Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Google Goggles

National Public Radio and the New York Times, among other sources, have been reporting on the forthcoming "Google Goggles" that are purportedly being designed at the Google X labs in Mountain View, CA.  The goggles would offer their wearer an augmented reality display capable of providing information relevant to any particular context in a way similar to how news channels provide viewers with a graphic layer of time, weather, market updates, breaking news, etc. over the live-action shot.

The concept of augmented reality goggles isn't unique or new.  Two other developers are also working on similar designs, and contact lenses with similar functionality have been discussed in the past.  If we include science fiction, the idea is actually quite old indeed.  So the reason this story has captured my attention is not its novelty, but the reflection that is provoked when we consider that it will be a reality.

The consequences of the Google Goggles are similar to what my collaborators I have described previously as an "intercept scenario" simulation (Jones, Lombard & Jasak, 2012).  In such a simulation, the brain and body are separated so that all nerve impulses are intercepted and fed into a mainframe computer in a style similar to that of the The Matrix (1999).  The goggles are only different insofar as they intercept perception outside of the body.  Permitting the physical world to be framed and interpreted by streams of information flowing before your eyes, effectively changes the bedrock of reality as surely as any simulation.  So why waste processing power building a complete simulation when you can control the way people interpret their existing reality through dependence on external tools of interpretation?

Some will see this prediction as alarmist, pointing out that if you don't want the glasses you don't have to buy them and that you can always take them off.  I would respond through recourse to the example of ordinary glasses used for vision correction.  Those of us who wear glasses know how different and disorienting the world is when we remove them.  Imagine glasses that not only aid your perception, but your cognition as well.  Indeed, at some point, removing these glasses may be like removing a part of yourself.  Though... it would be a part of yourself that wasn't really yours to begin with.

1 comment:

gman said...

I am curious about this “intercept scenario” as it pertains to “The Matrix” alternate reality. I don’t see how that would be helpful at all, or similar to the HUD concept the Google Goggles follows. If the goggles were a replacement for a smart phone, and priced under 1K, I could see them becoming popular over time. People have the ability to adapt in remarkable ways. I would prefer the goggles for entertainment though, rather than every day use. I could see my Blockbuster @Home service streaming to my glasses and watching movies, TV episodes, or even YouTube and VEVO videos. I like the idea of the immersive experience by blocking out peripheral distractions, and I would certainly watch a lot more media than I currently do with the by-mail and streaming I get from Blockbuster @Home. I was excited to find out my employer, DISH, was purchasing Blockbuster, as I was anxious to see how it would benefit me as a customer of DISH. Now I see potential for even more access to media with Google Goggles.