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back to article Canadian cyborg says Google Glass design is cracked

Wearable computing pioneer and self-proclaimed "cyborg" Steve Mann says it's fine that Google is popularizing wearable technology with its Project Glass, but he's concerned that the online giant may be making serious mistakes with its design. "I have mixed feelings about the latest developments," Mann writes in the March issue …

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Anonymous Coward

Hopefully the unit won't be too wrapped up in patents so that a competing design that improves upon any failings can be made. Sadly I have my doubts though.

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B-D

Google Glass (Sergey Brin) - 2012

EyeTap (Steve Mann) - 1999

The Jerk (Steve Martin) - 1979

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Anonymous Coward

Projecting a display is old hat, the original HUD in aircraft, smart helmets for fighter pilots, even some cars have displays on the windscreen.

However it would be long before legislation bans them for use in cars, working with machinery etc. they will become a distraction and could lead to accidents.

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Stop

"Projecting a display is old hat, the original HUD in aircraft, smart helmets for fighter pilots, even some cars have displays on the windscreen."

That's a drastic over-simplification. A bit like saying "space travel is old hat, because we've been making biplanes for twenty years now".

There's a big difference between being able to parse an image two feet from your eye or a few lines overlaying normal vision and having full colour video less than an inch from your eyeball.

"However it would be long before legislation bans them for use in cars, working with machinery etc. they will become a distraction and could lead to accidents."

Erm... It's already be illegal to have images projected into the area of the windscreen where it is illegal to have anything blocking vision. It's also already illegal to have a TV screen for the driver to look at. And it's already illegal to drive without care and attention (by being distracted)). No new legislation required.

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"computer-mediated reality"

That just covers way too wide a spectrum. In fact it easily covers everything from absurd hilarity, to tragic misunderstanding. An example of the latter would be proponents of marketing data. In any case, I can't help but think that so much of the natural world would be missed, that it would be a situation of one step forward and two steps back.

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FAIL

The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

they are practical, don't have to be screwed to your head and don't make the wearer look strange.

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Coat

Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

Oh, I don't know. Wearing glasses frames with no lenses and a tiny brick on one side looks a bit strange to me. As to practicality, and it pains me to say this, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, with the polarized shades in the pocket, thanks.

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Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

Oh, Google's still make the wearer look strange. If you don't think that, I guess you're a candidate for wearing one of those idiotic things.

The reason that Steve Mann looks an order of magnitude dorkier than the Google guy is more the unnatural forced smile of someone who never smiles, the yellow teeth and unshaven face, the balding head and the apparent lack of a shirt when the picture was taken. If he thinks Google is damaging the wearable computing "movement", then he needs to take a look at himself in the mirror first for his suitability as its poster child!

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MrT
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Going shirt-free...

... does suggest he's telecommuting.

What you don't see is he's also modelling an early version of Google apparel; Google Pants - they might have a full waistband but the rest only covers the right backside cheek...

Try and unthink that image.

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Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

I worry about the social aspect of "Peeping Tom " aspect of Google Glass and other devices. It would be interesting to see the female point of view of guys wearing these devices. I did some work years ago with wearable cameras (Microsoft's SenseCam), but we always used good manners,switched off if required, and did NOT record audio as intrusive. Re Glass - Is the wearer engaged in a conversation with you or online? I did have a few hours conversation with a guy with head mounted recording specs and found it very uncomfortable. The social aspects of people wearing Bluetooth headsets and talking to themselves (or not) have been covered and parodied. A less attention seeking alternative is a glanceable display mounted around the neck, facing vertically, like a nurse's fob watches? I am testing one now.

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Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

Mmm... Maybe the difference is that one is about someone doing generic practical research for something that will actually work and be useful for a whole range of things all sorts of people may want to do; while the other is interested in making money. Or, maybe that's just too simple and cynical an interpretation.

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Meh

Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

Attacking the Steve Mann's image is shallow; granted, his image has some poor esthetics; however he does make very valid points, especially about how nasty it is to make optical systems work well with Human eyes, and both images look like prototypes, including Googles! I wear Ti glasses to correct eye defects, including Astigmatism, so can literally see serious problems with both examples!

Anyhow ...., a lot more work will be required on eye mounted displays and cameras, for technology, ergonomics, and esthetic appearance, before they become practical.

