Societal Issues with Glass and How to Avoid Them in Your Projects - Discover - Designing and Developing for Google Glass (2015)

Designing and Developing for Google Glass (2015)

Part I. Discover

Chapter 3. Societal Issues with Glass and How to Avoid Them in Your Projects

Glass makes for a fascinating case study in consumer psychology. In the spring of 2013, it seemed like everyone at some point had an opinion on the then-unreleased and uber-mysterious Google Glass—most loving it, many diametrically opposing it, others deathly afraid of it. One of the biggest challenges Glass faced was that everyone tried to figure it out, pigeonhole it, and create perceived stigmas around it—again, even before it came out. Even after the Explorer Edition was released, many people who hadn’t even tried it attempted to pass final judgment on what was essentially still a closed beta.

When word of the release of Google Glass starting getting more of a buzz with the mainstream press, several distinct issues surfaced and rapidly created mammoth global speculation and what renowned tech sector pundit and journalist Jeff Jarvis deemed unnecessary “technopanic” about health concerns, safety, privacy, and wearers’ appearance to others. Throughout its history, albeit brief, the window to innovate introduced by Glass is constantly being juxtaposed against the supposition of nefarious actions by some entity.

Because of the intent for Glass to be used by practically anyone, anywhere, and at any time, it’s been not only the talk of the programming community, but also a lightning rod for controversy based on assumed impacts and ill-informed perceptions dealing with everything from personal safety of the wearer and those around them to concerns about limitations on personal freedom; debates that have escalated from occasional online musings to arguments being brought to the highest levels of government. And whether as architects or as entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the growing intensity of the global craze for wearable electronics, a litany of issues await you that will have an impact on your Glassware, requiring that you shape its design in ways that avoid these pitfalls to ensure its success. While you’re completely able to go the indie route to build, distribute, and support your Glassware all on your own, most projects will want to be approved by Google and listed as official Glassware in the MyGlass directory. Our goal, again, is to help you craft great Glassware, and this means being listed in the official distribution channel and getting maximum exposure—so in this chapter we’re helping you get past the velvet rope and in the club.

Let’s run through some of the more prevalent and lingering societal concerns, their current state, and then present techniques for how to apply the Think for Glass philosophy so you can build services and applications that avoid falling into what could be a very uncomfortable trap. Tell a friend.

(In short, don’t build things that add fuel to the fire.)

Issue #1: Privacy

Early adopters, whether they like it or not, bear the initial burden of being asked probably several times a day, “Hey, is that Google Glass you’re wearing? Cool! I’ve heard a lot about it! That looks awesome! Waitaminnit…ARE YOU RECORDING ME?!? IS THIS GOING ONLINE?!?” Rooted in a natural paranoia about privacy, the first major wave of criticism about Glass dealt with the assumed capability of Glass to take pictures, and record and/or broadcast live video of people to a watching Internet without their knowing and against their will.

The question of whether Glass would include a tally light—an embedded LED that would sit next to the front-facing camera and illuminate to indicate that the user is actively recording/broadcasting—was brought up, which also led to discussion of the fact that the video image being captured is shown in the prism during recording, clearly visible to onlookers, acting as a de facto playback monitor for the user, hopefully a visual key for those within range. But for people concerned that they were being surveilled, even this wasn’t enough.

The concerns about the impacts of Glass on privacy went all the way to Congress, as representatives inquired about the potential for the platform to infringe on a user’s existence and possibly involuntarily reveal personal data about them. It was later speculated based on the vagueness of the privacy issues and with the limited official information about Glass that several places would be naturally hesitant (or it would be morally questionable) to let people use the potential recording device in their establishments. These include:

§ Banks and ATMs

§ Government buildings

§ Military installations

§ Going through customs at the airport

§ Casinos

§ Courts of law

§ Movie theaters, playhouses, and concert halls

§ Places with children or the elderly present

§ Public restrooms

§ Financial exchanges

§ Shareholder meetings

§ Clinics, hospitals, triage units, and other medical facilities

§ Confessional booths, temples, synagogues, or other places of worship

§ Certain types of retail establishments

§ Strip clubs

§ During job interviews

§ On first dates

Where Are We Now?

