Google Glass

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Google Glass
"Google Glass" text
Type Wearable Technology
Wearable Computer
Ubiquitous Computing
Optical Head-mounted Display
Launch Date February 2013
Status In Production
Product Line Wearable Ubiquitous Computing
Platform Wearable Technology

The Google Glass is a form of head-mounted technology worn in a similar fashion to regular eyewear, like glasses. Developed by Google with the goal of attaining Ubiquitous Computing in mind, Google Glass includes functionality similar to that provided by smart phones, only through optical displays and voice control -- entirely hands free. A prototype of the product was distributed to a group of people in the United States called “Glass Explorers” on April 15, 2013 for $1,500. It was available for public purchase at the same price point for a short amount of time beginning in May 2014. After facing concerns and criticism, Google pulled the prototype from production and distribution on January 15, 2015. However, the company continues to develop Google Glass in an attempt to perfect the technology. [1]


Google Glass was created by a subsection of Google called Google X. This is a research and development facility that has also worked on other wildly innovative projects including: the driverless car, an aerial delivery service similar to Amazon Prime Air, and even some currently rejected ideas such as a space elevator and teleportation. [2] Project Glass was announced in April 2012. It was not the first product of it’s kind as it has been preceded by other optical technologies in both the video game and military fields. [3]The current prototype is much smaller in scale and is now even lighter than a normal pair of glasses. For an extra fee of $225, Google provides multiple versions of prescription frames for users who require them. They have also worked with popular brands of eyewear such as Oakley and Ray Ban to design frames that differ from the original style. [1]

The original version of Google Glass was offered to be tested by a group of qualified individuals known as “Glass Explorers.” The first 2,000 of these were chosen from attendees at a June 2012 conference where Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, gave a demonstration of the product. Eventually this opportunity was made available to everyone. Google chose interested and creative people via Google+ or Twitter applications where individuals explained what they would do if they had access to Google Glass using the hashtag #ifihadglass. "Glass Explorers" received and began using their devices on April 16, 2014 – the day it went public. [4]


Google Glass itself is essentially a device containing all of the functions of a smartphone in the form of a headset worn similarly to eyeglasses. A small prism-like screen [5] attaches to the corner of one of the frames that serve as the display fitted with LED illumination. A beam-splitter within the lens reflects the light given off at 45° into the user’s eye. The device comes equipped with a camera which is able to take photographs and 720p HD video as well as various other applications installed allowing access to social media, email, etc. Control is achieved by a small touchpad found on the side of Google Glass that allows swiping through information on the screen and the use of natural language voice commands seen with Cortana, for example. [1]


Google Glass automatically checks for available updates and will install those updates automatically when connected to a wireless connection. [6]

User Control

Google Glass has two methods of user control: a touchpad and voice activation. In order to active the glasses, a user must tilt their head 30 degrees upward or simply tap the touchpad and say "O.K. glasses". Once activated, simple voice commands set other actions such as, "take a picture", "send a message to X", "find directions to the park", and a user may even ask for search results. These results are given back to the user using bone conduction, a form of audio input done by vibrations in the jawbone, and therefore is almost inaudible to anyone except for the user.


Google Glass has many different uses which are all managed through a small headset that have the aesthetic of glasses. Some common functions of Google Glass include: viewing the weather for the day, dictating text messages, and even getting receiving reminders from a user’s Google Calendar app. Additionally, when prompted, Google Glass will bring up a live map feed on the headset. However, this map is placed directly in the user's field of vision, occluding much of the user's view and, especially if the user is moving, potentially posing a threat to the user or surrounding people.

Viewing reminders with Google Glass.
Checking the weather with Google Glass.
Checking and creating text messages with Google Glass.

Ethical Concerns


A large portion of the criticism over the use of Google Glass concerned the issue of privacy. Fear rose over the idea of wearers of the product being able to discreetly photograph and record those around them without their knowing consent and for any variety of reasons. This plays into questions of the use of facial recognition software as way to identify people in public and therefore document their actions or conversations. [1] In an effort to reduce this anxiety, Google announced in 2013 that it would not allow any applications on Google Glass that would allow for facial recognition "without strong privacy protections in place." [4] Because of the nature of Google Glass - close to the body, display only seen by the individual user - it is difficult to determine whether a user is simply checking their email or is up to something that is intrusive towards those around them. Even though Google Glass is no longer on the market, some companies are clear that they will not allow their patrons to wear the devices while on their property for this reason. Nations such as Russia and the Ukraine have raised legal concerns about this topic as the countries themselves did not allow "spy gadgets" that can document others in inconspicuous ways prior to the release of Google Glass. [1]

The issue of privacy does not only deal with the safety of potential victims of this violation, but the safety of Google Glass wearers. There are multiple cases of violence towards users because of mistrust of the technology from others around them at the time. One particularly noted case was of a woman showing her friend how Glass worked in a San Francisco bar. She was aggressively approached by two women and a man who noticed her recording the public scene. They tore off the device from her head and stole her purse and phone. These people reacted negatively to the idea that everything they were doing was being monitored or recorded and their backlash was directed toward the woman who did not appear to have any malicious intent. [7]


While it has been tested with some groups of people with varying disabilities and shown potential, Google Glass still lacks features that will allow full accessibility for all. Right now it is easy for blind users to get lost in the interface even with voice commands. The display can quickly go into sleep mode and they will continue to speak not knowing that this has happened. An improved talkback system would be useful to provide hints and easier navigation throughout the software. [8]

For deaf or hard of hearing individuals, it can be hard to control Google Glass if they do not speak or the device is not able to understand what they are saying when they do. There is no other way to input information besides the natural language voice commands so communicating with the device could be next to impossible for some. Conversely, Google Glass often speaks back to the user but provides no captions for the hearing impaired to read during these times. Physically wearing Glass can be a problem if the person already is fitted for a hearing aid or cochlear implant. [9]


Personal safety of users has also been expressed. Most often this was seen in concerns about operating motor vehicles and other equipment while wearing Google Glass - similar to arguments raised over texting and driving.