I doubt side image projection will be usable unless the screen is at a fixed angle and position to the eye(s); this requires a fixed screen, the offset one Google Glasses have will be tiring and jarring to use, and a fixed orientation screen and camera will be jarring due to varying eye orientation, and made worse by body movement. It will be nonsense to have to move your head rather than move your eyes to change camera orientation (even tablets are more usable than this), and mono vision seems dubious for eye displays.

Possible ideas:

* Use a full glasses design (possibly in Sun Glasses format), with a moveable camera hidden in each used lens or a central pod, a thin, high resolution, and directional light emitting screen layer in each used lens, and pupil tracking to move camera orientation, and to display images appropriately.

* Use prescription, contact lens with embedded light emitting screens and possibly cameras, with safe wireless power and data transfer from (and maybe to) frames close to the lenses; this removes the need to adjust the image for pupil orientation, unless for orientation based image enhancements.

Any camera should preferable be hidden and have maybe have a visual indication it is enabled/disabled, otherwise it will encourage violence like Steve Mann experienced.

I think Google have really underestimated how difficult usable glasses displays will be, especially with cameras, and would be wise to at least discuss this with Steve Mann, rather than just ignore him, because it may speed up their work.

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Trollface

Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

Mann may look dorkier, but the Google guy looks like he downloaded his face from a clip-photo site.

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Meh

@DougS: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

not to do with the guys face, shaven or not, dressed or not. You seem to be ignoring the point of the pictures - the optics.

Look at the position of the U of T glasses is in front of the eye, which I saw at a Toronto demonstration. There position over the eye requires additional head movement to compensate for this. Other electronic optics don't suffer from this impediment.

The Google Glasses, I understand, project the image on to the eye - far more practical as there is no contact. If having a single lens on your face causes you so much angst, simply add a neutral lens to the other side.

I trialled some optical display glasses a couple of years ago and the over-sized temples (the parts that go over your ears) were so unwieldy that almost every tester found them uncomfortable due to the size. Google appears to have reduced the electronics considerably.

Likely you are upset that Cupertino isn't matching MS, Google, Oakley, etc. but no doubt they will become adaptable to your electronics.

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Re: @DougS: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

How can Apple "match" something which isn't a product yet from anyone? Personally I find all glasses uncomfortable to wear for long, no matter how light, so there's no way I'd be a customer for this no matter who makes it unless it provides capabilities so revolutionary I'd be willing to endure constant discomfort in exchange. So far nothing I've heard discussed as its use cases sounds likely to change my mind, though I'm sure whenever there's a real product that isn't just for uber geeks like the Google Glasses will be for the first couple generations I'll give it a try for a few minutes and see what it's like.

Given the surge in distracted driving accidents caused by people on cell phones while driving, I hate to imagine exactly how much carnage would be caused by drivers wearing something that could let them read their email in one eye while "driving" with the other. Sure, we'll make laws against wearing this while driving, and I'm sure they'll be every bit as effective as the laws against texting while driving. As far as I can tell, the main thing that changed since that law went into effect where I live is that people now hold their phone down low where the cops can't see it instead of in front of them, which surely makes things worse.

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Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

@m a d r a

Seems to be wearing lip-gloss too! Doesn't suit him.

Phil.

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Devil

Re: The difference between Steve Mann's glasses and Googles version is ...

"Any camera should preferable be hidden and have maybe have a visual indication it is enabled/disabled, otherwise it will encourage violence like Steve Mann experienced"

"Hey, that guy looks creepy" or "I wonder if that guy is recording me" are NOT an excuse for violence.

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Anonymous Coward

Each eye to focus on a different plane?

"Glass and similar designs use fixed-focus lenses to make the display seem further away than it is. But that forces each eye to focus on a different plane, which Mann says can cause severe eyestrain"

Isn't that what you do when using bifocal lenses?

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MrT
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Both eyes...

...together in bifocal or varifocal. In Google Glass it's just one eye that experiences the projected image so that's where the strain comes in. Eyes can adjust to most things but they normally see the same sort of image at the same time.

Having a skilled professionals optometrist sort out the difference between contact lenses and specs means the user will experience less disruption switching between them, but I doubt many GG users will have them prescribed and fitted by an optician.

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Facepalm

Re: Each eye to focus on a different plane?

Nope, bifocals have the bottom quarter of the normal distance lens cut for reading in both lenses.

You look through the top 3/4s of the lens for normal viewing and then look down a bit for your magnified reading part.

