The Glass Empire Strikes Back

Sergey Brin is recording you all the time

Sergey Brin has been watching you constantly online, but now he’s recording you in the real world too.

Google Glass has gotten enormous grief in the last few months.  Places are banning it, and people have gotten into fights over it.  Even the tech journalist David Pogue finds it creepy:

You no longer know if you’re being filmed by your conversation partner. An unspoken social rule is being violated. I didn’t like it. I wanted her to take the damn thing off.

So their first counter to that was a video about avoiding being a Glasshole.   Now the next phase kicks in – showing that cool people use it to do important things.   The first release of the campaign was a recent front-page story in the Boston Globe – Google Glass now standard in Beth Israel Deaconess emergency room. This is an interview with Dr Stephen Horng, who has been finding uses for it in the ER.  He can access a patient’s records and immediately find out about history and allergies.   I doubt that the Glasses really are standard equipment at Beth Israel, since they don’t mention anyone else but Horng.  Since he also has degrees in CS and bio-informatics, he’s likely to be a first adopter.

His system was developed by Wearable Intelligence, a startup in San Francisco that’s backed by Google.   They’ve also just out come with a staged video showing a doctor using it to deal with a stroke admission.   It shows an elderly man slurring his words and unable to keep his hands lifted, while his frantic wife is with him.   An older doc in a white coat and tie (i.e. not a hipster dude) uses his Glasses to capture a video, order a CAT scan, and contact a specialist.   The grateful couple look on, saved by this miraculous tech.

Well, it so happens that my sister is a physician’s assistant.   She says that one of the docs in her ER tried one in San Francisco and thought it was great.   However, they do already have rolling computers that give them immediate access to patient info, and it would be hard to convince providers to adopt yet another tech.   She also worries that patients would be made uneasy if they thought they were being recorded.

I suppose that lots of people in ERs really don’t want to be on video.   It smacks of police and interrogation.  Hospitals might insist that all the video is private, but  thanks to the NSA we now know that those promises are meaningless.  If the FBI or DEA wants it, they can get it. If fears like that deter people from coming into the ER, that would wipe out any medical gain that the Glasses might bring.

The long-term vision (so to speak) of things like Glass is to be an aid to our fallible memories.  So little of our lives actually sticks.  We lose so much.   We would all love to hold onto the good parts, ones that would comfort us in dark times.  Yet the unblinking eye of the camera also captures the bad parts, and captures things that can be used against us.   That’s what has people worried about Glass, and what may ultimately sink the product.

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