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Google Glasses: Augmented Reality or Dystopian Horror?

Google is expected to start selling glasses by the end of the year. No, they are not foraying into optometry, but rather finding a new way to stream the contents of your smartphone straight at your eyeballs.  The glasses, which reportedly resemble a pair of Oakley Thumps, will run on Android and be equipped with 3G, 4G, GPS and a low-resolution camera. Other Google technologies like Google Latitudes and Maps could superimpose information to augment your reality—say, tell you what’s nearby, or what your friends think of that restaurant.

The glasses, which are expected to cost around the price of a smartphone ($250-600), would have a small screen a few inches from the wearer’s eye. Seth Weintraub at 9 to 5 Google reports that head tilting would be used to navigate the device, which will be easy to learn, becoming “second nature and almost indistinguishable to outside users.” But one man’s augmented reality could be another’s dystopian horror. The New York TimesNick Bilton thought perhaps the future bodes “throngs of people in thick-framed sunglasses lurching down the streets, cocking and twisting their heads like extras in a zombie movie.”

The glasses are being built at Google’s top-secret lab—Google X. The New York Times reports that the team has been discussing potential privacy issues, like alerting passersby if they are being recorded by the embedded camera. But the potential ethical grey area extends beyond that since a new medium for information means a new avenue for advertising. William Brinkman, computer science professor at Miami University, told The Times that companies could possibly place ads over other ads. “I’m really interested in seeing how the government can successfully regulate augmented reality in this sense. They are not really going to know what people are seeing behind those glasses.”

The glasses could supply ease with navigating the virtual and physical world. Perhaps one day you could take a picture and tweet it without so much as reaching into your pocket, or even live stream an event simply by looking at it. It certainly could supplement your social world, especially with location-based services that could tell you to grab coffee with a certain friend if he or she is nearby, complete with café recommendations. Is that a fair trade for potentially looking like an extra in a zombie movie or getting ads superimposed on reality?

Would you wear Google glasses?

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