Billed as “one of the best inventions of the year” by Time magazine, Google Glass is one of the world’s most innovative and eagerly anticipated pieces of technology.
An attempt to free data from your desktop computers and portable devices and place it right in front of your eyes, Google Glass is camera, touchpad, display and microphone in one – all built into a pair of spectacle frames so you can see everything within your field of vision.
Currently on release to 2,000 people Google are calling Glass Explorers, Google Glass is expected to come onto the wider market later this year.
But, already, leading experts are warning the gizmo could prove dangerous to users.
Professors say Google’s revolutionary wearable computer could disrupt wearers’ cognitive capacity, meaning they could miss something which is “utterly obvious” while out and about.
In a piece written for the New York Times, Daniel J. Simons, who is a professor of psychology and advertising at the University of Illinois, and Christopher F. Chabris, a professor of psychology at Union College in New York, say like many consumers they would love to try Google Glass, describing the device as “intriguing and potentially revolutionary”.
But they add: “Glass may inadvertently disrupt a crucial cognitive capacity, with potentially dangerous consequence.”
They say they are worried that when the mind is engaged in Google Glass data, it could fail to alert users to something which would “otherwise be utterly obvious”.
“Google Glass may allow users to do amazing things,” they explain, “but it does not abolish the limits on the human ability to pay attention.”
The cite a study carried out where researchers using eye-tracking devices found that people often failed to notice something as obvious as a person in a gorilla suit.
Google, however, has already addressed concerns, saying safety issues were some of the reasons the new product had been developed.
Sergey Brin, one of the search engine giant’s founders said the aim was to make a device which freed both the hands and the eyes. “We questioned whether you should be walking around looking down at a smartphone,” he said.
Brin also says Google designers have recognised the possible distraction that could be caused with a sudden visual change. So, if a new text message arrives for example, Google Glass plays a sound that requires users to look up to activate the display, rather than flashing an alert into their visual field.
The new safety concerns come after fears about privacy. Some café owners in the US have banned the device from their premises. Dave Meinert, who runs Seattle’s 5 Point Café, asks those wearing Google Glass to remove the device before they come in. He has put a sign up which reads: “Respect our customers’ privacy as we’d expect them to respect yours.”
Simons and Chabris are now calling for more research to make sure any new technology being brought onto the market is safe. They say: “Only by understanding the science of attention and the limits of the human mind and brain can we design new interfaces that are both revolutionary and safe.”