not just at cross walks. People are appearing from between parked cars and even just walking down the middle of busy streets, oblivious to what's going on around them."
"I was searching out local restaurants while walking down 3rd Avenue," explains a male victim who asked not to be identified. "The view was blocked by all the responses posted by my glass and I walked toward an augmented reality panda, who was waving me toward the restaurant, when I realized I had just been hit by something big and I was flying through the air. It turned out the field of flowers and rainbows the augmented reality panda was standing on was actually 3rd Avenue and the flying unicorn that hit me was actually the express bus. If I hadn't been able to tweet that I'd been knocked down, I don't know if the emergency services would have reached me in time."
Changing the ability to focus
Other survivors, as well as users that have not been injured, report that using the glass device for more than a couple of hours a day has affected their depth perception.
"I thought the truck was just getting bigger, not closer, and then it hit me," said one emergency room patient. "The other day I went to open the front door of a little cafe in front of me and put my hand into a fire instead. The front door was 20 yards away!"
There is a lesser fatal side effect that has users and opticians alike very concerned. According to a recent statement by the president of the Opticians Association of America (OAA)), there are more and more cases of Giant Cell Arteritis (Oculous Gigantis) being reported by Google Glass users.
"It was common in scientists and lab workers before electronic microscopes," commented Dr. Shirley Earley, HFOAA. "People who would sit at a microscope for hours every day would create an eye that was dominant to the other and after time, the lesser used eye would shrink a few millimeters in diameter, while the most used eye swelled from arterial strain. It can be serious but it's also disturbing to look at!"
Accurate figures on the ratio of users getting injured are limited, however, as many users have not emerged from their apartments and homes since receiving the products, leading to what may be further disaster caused by rotting corpses of people who forgot to eat, bathe or couldn't stop indulging in augmented reality porn.
At the center of many of these problems is the new app, Nude World™ (Briefly released under the name, "T & A Parade"). As with facial recognition software, Nude World™ relies on algorithms of body parts being assigned to certain scans through the Google Glass camera, and then it assembles a library of nude body parts that match the scanned subject's height, approximate weight, measurements of the chest, waist and hips so the subject whom you are viewing appears to be truly naked—including body jiggles and bouncing. The app for nude males uses the same algorithms except it assigns one of four set penis sizes depending on skin tone.
There are reports that another app firm is about to launch eHance™, a blocking app that allows you to program in selected body parts from the library so you will appear slimmer, taller or more endowed in all the right places when others are viewing you through Nude World™. AnimalHance™ is another hacker app that allows one to program in animal feet, tails and even genitalia from certain "gifted" species.
Overcoming the stigma
One of the primary problems with Google Glass is the stigma users are under for wearing the device in public. In a recent article by Becky Worley, Why Google Glass Will Never Be Okay, people share some of their uncomfortable experiences from being ticketed while driving, having to take them off before entering a public restroom and being suspected of recording conversations. At SxSW, a vote was held as to what panel discussion should be presented. Google Glass Makes Me Want To Punch Your Face lost out to Glassholes: The Cultural Dissonance of Technology. Two equally bad choices for Google Glass aficionados.
Although legislation on the use of Google Glass and other similar models is expected, most lawmakers have cited that they believe, almost in unison, that "these big-eyed cyber freaks SHOULD walk into traffic, open pits, open fires, off cliffs. That will solve the problem as fast as it arose."
"Augmented reality and these demon tools belong to the DEVIL!" commented a usually quiet, former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.
Google has not responded to calls and emails, requesting further information. Neither has Sarah Palin.
[ Update: thanks for all the great feedback, in case it wasn't clear, this article is an April Fools' Day prank. ]
Featured image/thumbnail, Google Glass image via Héctor García.