A case for Google Glass

Video from Google

Much of life is focused on images. We share photos and video with our friends on social networks. We print pictures on books and calendars to pass around the family at holiday gatherings, snapshots of our fathers at age 6 or 7 standing in front of a rocking horse. Our own memories work this way (or at least mine). I'll see a fleeting image of sitting in my grandma's kitchen at age 3 before I will ever remember what I said or did in the recollection.

These photographs are slices in time that may only be captured in a single moment. What if there had been no camera when Michael Jordan jumped from the free throw line, sticking his tongue out just before slamming the ball through the hoop? Suppose an Associated Press photographer wasn't present when the flag was raised at Iwo Jima? These images probably don't exist, or at the very least they are different from the iconic ones we've come to appreciate.

We've now reached an age where everyone has a camera. You don't have to be Joe Rosenthal (Iwo Jima) or Walter Iooss Jr. (Michael Jordan-The shot from the sideline is probably the basis for the Air Jordan logo created later on, but for my money, the photo from the baseline of Jordan facing the camera as he's about to dunk is better.) There's something democratizing about a world in which anyone can capture a moment.

It's against this backdrop that I begin to wonder why even the staunchest supporters of Google Glass wonder about its viability as a consumer product. Photographers are always saying the best camera is the one you have with you. This is why I would argue that we see just as many great pictures from point-and-shoot cameras as we do from expensive DSLRs.

Critics of Google Glass wonder why you wouldn't just use your phone or a Go Pro. Early Glass adopter and general gadget enthusiast Robert Scoble acknowledged privacy concerns last week in a Facebook post  stating that wearing Glass could feel "freaky."

Before I counter the first point of the above criticism, I feel the need to lay my cards on the table. I do own a camera (a 12 megapixel point-and-shoot; nothing fancy but it gets the job done). I can also take photos with my phone. The problem in my particular case is that they have to be attached to a mount that sits atop my chair. I very rarely use this because when I'm done taking photos, the mount must be unscrewed in order to move to a desk to work. I'm aware of this is not a problem most people deal with. I will admit to being a fan of any technology that makes my problems, however niche, easier to deal with.

However, imagine this scenario. Your child has just begun to take their first steps. Let's just say for the sake of argument that those first unsteady steps probably last for a maximum of about five seconds. How many of us could whip our phone out, start the camera app and hit record before the child stumbled and fell again? By contrast, we can say "take a picture" or "take a video" in a second. A wink (this also tells the device to take a picture) would take even less time.

I acknowledge obvious potential privacy issues. You have a camera on your face at all times. People feel like they can be constantly recorded and they are naturally somewhat leery. Privacy has been an issue since the invention of the Kodak camera.

I would argue that these issues are not rooted in any particular technology. New developments might bring these ethical dilemmas to the forefront, but ultimately these are problems we already have a code for. Among these basic principles of respect:

·         Don't record anyone without their permission (in several states, including Michigan, this is the law).

·         When out with someone, it's bad form to be constantly staring at a screen of any kind in the middle of a conversation.

I'm going to add a third point specifically for Glass. Become an ambassador. By this, I don't mean you have to extol the virtues of the product and encourage everyone to go run out and buy one. What you should do is take an active role in explaining how the technology works and why you are using it. In this way, you can make those around you feel more comfortable. I often do something similar with interview subjects in explaining why I record interviews on my computer.

I'm not saying Glass is a perfect product. I realize right now Google is pitching this as a beta for hardcore enthusiast developers, so $1,500 would probably not be a retail price tag. That being said, right now it's basically a camera with a few other functions. They need to upgrade the camera to at least 12 megapixels and come in at a price of not more than $500. I'm not telling Google anything it doesn't already know, but most people will probably have to add some sort of prescription so the cost of the frame cannot be too high. The battery life is also not great.

Glass has a few improvements to make before I think it can be a viable consumer product. Nevertheless, we should not dismiss such a technology because of concerns that can be handled with proper education and respect for boundaries.