Google Glasses, the product of “Project Glass,” are augmented reality specs that allow the user-wearer to traverse the physical and digital worlds simultaneously. This sounds cool as hell, but designers appear to have overlooked one very important thing; and there’s really no excuse for this oversight in light of the many pedestrian texters (people who are walking while texting and/or reading texts) who have walked into traffic, in front of trains, and into other people, buildings and water fountains.
The problem? Our brains “see” before our eyes do and our brains don’t necessarily see everything. When there are blanks in the otherwise full view screen of our perception of the world (and there are plenty of blanks among those who are distracted), our brains play make-believe. The blanks are filled in with input from previous experiences, which may or may not be in line with present reality. This is very likely to be a problem when someone wearing augmented reality specs is focusing on the digital world a few inches away rather than on real life a few feet away. This digitally-induced tunnel vision is known as brain blindness.
Despite allowing the user to look the world in the face instead of being face down, Google Glasses could very well pave the way for a pedestrian version of Highway Hypnosis (White Line Fever) such that a person would have little or no memory of the path they took from point A to point B. Looking out is not necessarily better than looking down, as evidenced by the number of car accidents caused by those who thought the use of a hands-free device would somehow also free their brains from the perils of a hand-held device. And while Google Glasses have not been shown on users who are driving, it’s only a matter of time before some digitally-bespectacled dumbass gets behind the wheel.
Google Glasses don’t include user-awareness detection or a non-optional cleaning of the slate, if you will, to regularly alert users that they are in fact still a physical presence in a physical world and subject to external physical forces. Until someone comes up with a pedestrian version of the rumble strip, it’s going to be on hapless passersby and fixed objects to jolt users back to reality, as deftly and comically illustrated by Tom Scott’s parody of the brain-blind Google Glasses user.
Fortunately, Google Glasses can show the pedestrian user the way to places like the hospital or the courthouse. This is good because users may well find themselves in need of an emergency room or directions to the courtroom where they’re scheduled to meet the person they ran into, tripped over, or knocked down a few weeks ago.