There have been reports of headaches and eye pain after adopting this technology which Google's own optometrist Dr. Eli Peli confirmed. [10] Ophthalmologist, Sina Fateh, is concerned about the fatigue that may be induced by Google Glass, in addition to the risk of visual confusion, which occurs when both eyes are not looking at the same image. [11] Professor at the University of Toronto, Steve Mann, created his own version of smart glasses that he has been wearing for over thirty years, and has agreed with Fateh that he has experienced visual confusion including dizziness and flashbacks. [11] Similar to any other new product, some believe it will be up to the consumer on how they decide to use it. [11]

It has also been reported that the wireless radiation emitted from Google Glass is more than most cell phones, and what makes it worse than cell phones is that Google Glass is consistently worn on the face. [12]


Researchers are calling Google Glass the future's form of cheating. There are concerns that once Google Glass is updated to look more like regular eyeglasses, students will use the technology to cheat.[13] Users will be able to access information using Google with small, unnoticeable gestures and even solely eye movements.[13] This will require educators to revise existing policies regarding cheating to contain information about what technology is allowed during testing, as well as consider how they will ensure that students’ eyeglasses are not technological devices.


In the summer of 2013, a Google Glass application called “Tits and Glass” was released into the Google App Store. This app, which allowed users to upload and share pornographic material through their Google Glasses, was quickly removed from the App Store for violations of Google's terms of service (only to be reinstated months later) [14]. While today’s media patrons want to use the technology they have at their fingertips to get their hands on sexual content, censorship and regulating sexual content is still an aspect of net pornography. Unlike analog forms that regulated content by simply not supplying it, some digital pornography files and websites are made less accessible to users. Many online search engine institute default moderating filters that hide any “unsafe” images[15]. Google is one of these search engines, and perhaps because Google wants to be the “perfect search engine” [16] they want all Google services to be “safe” including Google Glass. Nevertheless, the fact that their Google Glass customers have the same motives as any Google-r (who has the same motives as any media user) leads them to expect the same variety in terms of applications that they can receive from any other internet service. Therefore, it is clear that Google Glass reinstated Tits and Glass at least partially due to the fact that their users demand and expect a variety of options of applications and accessibility to whatever content they fancy.

Effects on Interpersonal Communication

With the widespread use of cellular devices leading into the 21st century, and increased use of digital communication methods, there have already been concerns aplenty regarding the increasing replacement of interpersonal communication with less "meaningful" means. When Google Glass was first introduced into the consumer market, the issue was raised again with increased concerns that people would constantly choose to utilize the communication features of Google Glass over standard means of conversing and hence lead to an even further decline in people's ability to develop close relationships between one another. [17]


The intent of the initial rollout of Google glass was to allow consumers to be the de-buggers. However, many speculate on if this is a fair way to test a product, because it required those consumers to pay for the experience. In reality, if a person bought a regular pair of sunglasses and they did not work properly, they would be able to return them. However, this was not the case in Google's initial deployment of Glass. The failure of Google glass is very different however from the failure of a normal pair of sunglasses. The company generated a lot of hype around the release of the product, which they knew was not ready for the public. The question remains if Google is ethically responsible to release a product that is high-quality after all of the hype.

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Wikipedia: [1]
  2. Wikipedia: [2]
  3. The World As Perpetual Beta: [3]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Glass Almanac: [4]
  5. The Washington Post: [5]
  6. "Updating Glass Software" (Retrieved 23 April 2017).
  7. Huffington Post: [6]
  8. Accessibility: [7]
  9. Mashable: [8]
  10. Observer Business & Tech: [9]
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Ackerman, Elise. "Could Google Glass Hurt Your Eyes? A Harvard Vision Scientist And Project Glass Advisor Responds" Forbes (4 March 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2017).
  12. "Google Glass Radiation: Health Risk from Wearable Wireless SAR Levels Exceed Smartphones" RF Safe (15 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2017).
  13. 13.0 13.1 Bercovici, J. (2012). “If You Think Cheating Is Rampant Now, Just Wait Till Google Glasses Are Here”. Forbes. Retrieved 23 April, 2017, from
  14. "The “Tits and Glass” porn app was up for several hours before google sneak-changed their terms of service and took it down" (June 3, 2013)
  15. Paasonen, S. (2011). Bad taste, miasmis forces, and the ubiquity of online porn. Carnal resonance: Affect and online pornography. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  16. Vaidhyanathan, S. (2011). The googalization of everything (and why we should worry). University of California Press.
  17. Seven Urgent Ethical Dilemmas for Google Glass[10]