We've seen plenty of dystopian tech since 2000. Phones that track and record your every movement. Drones that stalk and kill people. An enormous database of your feelings, ruthlessly exploited for commercial purposes. But the "Google Goggles" unveiled today take creepy tech to the next level.
Sure, the devices, as described today by the New York Times Bits blog, sound like a gadget-lovers wet dream. A prototype version looks far nerdier than any bluetooth earpiece, but "stream information to the lenses and allow the wearer to send and receive messages through voice commands. There is also a built-in camera to record video and take pictures." So the company already (in)famous for how much data it has collected on each of us, and how aggressively it has begun to leverage that data, will be in a position to literally know not only where you are but everything you look at.
The Google video above touts the potential applications of the devices. Some sound, admittedly, pretty cool: Directions overlaid on real city streets, easy picture taking, video chat.
But already, just in the promo reel, there are signs of annoying technological intrusion: Email or IM pops up in the user's face during a meal, and friends track one another's physical location down to the nearest foot. And, more even than a phone, these devices create a stream of information about your private moments, with a video camera and microphone constantly pointed wherever you're looking.
Google seems to have anticipated these objections. Nick Bilton wrote in the Times piece:
People I have spoken with who have have seen Project Glass said there is a misconception that the glasses will interfere with people's daily life too much, constantly streaming information to them and distracting from the real world. But these people say the glasses actually free people up from technology.
One person who had used the glasses said: "They let technology get out of your way. If I want to take a picture I don't have to reach into my pocket and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and that's it."
In other words, technology is something akin to violence: If it's not working for you, you're not using enough of it. Still, it's always possible Google's vision of techno-utopia can be tempered a bit, perhaps with some extreme privacy controls. The company is, as of an hour ago, soliciting feedback on its new devices here.