It isn't a case of the lens lens being set for distance and the right for viewing, that would really mess things up, you'd end up looking like Major Asshole from Mel Brooks' SPACEBALLS.

As for whomever decided to downvote my previous post, I was of course referring to the issue of a good idea causing problems, a la Opti-Grab...

D'oh! icon 'cos he looks like he's suffering from eye strain.

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Re: Each eye to focus on a different plane?

It isn't a case of the lens lens being set for distance and the right for viewing, that would really mess things up ...

Apparently not. A friend who has had laser eye surgery tells me that he now has one eye adjusted for middle-distance vision and the other for reading, and that (apart from some loss of depth perception) the combination adequately covers all situations.

I also know someone whose contact lens prescription works in the same way. No evidence of things being really messed up at all.

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Re: Each eye to focus on a different plane?

The eye strain comes from MISMATCHED focus. It's easy enough to duplicate by holding something in front of only one eye (about 10cm away). It soon becomes disorienting because your eyes aren't in sync.

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Happy

Re: Each eye to focus on a different plane?

A few years ago I was forced to wear only one contact for about three weeks. It took about a week to adjust. What I did discover is that while it is doable and the headaches go away after a while, neither eye is able to focus as sharply as they can if completely corrected or uncorrected. Something in your brain sort of averages it out but like most averages, it is noticeably suboptimal.

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Re: Each eye to focus on a different plane?

"neither eye is able to focus as sharply as they can if completely corrected or uncorrected. "

...Which is kinda why we have binocular vision, ultimately.

Personally, I'm not really seeing a massive disadvantage in life of having to get one's phone out in order to look at the Internet, or even augmented reality. I'm all ears, but I've yet to hear a really good reason for recreational or casual use of these things.

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Anonymous Coward

That must smart...

To have spent so many years working on the subject in academia, and get completely ignored by the industry.

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Coat

Re: That must smart...

Most likely they have tried as much as possible to make it different enough that their patent claims don't get thrown out for prior art. Not everyone has Apple's startegy of wiating for prior art then lodging a patent anyway.

Mine's the one without an iPhone in the pocket.

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Or, maybe ...

""Perhaps it's because no one else working on this sort of thing has spent years walking around with one eye that's a camera. Or maybe this is just another example of not-invented-here syndrome.""

... just maybe, the gookid in charge of the project never even knew Mann existed. The gootards aren't exactly all that brilliant when it comes to the real world, and that other actual humans exist. The concept that anybody outside the googleplex can have "new, modern" ideas is completely foreign to them. They literally think they are all that, and then some. Worse than facebook, even. Poor little rich kids. I feel sorry for them.

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Re: Or, maybe ...

Living here in Silicon Valley and interacting quite frequently with Googlers, I would say that this is spot on. It's like they don't even bother using their own search software to see if anyone else has already BTDT...

Google is a cult, at least for the people working there, quite a few of whom will (inadvertently?) refer to it as 'home'...

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Re: Or, maybe ...

"Google is a cult, at least for the people working there"

Forget about the acolytes ... what about the id10t's who worship it from afar? The entire concept is so very, very wrong ... Not just on the surface, but all the way to the core.

I shun them. And I recommend everybody else does, too. I don't need or want yet another Jewish/Christian/Catholic/Islam/Mormon/Scientology/Apple cult cocking up people's lives for generations to come. And, I suspect, neither does anyone capable of thinking for themselves.

Oh. That's what my problem is. Critical thinking. My bad.

Carry on, sheeple.

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Holmes

Re: Or, maybe ...

So you're condemning people for being in 'separative' movements and cliquey organisations which make them feel special, and then you put yourself in one by calling everyone not in 'your' group 'sheeple'?

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@Psyx (was: Re: Or, maybe ...)

I don't have a "group" (outside friends & family). I march to the beat of my own drummer. I'm not special, I'm simply a self-aware human who sees no need to look to any other human for advice on living my life ... although, I'll admit the Wife has been known to rebuke me when it comes to the care & feeding of her side of the family ;-)

YMMV. If it works for you, enjoy your bliss.

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Paris Hilton

Why would I want to wear glasses...

Just to watch adverts?

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Terminator

'optical tricks allow the wearer to view the display while focusing at any distance"

Is this possible?

I think these glasses will only work when the image (of whatever) just floats above whatever object I'm looking at, at whatever distance.

This would seem like a big ask optically.

