Some technology has the power to change society for the better. Smartphones, for example, have given awkward types something to stare at whenever a real-life interaction is proving uncomfortable: an astounding feat of technical engineering.
Google Glass might be the next piece of tech to drive social change, but with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility includes telling us to not "be creepy" while wearing them, which is exactly what Google has done.
Realising that people who pay $1,500 to be early adopters for an unproven, ungainly and unsightly new technology may quite possibly have some underlying social quirks, Google has published a guide to prevent users from becoming "Glassholes".
Google told early adopters, known as Explorers, to not "Glass out". "If you find yourself staring off into the prism for long periods of time you're probably looking pretty weird to the people around you. So don't read War and Peace on Glass. Things like that are better done on bigger screens."
Sports are also outlawed: "Glass is a piece of technology, so use common sense. Water skiing, bull riding or cage fighting with Glass are probably not good ideas."
If you're on a hot date, it's advisable to conceal Glass, too: "If you're worried about someone interrupting that romantic dinner at a nice restaurant with a question about Glass, just take it off and put it around the back of your neck or in your bag."
We'd advise hiding it pre-date, just so you don't make a strange first impression.
This final statement of the completely obvious pretty much sums up the whole post: "Don't be creepy or rude (aka, a 'Glasshole'). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don't get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren't allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass.
"If you're asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers."
The future is here, and it's rude and disrespectful.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who's constantly making a glass of himself
Just when we thought we might get some legal precedent on how wearable tech might affect driving laws, a landmark case on the topic has been thrown out of court.
Although the case in question only relates to driving in California, other law enforcement bodies and government departments were likely watching the proceedings of Glass early adopter Cecilia Abadie, who was stopped by police for speeding last October. The officer then apparently noticed her $1,500 headwear and decided to add the felony of using a television monitor while driving to her list of alleged crimes.
The case has been thrown out of court, simply because there's no proof whether Abadie's glasses were turned on at the time. She denies it, and that's all the court has to go on.
The interesting thing here is the Californian law in question, which essentially states that no screens can be used while driving, other than those which provide "information about the state of vehicle, to assist the driver to see the road ahead or adjacent to him/her or to navigate to his/her destination."
As The Frontline wrote last week, it's looking ever more likely that car manufacturers are going to embrace Glass-like tech for their own customers, providing information such as navigation information about speed and fuel.
So, in this case, there's no closure. And future cases won't be helped at all, but it may be a warning shot for Google and other would-be driving glasses manufacturers to build in mechanisms to prevent devices from being used in ways which may be considered illegal – such as watching a movie or conducting a video conference call.
It's going to be an interesting few years for wearable technology.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who wears his heart on his sleeve – also a traffic offence
"Turn around where possible," your satnav says when you're doing something silly. The Department for Transport (DfT) looks to be under similar instruction with its stance on Google Glass.
In August, the DfT said that it would be "in discussion with the police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving" before anyone from the department had even had the chance to try out the tech for themselves. Now, according to Sunday Times Driving supplement, they may be having a change of heart, and the possibilities are exciting.
"We have met with Google to discuss the implications of the current law for Google Glass," it is reported as saying. "Google are anxious their products do not pose a road safety risk and are currently considering options to allow the technology to be used in accordance with the law."
That's a pretty big change of heart, although it remains to be seen whether it will be legal in the UK, more importantly, the rest of the world. The state of California is currently debating the legality of Glass, for example, and we hear there are a lot of cars in that neck of the woods. Meanwhile, Nissan is developing its own '3E' glasses for in-car use.
So, assuming Glass is actually legal, what can we hope to do with it? Well, Mercedes has a few ideas. In-eye and in-ear satnav is a given, and is already in the very early stages of development. Another, less obvious use for the hardware is the displaying of a car's rear-facing parking camera to allow people with neck pain not to have to turn their heads.
At the moment, more in-depth info about your car such as fuel, mileage and speed doesn't work with Glass, but with Google having announced a partnership with firms such as Audi, Honda and General Motors, we can't imagine Android and Glass compatible cars being far away.
Sunday Times Driving reports that manufacturers are justifying the legality of Glass by saying the superimposed images displayed don't require drivers to look away from the road, similar to a windscreen-mounted satnav.
Road safety organisations want to make sure users are given ample choice as to the level of interference posed by their headwear, asking for what would in effect be a "driving mode" for headwear that connects to a smartphone.
There's certainly a line to be drawn between apps that are suitable for driving and those which are not. Playing Angry Birds on your Glass using eye and head movements, for example, would be utterly inappropriate.
We still don't know how much Google Glass is going to cost, and its uses while walking around town are questionable. In-car headwear looks like a much more exciting proposition, although whether it's anything more than a gimmick remains to be seen.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who will drive you round the bend
As we approach the end of the year Google has once against listed its annual zeitgeist list of the most searched terms over the past 12 months to show what most people around the world wanted to know during the year.
Despite only passing on a few weeks ago, the topic that has dominated the list is the death of Nelson Mandela, as those around the world searched for more information on the great leader. This was just ahead of the death of Paul Walker, the star of the Fast and Furious franchise of movies.
Elsewhere, though, technology was well represented on the list, with searches for the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S4 both appearing, with Apple scoring more hits than Samsung, as it chalks up another, admittedly minor, victory over its nemesis.
