Is There a Sci Fi Case for Google Glass?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Apr 28, 2013 in Tech |

X-Ray Gogs

There’s been quite a bit of geek controversy if Google Glass will be “the next big thing” or the next Apple Newton. The biggest advocate of Google Glass is Robert Scoble, but frankly I don’t trust Scoble because he’s like a fickle mistress always chasing the latest love interest. Once upon a time Scoble was swearing that Twitter would change the world, but now you can find him ensconced at Google+. So if I don’t trust the tech bloggers to get this right who do I trust? Science fiction of course!

The iPad in 2001a space odyssey

Here’s my case for science fiction: Years before any technology rolls out you really need to come across it in a science fiction film or television show. The mobile phone? Well that feels like a communicator from Star Trek! The iPad? Well you can see similar devices in 2001: A Space Odyssey and later in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Of course I’ll give you this additional caveat: It usually takes tech companies a generation or two to get it right.

The Picard iPad

So yes the Apple Newton was a failure, but it wasn’t: Without the Newton you couldn’t have had the Palm, and without the Palm you wouldn’t have had the iPhone. It’s the same thing with tablets: I don’t think that Apple would have gotten the iPad right if Microsoft didn’t get it wrong. So even if Google doesn’t doesn’t have a hit with Google Glass, you could see another company within five to ten years have a hit with the same technology in a more polished form.

Picard wearing Google Glass

So back to sci fi: I have to say that YES there is a science fiction case for Google Glass, bit it may not be a positive one. The first example that came to my mind was the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that feature Picard turned into a Borg! The technology affixed to Picard’s head is pretty much Google Glass — in fact it even “talks to the cloud” which is the Borg hive mind. Mind you that this is a negative technology, but that doesn’t mean that Google Glass is a negative technology – although it could be treated as such if people start wearing them into the bathroom, gym or dorm parties.

the Six Million Dollar Man

The next case I came up with was a more positive one: In the Six Million Dollar Man our hero has a bionic eye! But Steve Austin just uses his bionic eyes as a sort of telescope or pair of binoculars. And while this is a very cool use of technology it may be something that this generation of Google Glass can’t pull of yet.

Luke Skywalker using MB450 macrobinoculars.

A formation of tanks is viewed through macrobinoculars

Another technology similar to bionic eyes can be seen in the first Star Wars film: Macrobinoculars are a form of electrobinoculars which have night vision and some sort identification system which indicates software. Again my guess is that Google Glass can’t do night vision, although to be fair that might be best used as a military application. Although this is the sort of technology that could be useful to those with limited night vision.

La Forge is naturally blind so one of his trademarks in the series is wearing a VISOR

And that brings me to my next and best case for Google Glass: Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation wears a VISOR and in the later films these are upgraded to ocular prosthetic implants. So to me the best use of Google Glass might be for someone who is blind: Using the technology you could have a tech version of a seeing eye dog that could look out for traffic and tell you what if you’re looking at a a ten or hundred dollar bill. The only thing is that I don’t know if the Google technology will be fast enough and powerful to really do, but maybe it’s just a matter of time. If that’s the case Google Glass could be a game changer to those who can afford it.

Yipes! Superman is a smart as Spock and also has x-ray vision

My last dream quality for Google Glass would be Superman. Of course in addition to the ability to leap in a single bound (eat your heart out Steve Austin) Superman’s other skill set is his x-ray vision so he can see through walls. Sadly my guess is that Google Glass can’t do this, although maybe that’s a good thing since it would be very anti-social to say the least.

Star Trek food replicator

So looking at my science fiction crystal ball I can see that over time something like Google Glass can be a success — but as with all things tech it’s about the timing and real world application. For example I could see Google Glass being a standard feature in the windshield of every automobile that’s sold ten years from now, or something that’s built into a motorcycle helmet. It might also be the sort of technology that still needs to shrink and become invisible to become popular. It could even be a technology that isn’t worn by humans: Imagine if your refrigerator spotted you coming and struck up a conversation about “what’s for dinner tonight?”

Ecto Goggles

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