Google glass and the challenge of Social design

"I think the emphasis of this conversation is wrong," said Bezos. "You have a product so revolutionary, you'll have no problem selling it. The question is, are people going to be allowed to use it?"

Gist: Is Google Glass the new Segway? Is it going through the same hype cycle that Segway went through, and will it end up the same way? Some thoughts on why this is an interesting design challenge.

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This Harvard Arcticle is an worthwhile read on a meeting that transpired between Dean Kamen & the Segway Team with Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and John Doerr, prior to Segway launch.

When a technology is tries to change our most primitive and visceral experience such as motion or vision, the challenges and the questions that are raised appear to have a very similar pattern. Here is how I see them (no pun intended)

1. Give me a sign...Design for social acceptance, support with awareness and policy changes

Remember the initial uprising against Segways. Even as late as 2011, Segways were banned in a lot of places. Glasses face a similar yet different challenge from an explicit opt-in / opt-out perspective.

The CCTV mounted by the entrance of a big box retailer is an explicit notification that you are on camera, if you disagree then don't enter. Similarly, when someone points a camera or a Phone's camera towards you, chances are that you may notice it and object / agree to being photographed.

Unfortunately, the current glass design makes it almost impossible for the subject to have an explicit knowledge of being photographed, which in turn takes away our ability to opt-in / out.

Is this guy taking a photograph right now?

Is this guy taking a photograph right now?

Unless there is clear policy on these, and the masses are aware of it, the early adapter is left to fend by themselves on the legal front, and with the irate public.

On the design front, offering a clear and difficult to hack notification mechanism such as a Flash or another indicator of a photo-in-progress is part of a mainstream version, the mainstream resistance will continue.

A crude example of this can be something like this where every time a photo is taken, the glass glows up. Combine this with awareness, and there is a reasonable chance that glass gets more acceptance than a Segway.

In the next post, we will take a review of other social design areas. Stay tuned.