Project Glass: Exactly How Powerful is Eye Contact?

Stephen King, On Writing (2000):

Writing is not life, but i think that sometimes it can be a way back to life. That was something I found out in the summer of 1999, when a man driving a blue van almost killed me.

King’s prose recounting being hit by a car is one of the most difficult pieces of writing I’ve read. He is an expert of his craft, pulling the reader into his body, experiencing the fades in and out of consciousness, the collapsed lung, the aftermath. We are seeing and viewing the world through his eyes; it’s extremely painful and masterfully executed.

One of Google’s main selling points with Project Glass1 is the ability to share first-hand experiences and perspectives. At the I/O 2012 Conference, Google shared a first person perspective of a dentist’s office hoping for a visceral response, bonding the viewer to the picture-taker as well as Project Glass itself. Despite Project Glass being little more than a modified helmet cam, it’s being sold as an innovative way to share the world: allow friends to vicariously live through you.

Project Glass is attempting to use technology to bring Stephen King’s abilities to the general public. I may never write a passage as haunting as King’s accident, but maybe I’ll take a picture or video that elicits an emotional response matching that level of intensity2.

Industries are continually interrupted when the tools of the trade become readily accessible: the music industry with low priced computers, allowing easy recording and mixing; movie industry with the introduction of digital recording; the publishing world with the popularity of ebooks, the internet, and self publishing.

Google is marketing Project Glass as a device as influential as the above interruptions. According to Google, viewing a picture where a baby is making eye contact with the camera, rather than looking elsewhere, is a revolutionary difference, disrupting entire industries built on emotional response.

We’ll have to wait to see if Project Glass has the power to change the world. I don’t think it will happen in Glass’ first form, or the second or third (if the product makes it that far). Augmented reality has a long way to go, and there’s a good chance that Google’s glasses may someday appear in a bin next to Nintendo’s Virtual Boy.

I can’t, however, fault a company for reaching.

  1. I’m referring to its current tangible form, not the gimmicky video released a few months ago.
  2. Although, hopefully a lot less tragic.

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