Overall, worries about privacy continue to be the most-discussed topic surrounding Glass. But this isn’t a new argument. This is the latest iteration of the longstanding “nothing is sacred” conspiracy theory that predates Glass by several decades. What’s important to understand is that Glass isn’t spyware. It is not a perpetual surveillance apparatus. Properly designed Glassware informs those nearby when it’s working. Nevertheless, its use—especially out in the open—calls for tact and courtesy.

While Glass does enable everyone using it to be an active documentarian of human experience, as did smartphones and tablets before it, there’s still some distrust over the fact that everyone is being watched. Just now, the implication isn’t that we’re all being watched by Big Brother—it’s that we’re all watching each other.

The concerns are valid in varying degrees and worth noting, but also keep in mind the history behind the general argument. The very same fear was vocalized when handheld camcorders were first showing up in the market and then again when cellular phones with embedded cameras and Internet access were widely available.

Those same people who fear how they’ll look with Glass in public are probably the same that pooh-poohed the notion of the idea of a device made specifically for electronic reading of publications, and the very same crowd that knocked the idea that people could interact with video games with body gestures. And the Kindle, Xbox, and Nintendo Wii have done just fine. And those people more than likely came around, too, once they saw how amazing they were.

And by extension, the onus of responsibility is on you as a Glassware developer to encourage people to use the platform the right way.

Think for Glass

It’s critical to adopt design and development patterns that don’t add to the paranoia. Chief among these for privacy concerns is to always use the Glass prism display as a preview monitor when the camera is in use by using a SurfaceView in a GDK app. This activates the projector unit and at least gives those around the wearer some basic indication that the device is in use and doing something. The Glass Platform Developer Policies specifically state that Glassware to be approved for official listing in MyGlass must meet the following guideline: “Don’t disable or turn off the display when using the camera. The display must become active when taking a picture and stay active during a video recording as part of your application.”

Several unapproved projects in order to save battery life over extended use like in timelapse photography applications allow Glass to capture images without the display being illuminated. In most cases you’ll want to avoid doing this, lest someone take legal action against you for allowing your users to record them against their knowledge—whether the wearer intended to, or not. Let your Glassware clearly indicate that it may be capturing the moment.

In terms of the societal impact of Glass, there will invariably be pushback based on naive distrust from nonusers that we’ll have to endure, but with enough work that will subside if we demonstrate proper and courteous use of the product in public, specifically with capturing photos and recording video.

Issue #2: Facial Recognition

Dovetailing off the previous concern, biometric systems that use facial recognition to identify a person on-the-fly and relay fragments of information about them have long been a dream for advanced computing applications, way before people flocked to theaters to ooh-and-ahh at the futurist predictions laid out in Minority Report or see the Terminator acquire a target. So as Glass caught on, more and more people and developers began thinking creatively about instances where being able to implement the technology to recognize someone in real time based on images captured of them could be applied.

Within Google’s own product line, facial recognition has been in use with great success. Using powerful machine learning algorithms, Google+ asserts tagging of images of users and other members in their circles with fairly consistent accuracy (with the occasional hilarious misclassification), and it also achieves impressive accuracy with Google Image search. Google Goggles has additionally achieved a strong reputation for strikingly accurate results for general object detection…but not for people. Still, the practice remains a touchy subject because of security and liability implications. This is the kind of thing politicians just love to legislate into oblivion before it ever sees the light of day, and it’s the kind of headline that can cause a stock price to nosedive.

As such, Google put an abrupt end to any speculation about it possibly supporting facial recognition on Glass at Google I/O 2013, when Google Glass project director Steve Lee stated that the company would not be implementing such features in its own Glassware or those programs developed by third parties until privacy concerns were effectively addressed. Nevertheless, outside of Google interest never waned. Two companies in particular, with its NameTag native Glassware app, and Lambda Labs with its Face API, came up with compelling propositions. NameTag maintains its own index of data curated from public web APIs and municipal resources to cross-reference scans of faces. Lambda Labs has been supporting its platform for some time, performing both facial and object recognition.

