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Monday, April 29, 2013

Your Eyes Are Not Google Glass

Posted by on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 2:59 PM

In a great post at Technology Review last week, John Pavlus explained that the future of technology like Google Glass—where instead of taking a picture by telling the glasses to take a picture, you simply wink—might get too close to the body for our comfort:

The assumption driving these kinds of design speculations is that if you embed the interface–the control surface for a technology–into our own bodily envelope, that interface will “disappear”: the technology will cease to be a separate “thing” and simply become part of that envelope. The trouble is that unlike technology, your body isn’t something you “interface” with in the first place. You’re not a little homunculus “in” your body, “driving” it around, looking out Terminator-style “through” your eyes. Your body isn’t a tool for delivering your experience: it is your experience. Merging the body with a technological control surface doesn’t magically transform the act of manipulating that surface into bodily experience. I’m not a cyborg (yet) so I can’t be sure, but I suspect the effect is more the opposite: alienating you from the direct bodily experiences you already have by turning them into technological interfaces to be manipulated.

The post is titled "Your Body Does Not Want to Be an Interface." Pavlus also quotes this terrifying article from Co.Design:

Think about this scenario: You see someone at a party you like; his social profile is immediately projected onto your retina–great, a 92% match. By staring at him for two seconds, you trigger a pairing protocol. He knows you want to pair, because you are now glowing slightly red in his retina screen. Then you slide your tongue over your left incisor and press gently. This makes his left incisor tingle slightly. He responds by touching it. The pairing protocol is completed.

I honestly don't know which future is more likely: The one where we recoil from wearable computers as a kind of sensation-based uncanny valley, or the one where we embrace wearable computers because they make everything more convenient. It seems that our bodies can become used to all kinds of modifications, but it also seems that we might appreciate our powerful computers better when they're at arm's length from us.


Comments (27) RSS

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Amalink 1
hahaha of course my first thought was of Barbarella and 'the pill':…
Posted by Amalink on April 29, 2013 at 3:11 PM · Report this
Posted by MacCrocodile on April 29, 2013 at 3:18 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 3
I'm waiting for this hand phone.
Posted by Michael of the Green on April 29, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
We now have computers that learn. All available people that are a possible match will be shown to you upon your entry into the party. As you walk down the street, all possible dangerous people will be known to you. You will know who has a record. Who has property. What car they drive. Marital status. Job history. No secrets. No cheaters.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on April 29, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
The cool part is that our phones will be used to segregate the class structure - iPhones and their successor iGlasses will be used by the wealthy, while the tech geeks and everyone else will use Droid and Google glasses.

You probably think I'm joking, but the two user groups are very distinct (source: Canadian studies)
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 29, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this
balderdash 6
God damn, I love you, MacCrocodile. Well played.

I don't see what's so terrifying about that party scenario. It seems a lot more clear, useful, and fucking sane than the current "oh was that eye contact intentional or did we just investigate each other simultaneously, is she with that guy she's next to? and what kind of 'with' is it, I mean I don't know what her outfit even says about her, is she wearing that because she's crazy or because this is a party and it's funny and whimsical, and when's a good time to go say hi, I mean everybody's already talking in groups, I don't know" protocol. Maybe "terrifying" if anyone were trying to compel you to upgrade your ways, but as far as I know Google Glass is still something you have to try to obtain, not something you have skin-welded on at birth.

Anyway, sign me up to be a fuckin' cyborg, is what I'm saying, I guess.
Posted by balderdash on April 29, 2013 at 3:35 PM · Report this
"The trouble is that unlike technology, your body isn’t something you “interface” with in the first place. You’re not a little homunculus “in” your body, “driving” it around, looking out Terminator-style “through” your eyes."

Huh. Apparently my experience differs significantly from John's. It seems to me that the widespread persistence of schools of thought that insist on a mind/body (or soul/body) dichotomy indicates I am not alone.
Posted by tired and true on April 29, 2013 at 3:45 PM · Report this
Dougsf 8
Using the metric of "my god who is buying this stuff?!" (where Segway scooters are tops, and Bluetooth headsets are the lowest on the scale), I'm rating these dead center.

The real shame—besides aiding in the inevitable return of Croakies—is the many brilliant minds occupied with engineering these when they could be spending their time on a more worthwhile project, like drinking in a parking lot somewhere.

Also; unless you're an adorable old person, it is never OK to wink at someone. This matter is settled.
Posted by Dougsf on April 29, 2013 at 3:48 PM · Report this
treacle 9
It will probably end up a class/power thing. The rich using cyber-mods to defend themselves against the increasing legions of increasingly desperate poor.
Posted by treacle on April 29, 2013 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Baby Blue 10
I won't even embrace e-readers so...
Posted by Baby Blue on April 29, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
Posted by Jude Fawley on April 29, 2013 at 3:54 PM · Report this
rob! 12
Yeah, I'll be in my bunk, but then you fuckers knew that already.
Posted by rob! on April 29, 2013 at 4:00 PM · Report this
jnmend 13
Uh, if the future dystopia turns out to be a party where people know they want to fuck each other without talking, then sign me up.

