2013-07-09

Co.Labs

The Most Dangerous Google Glass Apps (So Far)

Google Glass has the world a-twitter with the announcement of every new feature, but there’s a darker side to the practical application of a tool so dedicated to streamlining life.



Google Glass has already experienced its first foray into voyeuristic YouTube-bait with its basic native features--namely, the camera. But a slew of apps could turn the wunderdevice into a futuristic interface for just about anything. Are we the only ones who think this might be a bad idea? Applications like auto-surveillance or voice activation raises a few questions about their practical application. As Nilay Patel over at the Verge rightly said in this piece, "It just doesn’t add value to your everyday life.” But could it add a little danger?

Take GlassTesla, the free app released last week to ease the rough edges of electric car ownership. Users can monitor their Tesla’s location, check the car’s remaining charge and range, and remotely queue up the AC to pre-cool while it’s still charging in the garage. GlassTesla’s designer, 24-year-old Sahas Katta, is ominously dreaming of the day when the app lets users drive their Teslas by voice command--a script for vehicular-manslaughter-by-app-hijacking if I ever saw one. But more nefarious is the Midnight Honker, the Range/Remaining Battery Misleader, or the dreaded Kill Battery By Remote AC Drain. Cursed is the victim who finds a dead battery, a frigid interior, and a cackling tormentor who dooms hapless Tesla owners to hours waiting for a mobile jump.

Regretfully, the list of dangerous apps increases by the day. For example, Ice Breaker: This meet-and-greet social app matches you with someone else (yeah, yeah) and then directs you to meet them (wait, IRL?) and have a conversation (heresy!) before snapping a pic and uploading it for a score boost. Then you separate to break further ice with other users, thus expanding the benevolent Platonic chain. Folks, this spread of amiable interactions threatens the very nature of Tindr- and Grindr-based hook-up culture we’ve worked so hard to build! Ice Breaker establishes a beachhead for simple nearby interactions on a friendly level. You will crave the day when friendship was totally off the table, I guarantee it!

And then there are the subtle disasters, the apps masquerading as “solutions.” As the Verge points out, verbal commands are much more forgiving than the Glass’s very sensitive touchpad, foreshadowing a world of coffee shops and sidewalks plagued by one-sided conversations. One solution? A potential feature in a future version of the MyGlass app that introduces a “wink” command. On paper, developing another “button” so early will hopefully prevent the backlash that Apple felt with its “hockey puck” iMac mouse. Instead, we’ll get eerily silent rooms of digital cattle winking into the ceiling in order to avoid errant eye-twitches accidentally photographing other patrons.

Lastly, there are the hacks, like programming the Glass to “fly a camera enabled quadcopter around burning man.” Developing drone synchronization with Glass seems like a one-way ticket to one-man armies (though they may be suitable counters to hacked and rampaging Teslas): Suddenly, buzzing a quadcopter strapped with a high-yield “love package” doesn’t sound all that friendly.

Bottom line: Google Glass might streamline our lives in some places--take first person journalism, for example--and introduce new and socially complex conundrums in others.

[Image: Flickr user Giuseppe Costantino]