And in academic halls, researchers at Duke University announced their work on developing a system that sought to identify people in a crowd known by a user by analyzing submitted samples of what those friends usually wear and then using a spatiogram to classify patterns and textures of their outfits.

Where Are We Now?

At the federal level, no statutes are in place to regulate the electronic identification of people. And while not officially sanctioned by Google with its own firmware on Glass, there is a market for facial recognition. Those objecting to the concept of electronic identification have strongly voiced a two-pronged concern: that they’ll be scanned against their will, and that information they’d rather not have revealed would be put out there. Advocates of facial recognition technology see it as a means of streamlining activities like electronically exchanging business cards, or a utility for finding out about people they just met or providing advanced customer service or human resources actions through the personalization that ascertaining someone’s identity delivers.

NameTag indexes known systems like municipal criminal databases and the National Sex Offender Registry, along with data from public profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Profiles that aren’t public aren’t indexed—because they can’t be. The only exceptions are public figures like celebrities and government officials, along with criminals who by their actions have lost their rights to privacy.

The demand for facial recognition apps and interest in innovating within this space are clearly there, but the pushback is likewise substantial. Expect this to be an interesting venue for Glass with many use cases to be introduced—and challenged—every step of the way. Short of Google outright blocking apps from Glass or such applications being found to be illegal and those producing them prosecuted, the interest in creating services that solve complex problems, despite their controversy, will continue to flourish.

Think for Glass

Our friends in Mountain View aren’t blurring the lines at all on how they treat Glassware that employs facial recognition or voice print analysis: Google won’t approve such programs for official listing. The Developer Policies state, in part, “Don’t use the camera or microphone to cross-reference and immediately present personal information identifying anyone other than the user.”

But you don’t have to scan and identify humans to provide a valuable Glassware service that uses object recognition—there are Glassware projects that use object recognition in different ways, like Preview, which scans movie posters, identifies them, and launches the Glass media player to stream their trailers. Imagine further how helpful a system that identified breeds of dog, species of bird, or types of flower might be.

Elsewhere, offshoots of the idea of facial recognition are gaining momentum for Glass. Emotient, which bills itself as “facial expression,” seeks to let Glassware determine what a person is feeling when a Glass wearer is looking at them, introducing sentiment analysis to wearables. This could have huge implications for advertising, marketing focus groups, public speaking, and medical fields, among scores of other applications.

The worry against the technology is certainly justified, but Glass indirectly handles the problem of someone being scanned and identified involuntarily—the form factor could be seen as quality control. The camera requires a subject to be at near point-blank range and standing still for at least a few seconds to get a decent scan, so in nearly all cases to get the system to work the subject will probably be aware of and will have consented to the process. You won’t be able to identify someone standing in a crowd from 50 feet away and determine if their relationship status is “single and ready to mingle.”

To the concern about what becomes known about people who are scanned, Glassware tapping social data means systems are based on data where members explicitly published content available to the world and already being indexed by search engines and harvested by other APIs. This isn’t anything you can’t find out already. There isn’t the ability to scan someone and access their grades from school, Social Security numbers, or bank accounts—the entire experience of being online is essentially opt-in, based on a user’s membership to a social platform. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find someone’s home address, their shopping history, and blood type. Users are in control of what’s available about them.

See the case studies in Appendix A for the technical details if you’re interested in this space.

Being identified by strangers electronically tends to creep some folks out…but there are clever variations on the theme that you can investigate and safely implement.

Issue #3: Using Glass While Driving

As awareness of Glass spread, musings about safety at the public policy level bubbled up, with West Virginia legislator Gary G. Howell proposing a bill that would outlaw the use of Glass while driving due to concerns about distractions, in line with the Mountain State’s statute prohibiting drivers from texting while operating motor vehicles or driving without a hands-free device. (To his credit, Rep. Howell praised Glass overall, but was concerned about it taking away from a driver’s ability to concentrate on the road.) Similar legislation was also later proposed in Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, Wyoming, New Jersey, and New York.

