Home' Technology Review : July August 2013 Contents 26
MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
Does the arrival of Glass make you feel
that everyone else can finally catch up to
your way of seeing the world?
Yes. Real smartphones didn’t really
come out until the mid-2000s. For
[wearable-computing advocates], the
smartphone was kind of a letdown,
because it’s something that takes your
attention off the real world. It’s some-
thing that’s very hard to use effectively
while walking down the street. It’s so
fast for me to get information in and
out [of the wearable computer] that it’s
much less socially obtrusive.
How is Glass less obtrusive than a smart-
phone? You’re wearing something on
For me to go back and look for a mes-
sage I sent you last takes me a few sec-
onds. It’s something I can do all the
time. It’s not something you can do all
the time with a smartphone.
There’s already been a backlash, in large
part because people can use Glass to
make hands-free videos of their sur-
roundings. Users are being called “Glass-
holes.” Does this surprise you?
I’ve been seen with interactive systems
since 1993. There’s nothing I’ve heard
[about Glass] that I haven’t heard
before. And most of the time people,
when they talk about these issues—they
haven’t actually used one. They’ve never
actually seen somebody use one. Can
bystanders notice you’re using it? As a
matter of fact, Glass does a very good
job of that. You can actually see what
the person is doing. You can actually see
there’s a camera on. Glass makes a hor-
rible, horrible spy device.
Still, a lot of people think it’s ridiculous.
So were most new devices when they
were introduced. So were cell phones,
right? So were eyeglasses. So were cars.
That’s lofty, isn’t it, to compare Glass to
things like the automobile?
I believe if we reduce the time between
intention and action, it causes a major
change in what you can do, period. When
you actually get it down to two seconds,
it’s a different way of thinking, and that’s
powerful. And so I believe, and this is
what a lot of people believe in academia
right now, that these on-body devices are
really the next revolution in computing.
If I want a wearable computer, couldn’t I
just get a wristwatch device like Pebble?
They don’t quite have the functional-
ity. How do you take the picture of your
baby’s first steps with a wristwatch?
You can take out your phone. Isn’t it okay
to get a photo of the third step?
It takes 20 seconds to get that picture.
Then it’s already happened, it’s already
passed. The same thing with a wrist-
watch. You don’t really have a good way
of taking a good picture with a wrist-
watch from a first-person perspective.
I think the heads-up display is a better
interface for most things you want to do.
How will Glass change the way we inter-
act with each other?
Well, now you’ ll actually be able to cap-
ture your baby’s first steps.
But in terms of having a conversation
with your wife or your kids, you don’t
think people will find it distracting?
If I walk by my students at Georgia Tech
and you ask them, “Was he wearing it or
not?” they can’t tell you. It’s just so a part
of me, they don’t even notice it anymore.
What other applications would you like to
see Glass have in the future?
I’ll tell you one thing I found compel-
ling early on—this is something from
1993, called the Remembrance Agent.
Imagine that as you’re, say, writing up
this article, as you’re typing along, it
pulls up articles from your past, or notes
from your past, that might be relevant
to what you’re currently typing. Having
something that’s continually watching
what you’re typing that will help pull up
your past memories is really surprisingly
There’s a lot of ways to improve it. A
lot of it is going to be in how people use
it, how people integrate it into their life-
styles. People always talk about the killer
app, but this is more a killer lifestyle. It’s
a killer existence.
Few gadgets have generated as much excitement and hostility as Google
Glass, a voice-activated computer-monitor combo worn on eyeglass
frames. Now being tested by early adopters, Glass is an ambitious
attempt to advance “wearable computing.” It’s also a milestone for Thad
Starner, a Georgia Tech professor who has been building and wearing
head-mounted computers since 1993. A decade ago, he showed Google
founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin a clunky version of such a device; in
2010 they hired Starner to be a technical lead for Project Glass. Starner
told IT editor Rachel Metz why he thinks people will soon crave the
ultrafast communication that the device makes possible.
Portrait by Audra Melton
5/30/13 1:36 PM
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