A history of reality, featuring Google Glass.

This is an old article I wrote for an online magazine’s technology section. After I finished it, the editor of the publication decided that he no longer wanted a technology section as he felt like it was off brand. I don’t hate this, so I’ll post it up. Don’t worry, the next thing won’t be technology related!

Google Glass promo video.

It’s true: Wayfarers are officially obsolete.

The next big pair of glasses isn’t coming from a known design house, but instead from Google. The “Google Glass” are a super-futuristic strip that extends around your head in a surprisingly fashionable way. As you may have picked up though, the big ticket feature is not the style. The Glass is all about the technology within – a tiny screen and input devices are included. Want to carry out popular tasks such as making a film? Say: “OK glass, record a movie”. Want to meet up with your friends on a dead social network? Speak: “OK glass, begin a Google+ hangout with my Mum”. There’s no phone to find and no Siri to trigger. Just speak a command, and the results are literally shown in front of your face.

This is a concept that has been alive in the pages of sci-fi for years. Now, Google has the resources to bring such a device into the real world. Google’s latest Android software found on phones such as the Nexus 4 has a great tool called “Google Now”. The programme allows you to speak commands resulting in the phone carrying out the tasks, but it also pre-empts required data: use your Google Now equipped device to travel the same commute each day, and the phone will learn your route. In the morning it will serve up an estimated time of travel. Glass’s cornerstones lie in technology like this – features that can be found already. It’s a feasible conciliation of multiple ideas into one sleek, paradigm changing product. It’s even available today: select developers and “creative individuals” can get Glass. While it’s probably not as elegant as the indie music backed promos present, Google’s crazy invention works and real people are using it now.


A guide on how Glass works.

While I am absolutely dying to get my hands on a tangerine pair, we must actually think what Glass represents. It’s no small step, but indeed a giant leap furthering ourselves into a combined world with technology.

Since the mass adoption of the Internet, our existence has been divided up into to distinct segments: “reality” and “hyperreality”. Reality is meatspace; the physical world that we touch and breathe. Hyperreality refers to cyberspace; a world that we do not physically inhabit, but yet we still generate content for and spend much of our lives in. The modern day citizen will live in both and therefore has a presence in both. For a long time, these worlds seemed separate. However, recently, through Facebook, Foursquare and the iPhone these two places seem to touch and interconnect more than ever. Our real world lives our now dependant on virtual world lives – where would your social life be without Facebook?

Technology and culture website The Verge ran an amazing article not too long back about transhumanists. These are people that are fundamentally changing what it means to be human. The piece followed the writer’s journey deeper and deeper into the dark world of bio hacking, until the point of finding himself under-the-knife for the cause. Gruesomely filmed, the author gets a magnet implanted into his finger. With this “upgrade”, the man can sense magnetic fields by using his fingers to caress their shapes and chart their strength. He’s given himself a new ability – or more scarily what could be considered a sixth sense.

A documentary by The Verge on biohackers.

Smartphones have transformed our lives in the past five years. While The Verge’s story featured a new human ability that seems literal, the addition of magnetic sensing to the human feature set is really just providing another avenue for our brain to receive information. Using this logic, the iPhone adds features to humans too: perhaps some kind of sense to find the best restaurant to eat at that night using Urbanspoon or something. It is now a proven fact that search engines have changed human brain pattern activity – the Internet has changed humanity. Author of 512pixels.net marks the point that “The idea of having an ever-connected device seeing what you see is about as from-the-future as you can get, but I’m not sure I’d want Google being in between me and what I’m seeing. The beauty of the iPhone is that you can leave it in your pocket.”

He’s right. Current mass technology allows the Internet and traditional real world realm to be separate. You have to stop what you’re doing in one world to access the other. Glass though, with its always-there, always-ready, just-say-the-word attitude is something different. It allows cohabitation.

This leads us to the big question: if there’s a tiny Google filled square in our field of vision constantly, does that make the Internet truly part of meatspace? I think, and I’m sure many others would agree, the answer is a blurred but true “yes”. The Glass then is the ultimate fusion of data aggregation, algorithms and (strangely) life. Google has achieved something Doctor Who has tried to prove impossible: they’ve combined two realities.

Fundamentally, the magnet implant and Google Glass are achieving the same thing: the first steps of become less like animals, the opening chapters of cyborgism.


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