Months later, the Glass community’s jaw collectively dropped after Explorer Cecilia Abadie was pulled over and ticketed for speeding by a California Highway Patrol trooper in San Diego, who gave her an additional citation for using Glass in a moving vehicle. (A section in the California Vehicle Code states that “a television or video screen” cannot be actively displaying material—with the exception of vehicle information content, reverse-gear cameras for backing up, navigation devices, and GPS-powered mapping tools.) A court commissioner ultimately dismissed the charges due to a lack of evidence indicating that Glass was ever in use at the time Abadie was driving.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Glass users are 100% in the clear for using the device while using a motor vehicle, in California or anywhere else, or that Glass would be applicable as a display device under the statute.

Where Are We Now?

While most people don’t critically need stock price updates, shipping confirmations for Amazon orders, and birthday reminders for those in their Google+ circles while they do 65 MPH down the interstate, there are still some very valid use cases where live data being pushed to a driver would be advantageous, like construction alerts, road closures, gas prices, and messages from fellow motorists about route conditions.

There’s certainly merit in encouraging the safe use of Glass and any other product, but calling for an all-inclusive prohibition on Glass in moving vehicles may be a bit extreme. Having helpful and relevant timeline cards appear in a driver’s periphery while users keep their eyes on the road is arguably less intrusive than, say, constantly glancing down at a speedometer, engine light, or car audio controls.

Government is also warming up to the concept of vehicle-to-vehicle communication in order to prevent accidents by rapidly transmitting data between each other. Might Glass become a node in this network?

Think for Glass

Clearly, you don’t want to endanger the lives of your users or those around them. Google’s FAQs for Glass stress the need to follow the law and pay attention to the road. As a matter of fact, Glassware projects have been launched based on the concept of actively incorporating Glass in the driving process to help people drive better and be more defensive out on the roads. DriveSafe helps keep driver attention sharp by using sensor data to get a feel if a vehicle operator might be falling asleep at the wheel. If so, turn-by-turn navigation kicks in and directs the wearer to the nearest rest stop.

There are many use cases where Glass in vehicles would be helpful, but you should always adopt patterns that keep drivers as focused on the road as they can be, and that means providing a hands-free experience. The default navigation does an effective job of staying out of the wearer’s way, even while providing them with turn-by-turn directions in real time.

But with the issue being distracted driving, eliminating it should be your objective. Use voice commands to launch Glassware with microinteractions all the way, using other custom vocal triggers to invoke actions (even if just detecting the presence of a certain sound to perform a certain action, as some Glass games do), keeping interaction and notifications to a minimum, and providing spoken text as output. Don’t require a driver to look at the display.

You also don’t want to create an app that’s either too noisy or too persistent. You might consider reading the accelerometer and only deliver cards to the user when the vehicle is at a complete stop, or provide an application setting that allows the wearer to mute notifications while in transit and turn them back on once they’ve arrived.

Again, there’s a lot of room for development here, but safety first.

Issue #4: Aesthetic Appeal—Is Glass Fashionable?

While more of a personal insecurity about being typecast in the face of one’s peers as a cyborg, dork, dweeb, nimrod, spazz, etc., there has been more than just a bit of pushback by the mainstream against the implied aesthetics of wearing Glass. Connectedness and having the ability to conveniently access real-time data and interact notwithstanding, people want to avoid looking awkward when out in public and when dealing with the unwashed masses. (Interestingly enough, the GoPro camera rigs that are so popular for shooting sports video in first-person view tend to be a lot more “camera crew-ish” when worn, but don’t face the same scathing criticism.)

Anticipating this hesitation, a deliberate design decision was made by Google to make Glass as visually appealing as possible and position the product as a fashion statement. To drive home this point, Glass has been worn at events by notable names in the fashion community, including designer Diane von Fürstenberg at New York Fashion Week, and modeled by attractive people in promotional photos that made their way around the Web. When Google unveiled the Titanium Collection of custom-built frames for people who wear prescription glasses, this gave Google a direct inroad for the device to be used by the rather large segment of the fashion-forward population who wear faux frames merely because they look good doing so.

