Searls Glasses vs. Google Glass

For many years I’ve wanted glasses that would help me observe and record what I see and hear in the world — but in a polite way that wouldn’t freak people out. Since nobody has made anything like that (that I know of) I decided to publish my idea. I call it Searls Glasses, because the first four letters of my surname, as luck has it, combines “see” and “hear” (or “ear”) — and because they’re still glasses as well.

And, since Google Glass is all the rage (in more than one meaning of the word), I decided to have some fun comparing my fantasy with Google’s reality. And hey, if somebody wants to make what I’m wire-framing here (pun intended), let me know. I’d like to see these things made, no matter who makes them. (And, if somebody is already making them, that’s cool too.)

I’ll run down the features first:

  1. First-person rindicator (a light indicating a state of willingness to relate, or presence of a relationship)
  2. Second/third person rindicator (a light indicating a state of relationship with a nearby second or third party).
  3. Binocular (3D) cameras.
  4. Off/on light. Green means it’s not recording. Red means it is recording.
  5. Binaural microphones (one in each tyne) and electronics section, plus all the other required circuitry (recording, bluetooth, battery).
  6. Earphones.

Rindicators (#s 1 and 2) are what we’ve been calling “r-buttons” in the VRM development community. I just re-named them, here on the plane where I just cooked up this whole idea and am writing it down. How they work and what they symbolize are still up in the air. UI elements that indicate actions and/or states of relating are essential, I believe — not just here, but in countless other kinds of hardware and software.

Binocular cameras (#3) are way cooler than the usual monocular ones (such as Google Glass’s). Hey, our eyes and glasses are already 3-D. Why not the cameras we wear on our heads? These, however, have an additional feature: they look for second-party signals of privacy policies. So, for example, if Searls Glasses see somebody wearing one of these Customer Commons buttons —

— with a QR code in the middle, and the scanned QR code  says “don’t take my picture or video-record me,” that wish will be respected. Same goes for a button like that containing a near-field transmitter that says the same thing. This is an example of something Google Glass apparently lacks at this stage: Privacy By Design. (For more context, see Big Privacy, a paper highly influenced by work many of us have been doing with VRM.)

The on-off light (#4) tells others whether the cameras are on and recording what they see.

I am amazed, now that headphones are at high fashion ebb, that we don’t hear much about binaural sound, and no smartphones or tablets feature them yet. Maybe Searls Glasses can change that. In the meantime, find some binaural sound recordings and listen to them. They are much different than conventional stereo recordings, because only two microphones are used, and they are located on a bust — a mannequin head — in the positions of human ears. That way they record what a person hears, rather than what a sound engineer puts together with a mixer. The effect is the aural equivalent of 3-D images: the whole “sound stage” is very much a you-are-there experience. With Searls Glasses, you can make your own binaural recordings, thanks to binaural microphones over the ears (#5). Lights on the tynes will also tell others whether or not you are recording: another example of privacy by design.

I think the best way to record, and to manage everything Searls Glasses make possible, is with a smartphone or tablet app, connected by bluetooth.

As a bonus, Searls Glasses should also pick up low-energy bluetooth signals, and radiate them as well. Much has been said and written lately about these. (By my friend Robert Scoble especially.) Instead of thinking about how marketers can use these beacons, however, think about what you can do with them. For example: sending signals of your own interest in some product or service — or your disinterest in being followed right now.

Since I’m writing all this on a plane, and want to get it up as soon as possible after I land,  it will be relatively link-less at first, and a lot more linky (and otherwise improved) once I’m settled somewhere.

Meanwhile, lemme know what you think.

8 comments

  1. Maarten’s avatar

    great idea! I love the rindicator’s. dunno about them being lights as the interface is on the inside and they work work best with other Searls Glasses. And with the coming release of the Glass OS its expect that BLE will be activated so i can broadcast it all and receive it all.

    And yes, i have one now for a couple of months, Its a cool new thing.

  2. Joe Crawford’s avatar

    I like the idea of an opt-out visual cue I can add to my person. It’s like a meatspace “robots.txt” file, indicating my willingness to be recorded and saved.

    Interesting ideas encapsulated in your Searls Glasses.

  3. Don Marti’s avatar

    Who will trust the lights?

    My laptop’s “camera on” light is green.

    There’s a bigger problem with the camera, though.

    When you walk around pointing a camera, you’re claiming additional personal space. (I realize that Google Glass is not always capturing images — neither is your phone camera, and you don’t walk around holding that up at eye level all the time.)

    Somehow pointing a camera full-time because it’s on your head strikes me as uncouth.

  4. Kevin Cox’s avatar

    There will need to be other, very cheap, devices that can tell Searls Glasses to stay away and leave this person alone.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Don. Here’s another problem: heads don’t hold still. Ever watch this? That’s with a GoPro, which is super-wide-angle, not the phone-type cameras imagined here.

    My original wish was for binaural sound recording, btw. I think, if cameras are too problematic (and they probably are), the sound recording purpose should prove out, somehow, eventually.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I should add that one idea here is to make the constant shooting of other people less uncouth than it already is. This is a tall order, simply given the great extent to which privacy is already lost here on the digital frontier.

    In respect to Kevin’s point, imagine a time when all of us wear a low-energy bluetooth thingie (say, in our wallets) that says “don’t shoot me” to every smartphone — or tell any shooting smartphone to send a message asking permission, which we can then give or deny, presumably with our own smartphones.

  7. Aleecia’s avatar

    What a fun post.

    One of the early talking points to discredit Do Not Track went something like this: “If you wore a shirt into a store saying do not record me, of course that would be absurd!” In a playful response, Mozilla made baseball hats that read DNT:1.

    If we are to have privacy by design around something as sensitive as being recorded by any person at all times we are not hiding in a cave, perhaps instead people could opt in to tracking rather than be required to opt out. An opt in to recording has the added advantage that Searls Glasses can communicate their status to one another directly by blue tooth (or other) with no problems of a QR code pointed in another direction, perhaps with someone simply facing away from the camera.

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Hi, Aleecia. Good idea! Opt-in should be the default in countless other interactions as well.

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