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Camera glasses are getting better, and that’s a problem!

The new Facebook.Ray-Ban glasses look like fashionable glasses, nothing geeky. Yet, they have geeky functions. Image credit: Facebook

Over the past decade we have seen several products (may be it would be better to call them prototypes) of techno glasses embedding a digital camera, earbuds, sometimes a video screen plus wireless connectivity. They improved a bit over time but they all had something in common: you could tell they were a geek tool.

This is changing: Facebook and Ray-Ban have just announced a pair of glasses (coming in three different frame models and a variety of lenses, from shaded to transparent) that can be difficult to distinguish to many other glasses on the market (see photo), both in shape and weight (49g).. The price starts at 299$, also in the range of many other glasses. Yet, they are embedded with plenty of technology. They have two digital cameras, 5Mpixel resolution each, earbuds hidden in the arms (having a size that is found in several other models), wireless connectivity and an embedded chip to manage the interactions with the wearer.

Using voice command or tapping on the arms you can take photos and video clips. These will be sent to your smartphone and you can set up the system to have them immediately published on Facebook, Instagram…

Quite a progress! Yet this is raising issues. Several people objected to Google glasses finding them intrusive. This new glasses have basically the same level of intrusiveness (they do not have a video screen but they have earbuds and information could be conveyed through sound, besides the point of disagreement was on the capturing feature mostly, not on the display of info to the person wearing them) but they are much less noticeable.

In a trial made by Wired most people did not realise that one person was wearing a different sort of glasses that could record a situation, both in images and sound.

Today we have come to -mostly- accept that our images can end up in some strangers photos when we are outside (there is very little we can do about this, we are surrounded by strangers with smartphones snapping pictures like crazy – yes sometimes we join the stampede!) but we usually object, at least feel uneasy, when we are aware that someone is intentionally focusing on us.

People wearing these new glasses would most likely go unnoticed, outside and inside, and we can be trapped into many more situational pictures (with sound). Notice that today you can easily play spy just with your smartphone. You can leave it in recording mode in your pocket and it will go on recording all voices around you, you can live your smartphone in a room and wait in a nearby places hearing what is going on through your wireless earbuds…

Hence, in a way, it is nothing really new. It is just another, seamless way, to increase potential intrusiveness below the our awareness thresholds.

The FB/Ray-Ban glasses have a tiny LED that lights up when in recording mode but:

  1. it can easily go unnoticed
  2. it is easy to hack and turn it off (i would bet so)

I don’t expect solutions to this problem, it is just one more thing we will have to get used.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.