The way Glass has also been marketed across different channels is likewise interesting. Whereas posts from the Glass team on Facebook and Google+ emphasized the device’s technical capabilities and applicability in a wide range of use cases, on Instagram Glass was almost exclusively exhibited and positioned largely as a tasteful, artsy fashion statement and content creation tool.

Whereas naysayers lashed out against Glass as dorkwear, Google played up its role as a must-have item of accoutrement for geek chic.


Oh, Peanut Gallery…

One of our favorite observations-qua-snipes about the design of Glass is from Fast Company’s Anne Cassidy, who suggested that Glass might have “All the sex appeal of orthodontic headgear.”

That’s funny. And we know funny.

Where Are We Now?

Fortunately, if you’re into Glass (and judging by the fact that you’re reading this book, you probably are), this isn’t a concern for you. You’ve likely already taken several shots of yourself and your friends wearing the HMD and set those as your avatars on social systems. Poring over which color your Glass frame would be was likely not an easy decision, picking between Shale, Cotton, Charcoal or Sky—because who in their right mind would be caught dead with that garish Tangerine on their noggin…right?

(RELAX, we’re kidding.)

At the end of the day, the dork factor implication is purely in the eye of the beholder. You love the platform, and that’s what counts most. Wear Glass with pride; heck, you paid for it. Rock your gear in public and show others what it can do for them, too. This is our way of life, and we stand together as a community, unashamed of who we are and what we enjoy. We wear our computers as badges of honor, and we’re better off because of it. It makes using applications more sticky.

When it comes down to it, can you think of anything cooler than being able to have the entire Internet on your face? We can’t.

Think for Glass

Art is subjective and fashion is ambiguous. People are going to have polarizing opinions on the visual appeal of Glass whether you like it or not, and you likely won’t be able to change their minds anyway. All you can do is be friendly, honest, and positive. It’s the usage of it that’ll likely be a make-or-break situation and determine how classy or trashy the product appears. As a superstar Glassware creator, don’t force a wearer to bark out awkward voice commands that might make them or people around them uncomfortable. “OK Glass…make my alimony payment,” or “OK Glass, order hemorrhoid ointment,” or “OK Glass, Yankees suck!” aren’t the best thing to say at full volume when at the bank, at school, in a religious ceremony, or standing out in the street in the Bronx. Excessively extreme head gestures for program control, being fixated on the display, fiddling with interactivity, or being forced to squeal like a stuck pig won’t lend well to someone using the Glassware in public.

This is proper usability planning that we fully detail in the Design section.

Issue #5: Augmented Reality

Is Glass true AR? This is actually a pretty easy one to answer: No. Yes, there are a lot of things that Glass borrows from augmented reality. And yes, in 2 or 5 or 10 years, the Glass that is available then may have more features that are based on AR. And sure, there are people who are working on applications for Glassware who are doing some nifty things with Glass that certainly augment the world around us. But is Glass itself AR? It seems pretty clear it isn’t.

Augmented reality seeks to add layers of information (or remove layers of obfuscation) about the world around us, in real time, in a way that keeps us engaged with that world.

In a way, this sounds a lot like what Glass is trying to do, doesn’t it?

Where Are We Now?

Underneath this issue, however, are two much better questions: why isn’t it, and what is it?

We can only speculate on why Google didn’t try to create an immersive augmented reality system that occupies your full vision. After all, many other companies are developing systems that do exactly this. One likely reason, however, is that the technology just isn’t there to do this sort of thing comfortably. Even with decades of work and research in this field, the human eye is still very sensitive to the environment—most schemes cause a great deal of eye strain and potential motion sickness when used for too long. Glass is intended to be something that is always with us, and it wouldn’t work too well if we could only stand to wear it for an hour at a time.

And that leads to what Glass actually is. It keeps the wearability and personal nature that AR systems are intended to bring, and it shares the desire to provide information when you want it, but it goes one step further by saying that it stays out of your way when you don’t. Using Glass is always done on your terms—you’re in the driver’s seat.

