In this month’s MIT Technology Review, journalist Farhad Manjoo got a chance to talk with a technology lead for Google’s Project Glass, Thad Starner. An associate professor at the Georgia Institute for Technology, Mr. Starner has been experimenting with wearable technologies since the mid-90s, and was tapped by Google to advise them on issues surrounding Project Glass, the company’s attempt to commercialize computerized glasses.
Ever the skeptical journalist, Mr. Manjoo went into the meeting expecting to find the glasses polarizing and detrimental to social interaction. Also: dorky and vaguely creepy. Instead, Mr. Starner successfully convinced him that Google’s glasses will actually amplify social interaction, stripping it of those awkward phone-checking asides and lulls in conversation when we go to respond to a text. In short, Google glasses could be a socially awkward person’s best friend. Sign us up!
“One of the coolest things is that this makes me more socially graceful,” Mr. Starner told Mr. Manjoo.
Mr. Manjoo continued:
Starner argues that a heads-up display will actually tether you more firmly to real-life social interactions. He says the video’s augmented-reality visualizations—images that are tied to real-world sights, like direction bubbles that pop up on the sidewalk, showing you how to get to your friend’s house—are all meant to be relevant to what you’re doing at any given point and thus won’t seem like distracting interruptions.
Imagine being able to conjure up topics of conversation when you’re socially frozen at a party, or coming up with the answer to a question you didn’t know in the middle of an important interview. For the socially stunted among us, augmented reality glasses seem like a fresh new hope: Never again will we pause in the middle of conversation, awkwardly casting about for something to say.
That is, if Project Glass ever gets off the ground and into affordable territory. Mr. Starner said that the device he wore in the interview with Mr. Manjoo, which is not a Project Glass prototype and instead is his own design, costs $3,000. That’s more than a new Macbook Pro, though Mr. Starner did say that the device had replaced every gadget he owns except for his Android phone.
Then again, maybe it’s a good thing that Google glasses have yet to hit the market and be deemed in vogue. Can you imagine a bunch of people standing around in a bar watching YouTube videos on their own displays? Worst party ever.