I also do wonder what information I'd actually want displayed? Perhaps an audio version would be more useful? It would certainly by infinitely simpler to implement.

As for Steve Mann, I sure hope he's patented all the good stuff!

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Meh

Migraines ahoy!

Just saying.

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Seeing as my eyesight is so buggered that laser correction would still leave me wearing reading glasses and for driving - I don't expect to be an early adopter.

(very short sighted in one eye --- long sighted in the other -- laser surgery consultant didn't even try to go for a sale and agreed it wasn't worth it)

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Just for the record. Did they say you were unsuitable because of the mismatched eyes or because your one eye was too myopic (I've read laser correction is not suitable for extreme myopia or for those whose corneas are too thin)?

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JDX
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Dear Google

Please hire me and pay me $millions.

Love,

Steve Mann

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Looks like

Google Glass comes with a free facial airbrushing feature.

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Angel

Re: Looks like@TheOther Hobbes

"Google Glass comes with a free facial airbrushing feature."

Egad, sir! You're onto something with that. Extend the glasses to a full face transparent AMOLED visor, which works out the viewers angle, and gives you any face you choose. Obviously George Clooney loses something if he's wearing a full face proectrive visor, but even so all the tech is out there now, just not joined together. More importantly in two year's time maybe we'll have a paintable AMOLED material that can be applied directly onto skin. Google Glass will by then be Google Contact Lens, and you can then be George Clooney or the Elephant Man merely by thinking it, with no visor at all.

Think of the possibilities! Conjure up in your mind the image of a baboon's back end, project that as your face, and you have a new and amusing means of insulting other road users whilst driving. Put on a rotting zombie face for doorstep sellers. Or Medusa for electoral canvassers and other political types. Face advertising, face signalling, the first truly blank face....

I bet you can't wait for the future now.

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FAIL

Like he's the only expert

He should have more respect for this Thad Starner guy leading the project at Google, with reasonable credentials of his own…

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Anonymous Coward

Goodbye to any privacy, these are the voyeurs and kiddy fiddlers dream. Glasses with video recording built in.

As soon as they add an x-ray feature the pervos will be queuing around the block to buy them.

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Childcatcher

Och Aye, Officer ...

There was a recent case of an Aberdeen man who was put on a sex offenders list for taking photos of women walking past his flat. (Admittedly he took 70000 photos, and they were for his sexual gratification ... )

The interesting part is, in court the man admitted breach of the peace by taking the shots without the subjects' permission. If that is the case, simply looking out your window while wearing Google Glass would be an offence in Aberdeen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Och Aye, Officer ...

If true....

If he was inside his flat or on private land, and did no physical harm to the women, breach of the peace was nonsense, and this was probably an abuse of common law, made far worse by putting him on the sex offenders list, which is part of statutory (political) instrument (not common law).

The man was probably given poor law advice, the fool should have challenged the lawfulness of his arrest, and turned the accusation back on the obviously abusive 'precious' women.

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Thumb Up

Re: Och Aye, Officer ...

> If true....

Seems to be.

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Thumb Down

Re: Och Aye, Officer ...

Surprisingly, this case does appear to fall well within the standards for breach of the peace prosecution. I suspect this will doom Google Glasses usage in the UK as effectively as the Road Traffic law has buggered Segway.

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Stop

"these are the voyeurs and kiddy fiddlers dream."

Seriously?

How, exactly?

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Terminator

Couple of thoughts, make that three.

It's too early, they look stupid because we don't yet have the tech to completly hide all the gubbins, 5-10 years later this could have been launched without people objecting to them simply because of the design.

It's Google, they would give these away for free if they could because ultimately every wearer of these things becomes another pair of eyes and ears pouring data into the mainframe. Google isn't evil, they're just obsessed with quantifying reality, they're not going to feel they're finished* until they're inside your head, recording your thoughts while looking out of the holes.

Would we trust anyone with a real time feed of our lives? I say no, that this tech isn't going to go mainstream until they have a secure connection to a back end on our own 'server' and all the data requests from the server run through some sort of onion network to maintain privacy.

* Machines don't actually have feelings, the tasks state will be recorded as 'complete' when a complex series of cascading boolean statements all return true.

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Happy

I'm not sure about the eyestrain. You see, it is perfectly doable to focus the glass input on the infinite. The HUDs on figthers do just the same: they display the info projected on the windshield - but.focus it on the infinite. This way the pilot can read it without losing sight of the combat.

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