The design of Glass then takes these two aspects one step further—the design seeks a way to make it comfortable and mostly out of the way by not giving you a choice in the matter. Glass ends up being comfortable to use for just a few seconds at a time: microinteractions instead of deep immersions. This not only makes it easier on your eyes, but also encourages you to get back to the world around you.

But it does no more than encourage you. Already, we’re seeing people using Glass as a platform to experiment with AR systems. More power to these Explorers!

Think for Glass

AR is one of the most active topics of discussions in mobile development circles right now, so it was inevitable that Glass would somehow adopt it. It’s expected that Glass will be a leading contender as an AR client once the platform is in its commercial release. Google’s Field TripGlassware is a fine example of how to use AR while still being a microinteraction medium—notable places of interest only appear in users’ displays as static cards when they’re nearby, not as a constant video stream they have to pay attention to. And that’s the sort of experience you need to emulate, not something that requires constant attention and interaction.

The fundamental elements of most AR applications are the user’s location (where they are on Earth), bearing (the direction they’re facing), and a image surface (typically everything seen through the camera, upon which to display pertinent information). Field Trip works for Glass, although it might be considered a “diet” version of pure augmented reality as it produces static cards instead of graphics or text overlaid on whatever backdrop the wearer is looking at. It works for the paradigm.

While supporters and rejectors of augmented reality continue to squabble about how well suited a stage Glass is for AR long term, it undoubtedly will see a lot of traction in terms of Glassware efforts built for it—some bad, some good. If you’re interested, check out some of the samples byLayar, Blippar, or other frameworks for inspiration. Download their SDKs and see how you might blend their functionality with the mindset we’re giving you.

The commercial implications for targeted advertising and helpful contextual information are expected to see some interesting concepts, so you’ll want to get in early, take notes, tinker a bit, and stake your claim.

Issue #6: Glass Analytics

Developers naturally hope Glass will emerge as a profit center, which means extracting knowledge about how their applications are being used, and which areas are hit the most. There are a few pressing quantitative areas we anticipate architects and marketers asking for with measuring Glassware:

§ How many times Glassware-generated screens have been viewed

§ Number of users having installed and/or subscribed to Glassware

§ Crash reports and logs

§ The percentage of video clips that are streamed before the wearer dismisses them

§ Ability to see various forms of Glassware interaction (taps, swipes, choices selected) for specific screens and menus

§ Most applicable traditional mobile metrics, and any new ones relevant to track, given the uniqueness of the Glass UX

Where Are We Now?

Glass has the potential to redefine traditional metrics and perhaps introduce some exciting new ones. These may be slightly different than the analytics you’re used to seeing with tools like Google Analytics and comScore, but we should be able to gain insight into how wearers are making use of our services. One example of this kind of variation on a theme could be the bounce rate for Glass content—if you send bundles of cards to wearers or have long content paginated over several cards, how many of them do users swipe and/or tap through before exiting and moving on to something else? Could referrer logs indicate if Glass cards were generated from an associated web application (like Evernote), a Chrome extension, another Glassware, a separate device, or some other source? We also hope to see tools to assess campaign effectiveness based on information delivered via Glass.

But with the Mirror API being a server-side technology, all of the metrics we derive will stem from that side of the equation. Glass doesn’t let you inject JavaScript into cards (at least not for the moment), which means we can’t tap the rich well of client-side data that’s possible with Google Analytics like tracking exactly where the user tapped the trackpad and how fast they scroll. Third-party tools for analytics and crash reporting are allowed…and encouraged!

Still, we also fully expect to see some new and interesting things about measuring subscription pings. And we should still be able to get basic geographic/demographic reach data and peak-time usage reports like we always have for web apps.

Think for Glass

While at the time of this writing Google hasn’t announced a roadmap for how development teams will be able to monetize their Glassware and the displaying of any advertising is prohibited, the implication is that the Glass ecosystem will include a structure to have it be a viable mobile revenue stream for those who produce services and apps for it.

