Apr 11, 2012 / 5:00 am
“Don’t be evil” – that’s the informal corporate motto famously adopted by Google as a way to supposedly self-check their expected dominance in the technological universe. Steve Jobs derided the motto as something along the lines of BS, but to be fair, he was pretty ticked about Google having the temerity to enter “his” smart phone market. Ah, the trials and tribulations of corporate titan-hood. Now I know much has been written about the simple elegance of such a baseline pledge as “don’t be evil” but to my mind it comes across as completely moronic. Think about it - the only people who actually believe they’re doing evil, when they’re doing evil, are fictional baddies like Dr. Evil in Mike Meyers 007 spoof-a-thon. Do you think for one second that Hitler actually thought he was evil? How about Stalin? Or Alec Baldwin? Any one of these troublemakers could have paraded around with a similar corporate motto and been justifiably unaware of even a trace of irony.
Anyhoo, Google’s oft cited motto came to mind as I watched a spanking new bit of sales propaganda produced by their development team known as “Project Glass.” Basically, the plan is to outfit a pair of glasses (sunglasses? reading glasses?) with high tech protocols that allow it to function like a wearable smart phone. And really, the idea does make one heckuva lot of sense when a decidedly large segment of the population spends their waking hours shuffling along with heads cast down and hands clasped like Benedictine monks at prayer. The safety imperative alone of stopping smart phone users from colliding with steel posts or on-coming traffic more than justify the need for a new approach.
The video is actually pretty wild. The conceit of the spot is “a few minutes in the life of a Google Project Glass user” and it’s pretty swish. The promo opens with some gentle yet trendy background music as we see the world through the POV of these wondrous specs. Our avatar stretches, yawns and we “see” his (our) view cast about as he rises from his computer workstation. As he does, some computer icons suddenly become visible to us, showing that somehow information can be gleaned. As our stand-in pours a coffee he “calls” on his schedule to learn (again, in a simple heads up display) that he is set to meet with his honey later on. Our view turns and now we’re gazing out the window, only to see the current temp and day’s weather prediction displayed clearly. Groovy.
As our hero eats a sandwich (and it’s in arguably the cleanest fashion I’ve ever seen anyone eat – really ‘cause watching people eat is gross and looking at food they’ve been eating is even more gross - but not this dude. It’s like his bites were done by some production assistant with an X-Acto knife, anyway.....) he suddenly gets an incoming call from a buddy. We know this because a tiny, disembodied mini-head of his friend pops up alerting him to the incoming call. Cool. He answers with a cheerful greeting and they arrange to meet at a spot in the city. As he verbally confirms, it’s all recorded, scheduled and subsequently applied to his omniscient address book/scheduling system. Then he (we) is off.
Out in the street, Avatar Andy heads for a subway station, only to be directed away by a digital closure notice. How handy is that? He immediately asks for a mapped walking route to his destination and off we go, following subtle arrows directing us left and right. The most unintentionally hilarious part of the spot is when he arrives at a book store to both meet his friend and buy a book. So I’m supposed to believe that a techno-dude like this is gonna buy an actual paper book to learn the ukulele? And that a physical bookstore will even still exist? This is the biggest fantasy of the spot. I suppose his tech specs are great for storing recipes too.
As he waits for his friend he “asks” his glasses where his buddy is and learns that he’s exactly 402 feet away – thanks to Google tracking. They meet, grab some go juice from a food truck (noted in his eyewear) and then part with a wave. So far, our little piece of silicon wonder has handled communication, scheduling, the weather, directions, meet ups, pictures, Facebook and Twitter updates plus lunch. Hey! I do all those things too! But what about love? Does Project Glass know about love?
Happily, that’s covered as well as our hero reaches the top of a building at dusk, turns on his “view share” – that is, something that allows the person he’s speaking with to see what he sees - and he plays the ukulele for his girl while they both watch the sun set together. Beautiful. Check love off too. These specs do it all.
I know I’m sounding kinda snarky about the whole thing but really I’m not. I actually think it looks pretty freaking awesome. And when I found the vid it only had about 400 hits. It’s now well over 8 million, so lots of other folks are pretty mucho interested too. It seems to me to be the pitch-perfect upgrade from the stare-down-into-your-palm reality of using a current smart phone.
But what about the other stuff? The privacy stuff? Having such an intimate relationship with your tech means you’re having a similarly intimate relationship with corporate giant Google. And that’s swell and all but think about what they have to “know” about you for all this techie wonderfulness to actually come off. And don’t forget, ads like this portray a lovely G-rated version of your life inside Project Glass. If you think that’s real-world accurate then you missed Anthony Weiner’s x-rated adventure on Twitter. Tech may seem anonymous, but it’s not – ever.
Secrets can be darn hard to keep. And they get even harder to keep when there is a monetary component too spectacularly juicy and advantageous to ignore. It’s great to be “one with your tech,” but you are also becoming one with Google. And they can pledge to “not be evil” all they want because when the time comes that they finally do start being evil I can assure you, they will be the very last to ever admit, or even believe, that such a thing is happening. But who really cares about all that? These glasses are cool, right?
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