If This Is What Using Google Glass Will Eventually Be Like, It's Going to Suck

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The dawn of Google-fueled augmented reality is nigh. A legion of fan boys now anxiously awaits each Glass announcement, and speculating about the tech and mocking its wearers are both already well-established pastimes.

A new bit of design fiction from Playground Labs feeds both fires. The group’s video, which imagines what using Google Glass 2.0 will be like, climbed the front page of Reddit today. It has been viewed some 90,000 times. In Playground’s own words, the aim of the video is to “think beyond version one. We wanted to visualize how heads up displays can affect our interactions with information, each other and the world.”

Here’s what they visualize, mostly: More and more efficient transactions. More personal getting up close and personal with products and price tags. More commodification of the user’s time, and a more intimate relationship with your now-omnipresent bank account.

That products like Glass may turn daily life into a neurotic consumerist hellscape isn’t a new concern—to this day, my favorite Glass-related design fiction is the ad-filled parody of the original teaser—but I was nonetheless struck by how obsessed the designers were with having Google keep tabs on what we’re buying and how much everything costs.

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In this future, augmented reality will tally your shopping lists, scan bar codes, price lattes, keep tabs of your video game scores, and tell you what time your advertisement-laden television show is coming on. It sounds exhausting and mind-numbing. Some of the ideas are neat—hands-free navigation for biking, in-depth instruction for musical instruments—but the majority of the “new interactions” are purely transactional. If this is indeed where Glass goes, it’s going to be even worse than the haters thought.

This should be our chief worry about Glass; those cheap shots at how it looks silly are just distracting from the actual concerns about the deployment of reality-altering tech. Augmented reality is an intriguing prospect, one that’s gaining traction with the public, and sure, there may be novel applications that make the world a more interesting and navigable place.

But we should be preparing to brace ourselves for that reality to eventually be infused with ads (Google’s thankfully keeping them out for now, but don’t expect that to last) and visual reccomendations mined from personal data collected from the things we look at all day. We should probably be questioning whether all that’s worth getting slightly more efficent directions. Do we actually want to see our bank account hovering in the corner of our periphery all day? Do we want everything we experience to be broken down, harvested by algorithms, and commoditized? How badly do we need to improve our ability to comparison shop? This isn’t just a phone in our pocket now—it’s our eyeballs.

Some, at least, may agree with the top-voted YouTube comment on PlayGroundLabs’ video: “I don’t want any of that shit.”


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