This ostensibly will involve heavy integration for Google Play Services for GDK installed apps and Google Analytics for cloud-based services written with the Mirror API, which means tying in usage data for measuring the aggregate activity your work gets and the size of your userbase. Read up on these systems, send Google your feedback, and keep an eye on the Glass developer docs as more is released.

Issue #7: Regulatory Environment—Glass and Public Policy

One of the things that stood out from Google I/O 2012 was how Sergey Brin, upon announcing the Glass Explorer program, said that the effort initially would be available only to software developers, more particularly those in the United States (Figure 3-1). “We’ve still got a lot of regulatory issues to iron out,” Google’s cofounder stated at the time. The company’s since applied for a number of patents for various technologies relative to wearable computing, and to the Google Glass initiative specifically.

As is the case with many of Google’s products on an international scale, clearly much work remains for the Glass team for getting the product ready for a global audience, specifically with getting it up to standard to work in many countries for wattage and wireless communication standards (in Europe the standard for the amount of radiation a communications device can emit is slightly higher than the standard allowed in the US). Getting consumer electronics and digital goods globally available is hard work. Google Voice isn’t available everywhere at the moment, and fluctuations in copyright law and licensing in addition to payment processing and shipping issues have long prevented music, videos, and the Nexus line of smart devices in Google Play from being completely available for purchase in all countries.

Glass isn’t available worldwide...yet

Figure 3-1. Glass was initially only available in the United States

External to Google, politicians in several states as well as across the pond in Britain proposed legislation banning the use of Glass while operating a moving vehicle, as noted earlier. At least five states determined that, in line with current policy, banning computers and recording devices within casinos and shows for fear of cheating at gambling or unauthorized recording, wearing Glass would be prohibited in such establishments.

Google itself has had to react to and modify its own policies—sometimes swiftly, sometimes clumsily—on what Glassware it will allow. The aforementioned decision to not ship Glass with facial recognition technology in lieu of appropriate privacy controls was a major step toward international compliance, arguably at the expense of the feature set. Google also announced a sweeping change to its stance on acceptable Glassware content following MiKandi’s launch of its Tits & Glass service that let users vote up/down and comment on adult images; Google modified its policies to ban any content having to do with pornographic content—being defined as “nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material.”

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has maintained that preemptive legislation is dangerous and that society will naturally adapt and embrace this and new technological concepts. But this remains to be seen.

Where Are We Now?

If politics and legal matters aren’t your thing and you just want to enjoy Glass, that’s totally understandable. Most geeks put a premium on innovation over legislation anyhow. Google’s been no stranger to fighting the battle of innovation-over-legislation, and as efforts by state regulators mounted, Google began lobbying officials to cease their work in proposing policies that would ban using Glass when operating a motor vehicle.

If it’s not ready for your region just yet, rest assured work is being done to get it to you and ensure you’ll be able to use it safely and legally. Glass perfectly demonstrates the value of network effects. It is imperative that to maximize the usefulness of the device that it be available to as many users as possible.

Making Glass available worldwide remains the ultimate goal, and that means working diligently to have it be a safe, compliant, and well-understood platform.

Think for Glass

Needless to say, you’re going to want to make sure that the Glassware you write is within the scope of the rules and regulations where you live and where people will use it, and as laid out by Google itself in the Glass Platform Developer Policies, which apply to both the Mirror API and the GDK. Make sure to thoroughly review the guidelines to ensure your Glassware is compliant. If you’re so inclined, you can take the reins get involved and educate your policymakers locally about what Glass really is and is not capable of, so they don’t craft ill-advised legislation that might hamper it…or outlaw its use, even partially.

You can also reach out to a Glass user group nearby to work together on the issue and communicate your feelings to public sector leaders with a unified voice. The last thing our community needs when addressing perceptions is a voice that’s not unified.

The Business of Producing Glassware

We’ve got little doubt that your developer mind is already thinking several steps ahead and wondering about three fundamental components of software distribution: what the strategy is for archival storage of your Glassware in a public centralized repository; discovery, so that all of the available Glassware can be categorized, indexed, searched, and perused like Google Play, Apple’s App Store, or the Amazon Appstore; and monetization—what methods you can employ to profit from the value you create.