Considerably better than a flooded earth filled with wars over water.
Posted by jnmend on April 29, 2013 at 4:04 PM · Report this
venomlash 14
I wouldn't mind a little augmentation along the way.
Posted by venomlash on April 29, 2013 at 4:09 PM · Report this
samktg 15
I, for one, welcome our transhuman future. As does my pancreas in particular.
Posted by samktg on April 29, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
balderdash 16
Pavlus is being a technophobic dingus. Witness, if you will, the American fascination with cars. You already "merge" with your car while driving. People identify with their cars so strongly that "road rage" is no longer even a scary evening-news buzzword, it's just a fact of life. When was the last time you actually thought about the act of pushing down on a lever with your foot to make your car accelerate, rather than just wanting to go faster, and reflexively hitting the gas?

We merge mentally - and emotionally - with our machines all the time. We always have! Take any weapons-oriented martial art and feel the way your perception extends to the tool, not just to the sense of it in your hand.

I'm heading out right now, and I don't really have the time to pull together an exhaustively cited essay on the subject, but there's even been good research done on this very issue, the way that we come to self-identify our tools. Heavy smartphone users even get something like phantom limb syndrome when they're deprived. We humans ARE our tools, and this kind of backwards essentialist pretense is just plain silly.

(But seriously, Pavlus, have you never driven a car? What the fuck, man.)
Posted by balderdash on April 29, 2013 at 4:21 PM · Report this
If seamless mind-body interfaces do end up becoming the exclusive province of the very rich, I look forward to the first wave of viruses and malware.
Posted by Proteus on April 29, 2013 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Imagine the fun of spoofing the social prompts being provided by this software: "There is a 95% probability that this person would enjoy hearing a fart joke right now."
Posted by Proteus on April 29, 2013 at 4:34 PM · Report this
Dougsf 19
@18 - hey, I don't need to computer to tell me I'd like to hear a fart joke ~95% of the time.

There are already "hookup apps", and like this one, they still depend entirely on the user to seal the deal. If that's not your style, this technology changes nothing, 'cept they're on your face and now you look like a skeeze that's been eye-groping the party from the corner all night. In Design.Co's version, do these things squirt molly into the lobes of users that get a match or something?
Posted by Dougsf on April 29, 2013 at 4:58 PM · Report this
sirkowski 20
The singularity is a religious myth.
Posted by sirkowski on April 29, 2013 at 5:12 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 21
There will be a divide. Those that embrace this sort of thing and those that reject it. It will be like the people who type online like idiots and those that don't. I wonder which group will be which...
Posted by ScienceNerd on April 29, 2013 at 6:06 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 22
Put in your earplugs,
Put on your eyeshades
You know where to put the cork.…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on April 29, 2013 at 6:33 PM · Report this
zivilisierter Wurm 23
@20 Transhumanism is hilarious to me. How do you go through the 20th-century with the belief intact that technological progress will be able to correct for the ecological destruction enabled by technological progress? Remember that old ozone hole story? It's still there. In fact, evidence suggests there's another one forming around the north pole as well. But yeah, the abundance of consumer electronics is totally proof that humanity can redirect the monolithic economic and political forces transforming our planet into an irradiated slag-heap. That's why the richest and most powerful nation on Earth is spearheading the radical reforms necessary to halt our demise. Right? Right?!
Posted by zivilisierter Wurm on April 29, 2013 at 6:56 PM · Report this
Well, I already am slightly a cyborg, and most of the time I don't even think about it. I have two implants in my eyes, one is an artificial lens implanted after a cataract removal. And it seems as much a part of my body as the rest of my eye does. I have never worn contact lenses, but I suspect people who do get used to them pretty fast. I certainly felt like my glasses were an extension of myself.

Basically, I think this is going to be as mundane as other things we already are used to. I think it'll probably be most like pockets. You probably wear clothes nearly all of the time, so you're used to having access to pockets. You kind of expect you'll have a pocket to stick a piece of paper into if you need one. But you're aware it's not really a part of you, and sometimes you find yourself annoyingly without pockets. But you get used to their utility very fast and don't really think about them most of the time. A good user-interface is like that.
Posted by uncreative on April 29, 2013 at 8:10 PM · Report this
Breklor 25
I don't think the either-or scenarios you're describing are as likely as a division of society into the interface-friendly and the interface-hostile. We're already seeing it. Some of us love our smartphones - I call mine my "third lobe" and feel an almost physical hollowness when I reach for it and remember it's plugged in at home or whatever - and some people can't stand the damn things no matter how useful and friendly they get.
Posted by Breklor on April 29, 2013 at 10:21 PM · Report this
You do interface with your body. When you get hurt and your automatic response is to touch the hurt area - you are not only checking for damage but remapping any areas that are damaged. It's actually pretty cool.…

Cyborgs rock. A TED Talk that argues we are all cyborgs already:…
Posted by subwlf on April 30, 2013 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Everything in that second quote I want to come true. I also want to be able to have a blink code that will cause an implanted nictating eyelid membrane to deploy for sun protection. I want my implanted palm scanner/reader to give me product reviews and price comparisons when I scan a upc code. I want to insert a goddamned socket in my head and physically be in the internet.

I want gibson style biological tech RIGHT NOW. We are getting closer.
Posted by LORD ZOD on April 30, 2013 at 3:30 PM · Report this

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