In this current wave of digital transformation and “smart” transformation, our most antiquated gadgets and items of old have attempted to stand the test of time by going digital.
Watches no longer just tell the time, they also display your text messages, Whatsapp chat, incoming calls, and much more.
Even wallets, which you’d think couldn’t possibly go “smart,” have made the transition, and are including things like tracker cards for instant location and RFID signal blocking to protect your credit cards.
Naturally, glasses have followed suit, most notably with the Google Glass, the first premier brand to hit the market. While that peripheral has had many bumpy years, never fully taking off into the mainstream due to things such as its pricy and bulkiness, that hasn’t stopped endless companies from pumping out their own take on the concept of smart glasses.
Companies have taken it upon themselves to innovate and specialize their offerings, appealing to certain niches. The Epson Moverio BT-300FPV smart glasses, for example, are compatible with drones and are made to provide a video feed of the drone’s camera in AR, putting you at the heart of the flight.
Others, such as the Vue smart glasses, are meant to replace regular optic glasses, virtually indistinguishable from regular glasses, with no buttons to give away their tech sophistication.
The Google Glass Enterprise Edition is more geared toward manual labor jobs, where you can interact with the glasses’ functionalities with a hands-off approach, simply controlled through your voice. These come in handy in manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare jobs.
Yet, as with any new technology, there are often a myriad of ethical dilemmas to consider.
The morality of the situation
In 2019, Gartner “forecast that worldwide shipments of wearable devices will reach 225 million in 2019, an increase of 25.8% from 2018.” According to the same report, in three years, Gartner predicts total shipments will more than double, growing from 140.82 million units to 453.19 million units. Wearables include smart watches, smart glasses and more.
With demand pushing up, and the impending mainstream integration, smart glasses are bound to bring them a whole slew of ethical dilemmas.
The ability to take videos and photos with almost complete anonymity and almost being unperceived by those around you brings up a major privacy concern. This breach of privacy is almost unprecedented, and there aren’t any clear cut ways to control this in any way at the moment.
While laws do exist regarding surveillance and privacy in countries like the US, laws governing devices such as smart glasses are still nearly nonexistent.
This, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the main cause behind the Google Glass being rejected by the mainstream.
“Where many people see Google Glass as a cautionary tale about tech adoption failure, I see a wild success,” Wired’s Rose Eveleth writes. “Not for Google of course, but for the rest of us. Google Glass is a story about human beings setting boundaries and pushing back against surveillance.”
Given the responses to Google Glass at the time, it’s safe to say Eveleth is not far from the truth. Even today, one of the greatest obstacles smart glasses face is this very same privacy concern among the public.
With no clear solution in sight, it’s uncertain how tech firms will push ahead with their smart glasses (it is inevitable after all), and how legislators will be able to regulate the usage of this highly invasive tech.