Google Glass Poses New Distraction Risk

by Matt Klassen on March 25, 2013

If you think mobile devices have created a strange brand of social monster, with respectful public etiquette replaced by annoyingly egocentric phone conversations, things in the public sphere are about to get a lot weirder as we stand on the cusp of the wearable technology revolution. In fact, its not hard to imagine a world in the very near future where people have little to no connection with those around them, literally running into each other on the street as they yell voice commands to their new Google Glass mobile eyewear device.

But social disruption aside, mobile technology has actually become a hazard in some areas of our lives as well, already preventing us from adequately focusing on things like driving that still require our complete and full attention. One can only imagine how this coming wearable technology epoch will exacerbate such risk, allowing users to circumvent the letter of such laws, yet posing a substantially greater threat to all those behind the wheel.

To make things worse, far too often lawmakers lag well behind the progress of modern technology, meaning legislation protecting us from those distracted by Google Glass eyewear may be significantly farther down the road. But bureaucrats in West Virginia may actually be ahead of the curve, proposing a bill late last week “aimed at Google Glass that would ban using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display while driving a car.”

What’s ironic about Google Glass is that the heads-up eyewear display is intended to provide fewer distractions for users, branded as an intuitive and interactive way of keeping people connected yet keeping their attentions off their smartphones. Of course Google Glass is quickly shaping up to be something far more distracting, not only because of how strange it’ll look when Google’s cyborg army starts walking the streets, but because having something physically obscuring your vision comes with its own host of safety challenges.

While West Virginia’s pre-emptive legislative strike against Google Glass may prove to be nothing more than another publicity stunt railing against changing technological trends, lawmakers will have to take such change seriously and act quickly and decisively to protect us all from increasing technological distraction.

Consider the laws in my home province, which clearly outline distracted driving as being anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel. While shown to provide just as must distraction on the road, hands-free devices are still legal here as they are in almost all places that have instituted such distracted driving laws, and Google Glass strikes me as the perfect hands-free pseudo-solution, one that will attract many savvy texters looking for ways to stay connected but avoid that stiff fine.

As Gary G. Howell, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature, said in a recent email exchange, “I actually like the idea of the product and I believe it is the future, but last legislature we worked long and hard on a no-texting-and-driving law. It is mostly the young that are the tech-savvy that try new things. They are also our most vulnerable and under-skilled drivers. We heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving, most involving our youngest drivers. I see the Google Glass as an extension.”

Simply put, until Google gets it self-driving car up and running, its Google Glass eyewear project will serve as a threat to public safety both on and off the road, creating more ways for people to ignore safety standards and social conventions that in turn will create more hazards and annoyances than we ever dreamed of…now that’s progress!

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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