There are more than 300 million people in the United States alone and more than that number of mobile phones. Imagine if even one third of this group actively wore and used augmented reality glasses. That would mean 100 million always-on cameras and microphones wielded by adults, teenagers, and children continually feeding data to cloud-based processors. Virtually no aspect of day-to-day life will be exempt from the all seeing eye of ubiquitous and crowdsourced surveillance.
Businesses will be incentivized to collect, retain, and mine these data flows to support business objectives, such as targeted advertising, and governments will covet and seek access to this data for security and law enforcement aims. The implications of the privacy of the individual citizen and the chilling effect on society as a whole could be profound.
People have long been concerned about the danger of billboards when driving, because they take drivers’ eyes off the road. Text messaging while driving is widely illegal because of the distraction it causes. Now consider augmented reality glasses with pop-up messages that appear while a person drives, walks across a busy intersection, or performs some other activity requiring their full attention.
For anybody wearing the glasses, text messaging or advertising alerts and similar interruptions would be very distracting and dangerous. You’ve likely seen, on many occasions, drivers attempting to use their cell phones and their resultant erratic driving. Augmented reality devices encourage such “multitasking” behavior at inappropriate times. The results will not be pretty.
People today do stupid things (see the movie Jackass for textbook examples), and in the future, people will continue to do stupid things while wearing augmented reality glasses. One commenter on Google’s YouTube video, PriorityOfVengence1, suggested that someone might even commit suicide wearing Google Glasses.
The context of this comment refers to the end of the video when the main character is on a roof video chatting with his girlfriend and says “Wanna see something cool?” PriorityOfVengence1’s comment received over sixty thumbs up in just three days. While some might laugh at the comment, it highlights a disturbing potential reality. What if people spiraling into depression began streaming their suicide attempts by way of their glasses? It is certainly possible -- this and many other variations of augmented reality voyeurism should be anticipated.
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