A former Microsoft evangelist has been testing a product from Google that he believes is the most revolutionary device since Apple’s first iPhone.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I will never live a day of my life from now on without it,” says Robert Scoble. “It’s that significant.”
Scoble, known to his legions of tech followers as the Scobleizer, worked for Microsoft from 2003 until 2006.
Although his job was to promote the company’s products through videos, he often got into trouble for criticizing his own employer and praising competitors’ products.
Now he’s all in on a product created by Microsoft rival, Google.
Scoble has been playing with Google Glass. Google’s connected glasses look like an ordinary pair of glasses, except they overlay digital information in front of you.
The image displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format. It also responds to voice commands.
He’s so addicted to the $1,500 experimental technology he never takes the glasses off. He wears them into public restrooms and even in the shower. He reports, “Yes, they survive being wet. I had them full on soaked in my shower this morning.”
At a recent developers’ conference in Berlin he laughed – a unbridled geek chuckle that sounds a bit like a 13-year-old boy – as he talked about their uses.
“Don’t bring these into the bedroom. I’m sure they will be used for that. The porn industry is really going to love these,” he says. “Name any technology that the porn industry hasn’t adopted before other industries, right?”
There are serious applications for the technology.
“Training is going to be really cool,” he says, listing some examples of what he could do with Google Glass. “I can teach you how to cook a meal or do soldering because it’s first person. It’s what I’m looking at it and will feel very hands on.”
There are also serious concerns about the new technology.
Anyone wearing Google Glass can take pictures, video, and audio of whatever the wearer looks at.
Images can be grabbed anywhere, without anyone knowing it. You could argue people can do that now with smartphones, but it’s more obvious when someone is holding up a phone to shoot video or take pictures.
Parents would probably notice a stranger at a park taking photos of their children. Google Glass wearers in the park could be doing the same thing without drawing attention to themselves.
A Seattle bar has already banned the glasses, which aren’t available to the general public yet.
Their announcement in March was part publicity stunt and part concern about a future where anyone can secretly record another person.
The 5 Point Cafe posted this notice: If you’re one of the few who are planning on going out and spending your savings on Google Glasses – what will for sure be a new fad for the fanny-pack wearing never removing your bluetooth headset wearing crowd – plan on removing them before you enter The 5 Point. The 5 Point is a No Google Glass zone. Respect our customers’ privacy as we’d expect them to respect yours.
Scoble understands privacy fears, but he believes we’ll work through them because there’s no turning back. Wearable computers are the next big development in technology.
“If this conference was 100 years ago and we were talking about this new thing called the automobile would we have a session here about the deaths that would happen because of this thing? 33,000 plus people die a year in cars, yet we all drive because there’s a benefit to it,” he says.
He admits there are going to be “things that are nasty” about Google’s connected glasses.
“There are going to be people who misuse this. There are going to be governments that misuse it against their people,” Scoble says. “There are already problems in this world because of new technologies and social systems that we’ve built.”
It’s a risk most of us will take, he thinks, just like we take a risk driving to work or flying in an airplane because the benefit of getting a paycheck or going on vacation is worth it.
Google’s Glass networked spectacles won’t be available for consumers until 2014, according to the company chairman Eric Schmidt. The price hasn’t been set yet but they’re trying to keep it in line with what it would cost a smartphone.
Scoble says if it’s around $200 everyone will want to own them, based on his experience. Would you buy a pair of Google glasses? How would you use them?
He’ll even go one step further than most of us. Scoble can imagine a day when a similar device could be implanted in our bodies.
“I’m not quite ready to do that, but I could see why I would,” he says with another big laugh. “I could see why I would.”
By LINDA THOMAS