Not everyone is going to want to make their services and apps available as freeware, and the more complex the Glassware, the deeper the integration with other platforms, the longer it takes to churn out, and the more effort it requires to support it, which means money. And those costs, which can be formidable for things like games and telephony apps, are going to have to be recouped somehow.

Some architects may be considering applying value propositions such as the freemium model, opting to meter usage of their services on users’ data transfer (like Evernote or Pandora) or the amount of data stored (like Dropbox). They might also be thinking about leveraging in-app advertising or in-app purchases, or use rate-limiting or metered API calls. Others will surely be looking to extend paywalls for existing platforms for membership access, or even possibly the a la carte method for pay-as-you-go use. These are big marketing decisions that can dramatically impact the success of your Glassware, and could determine if your work winds up being a cash cow or a money pit. They may also prove to be the difference between them possibly being yet another obscure needle in the mobile program haystack or attaining the rarified air of being the next Fart Sound Generator or Angry Birds franchise.

But rest assured that a very sound strategy for finding, accessing, sharing, and capitalizing on Glass development will be available to bring it all together and create not only great wearable software, but good business models.

What Glass Isn’t

One more thing we need to cover is that Thinking for Glass doesn’t mean swimming only in the optimistic end of the pool all the time. Sure, we wrote this book to help you keep a positive mental attitude about your investment in wearable technology and get maximum value out of it, but we’re also offering you an honest view of what Glass is—and that means recognizing the brutal truth of what the Glass ecosystem simply was not meant to do (at least, not yet). To try to force it to accomplish tasks for which it’s not intended is missing the point of why it was invented.

So to give you a proper well-rounded perspective, let’s consider the “glass is half-empty” approach. See what we did there? That isn’t to say that people aren’t pushing the boundaries of what is possible, but there needs to be a basis in reality. Pragmatism is a good thing. Still, it’s the nature of innovation to test limits—and forward-thinking programmers are doing so everyday. At the same time, you obviously don’t want to endanger your users, either directly or indirectly.

It’s important to realize that Glass isn’t meant to be a replacement for your other technology tools—desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet, television, or gaming console. It works wonderfully on its own as a content creation utility and communications platform, and is able to function perfectly alongside your current crop of consumer technology gadgets, tightly integrating so that you stay an active part of the connected community. If you want an analogy, you can compare Glass and your other computing devices the same way you’d compare a motorcycle and an automobile—there are some similarities between the two devices, but sometimes one is better suited than the other. (For the record, we think Glass is the motorcycle in that contrived example.)

The truth of the matter remains that while there are lots of things the Google Glass ecosystem—the hardware, the software, the application model, the administrative controls, the peripheral development potential—does very well, greater still is the volume of things it can’t pull off at the moment. But so as not to get your users, and by association yourself, into hot water, it’s best to implement best practices and patterns that sidestep the issues altogether. As you’ll see in this book, knowing what works and what’s still a touchy subject is a major part of designing great Glassware.

And the other big thing we’d like you to remind yourself of, the most significant “isn’t” of them all: Glass isn’t finished. Far from it. Not by a long shot. Remember, this is Google—the company that proudly touts its innovations being in perpetual beta. The possibilities for how the system can improve, expand, and extend are huge.

We’ve cited the Glass Platform Developer Policies on more than one occasion in this chapter, and it’s crucial that you review these terms thoroughly at the onset of your work. As someone coming up with ideas for Glassware, it’s critical that you have a solid understanding of what Google won’t approve. You could still distribute your service on your own as an unofficial service or app, but you won’t benefit from the support and marketing benefits that Glassware listed in MyGlass enjoy. You’ll also be operating outside of the communications pipeline for new additions and features, so you’ll be on your own to come current when things change and this might break compatability between your Glassware and the Glass firmware.

As early adopters and developers, it’s up to us—all of us together—to make sure the technology isn’t ill-fitted into situations it wasn’t intended for, and isn’t subjected to unfair comparisons. We want the technology to live up to its potential. Hopefully we’ve given you a mental springboard you can use to avoid getting into trouble and find help.