It’s not about the (Google) Glass

The glasses aren't the most interesting thing about Google's Glass project. It's the phrase "OK Glass"…

For a product that precious people have held in their hands – well, worn on their face – we’re hearing an awful lot about Google’s Glass product. The latest news on the wearable tech – connected glasses – is a new video, showing what life is like when seen through Glass.

I remain skeptical about how many people actually want their lives mediated through this constant visual annotation – but I’m beginning to suspect that’s not really what Glass is about at all. The wearable tech element is almost a distraction. This is about pervasive computing – about being able to access information and share it, without getting a device out of your pocket and tapping away on a screen. The thing that really leap out from the video is the use of “OK Glass” to trigger interaction with the device. It’s not a phrase you use much in everyday life – indeed it’s possible that exact phrase has never crossed my lips. It’s certainly much more distinctive than the “computer” use to activate voice commands to a computer in sci-fi like Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I’m not interested in putting on glasses again. I wore them for much of the first 20 years of my life, and I’ve enjoyed the 20 years with contact lenses in their stead. But I am interested – very interested – in computing devices that are always on, always listening out for a prompt or cue from me to act on something. I often use Siri on my iPad to quickly add something to our family shopping list – but that involves button presses. Heck, it involves finding the iPad.

Something that’s just listening out for my voice, and has access to a data pool in the cloud? That fundamentally changes my relationship with both computers and information.

We’re still a ways off being able to use Glass. The best you can hope for right now is to win a competition that gives you the right to pre-order one. But the combination of a voice interface, different modes of presenting information, and the predictive technology we’re seeing in Google Now? That’s the sort of access to my data I can’t wait to have.