The PlayStation 4 (PS4) also featured, unlike the Xbox One, as Microsoft’s console fails to quite match Sony for hype and interest in the games market.
The top 10 list is below:
1. Nelson Mandela
2. Paul Walker
3. iPhone 5S
4. Cory Monteith
5. Harlem Shake
6. Boston Marathon
7. Royal Baby
8. Samsung Galaxy S4
10. North Korea
Google has also made an interactive globe that shows the most popular search terms from different locations around the word, with London showing a weird demand for sport with both BBC Sport and BBC Football both scoring highly. Other UK cities such as Manchester and Bristol also show an enjoyment for sports information.
By V3's Dan Worth, who searches high and low
Google is said to be looking at designing its own chips rather than using processors from chip giant Intel, according to reports from Bloomberg.
At first this might be considered as more wackiness from the search giant, following such gems this year as its Google Glass cyber-spectacles and notions about balloons floating above Africa to carry WiFi signals.
However, a closer look at the Bloomberg report shows that Google is considering building server chips based on the ARM architecture, which is a long way from designing your own processor technology from the ground up. In fact, ARM's entire business model lies in creating processor designs for other companies to manufacture.
ARM has spent the past two decades refining its architecture to operate using as little power as possible, chiefly in battery-powered mobile devices such as smartphones. However, with the explosive growth in data and cloud-based services, many big internet firms and telcos are said to be eyeing ARM-based servers as a way of cutting their energy bills.
In theory, it could be relatively simple to produce your own ARM chip – you can just license one of ARM's designs and contract a semiconductor foundry company such as TSMC to manufacture it for you.
However, designing your own custom chip is somewhat more complicated, and the ARM architecture also has little track record so far in the server market. Startups such as Calxeda – which was founded by ex-Intel engineers – have been working on ARM server chips for several years now, with the first production systems only appearing relatively recently.
Of course, Google has enormous resources at its disposal, but if it is serious about making its own ARM-based server chips, we would expect that acquiring a firm with expertise in this area, such as Calxeda, would be a much better plan than trying to start from scratch. Alternatively, Google would be best advised to work with established chipmakers such as AMD, which is building its own ARM server processors.
Creating your own processor, making it work properly and tweaking it for optimum performance and efficiency, and then building an entire server around it, are processes that take time and a great deal of specialist expertise – expertise that Google almost certainly lacks at the moment.
Tellingly, Bloomberg's source is quoted as saying that Google "has made no decision and plans could change".
05 Dec 2013
Google has fingers in plenty of pies, but the latest news from Palo Alto is that one of those fingers might be made of cold stainless steel.
The New York Times had a chat with former Android chief Andy Rubin, who's now been put in charge of Google's robotic activities. Rubin has a history with robotics, having worked on manufacturing projects with the likes of Carl Zeiss. To that end, it would seem that Google's intentions are for robots to be hidden away inside factories rather than being walking, talking metal men (or drones) made to carry your shopping.
The piece also states that Google has bought seven technology companies with the intention of developing robots.
Nonetheless, it's an interesting development for a firm that currently doesn't have a particularly huge stake in the manufacturing and retail sectors – which both benefit hugely from robotics – and has only recently started offering home delivery for retail.
Of course, Google has a little bit of experience with creating autonomous machines, with its driverless car making headlines around the world and scaring regular users of zebra crossings to boot.
Rubin, who took Android from a fringe mobile OS to a dominant force in the smartphone space, says he has a "a history of making my hobbies into a career". In other words, he has a track record of getting things right, which probably made his task of convincing Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to get on board a little easier.
It's interesting that this news should come during the same week as Amazon's teasing look at its automated delivery drones. It rather seems like there's a bit of one-upmanship going on in the tech world, with major firms looking to steal headlines as the year comes to a close.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who always obeys the first law of robotics
The executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, has penned a length post telling mobile users how they can switch from iPhone to Android devices.
Fresh from offering tips on using cloud computing, Schmidt has now turned his attention to the mobile market, using his page on Google+ to show users how easy it is to move to Android, and all it can offer.
“Like the people who moved from PCs to Macs and never switched back, you will switch from iPhone to Android and never switch back, as everything will be in the cloud, backed up, and there are so many choices for you,” he wrote.
"The latest high-end phones from Samsung (Galaxy S4), Motorola and the Nexus 5 have better screens, are faster, and have a much more intuitive interface."
What follows is a lengthy, complicated and caveat-heavy list of the steps you’ll need to take for this switch to Android, which runs to just over 600 words. This includes how to get Gmail on your phone, back up photos and move your music to your new device.
While Schmidt attempts to paint the transition as painless – as anyone who has ever moved phone, even within the same ecosystem, will know – such a task is never easy, and is always fraught with frustrations.
This isn't an issue with Android, or Apple, or anyone else, it just seems that anything that requires moving data is complex and time-consuming. Still, at least industry leaders such as Schmidt are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to try and help the average user, which is nice.
By V3's Dan Worth, who's happy with his iPhone
Google’s Street View service has been a wonderful addition to the web, as it allows the world to check out landmarks and future holiday destinations in real-life glory, although the images are usually a few years out of date.
The firm has always shown it is keen to expand the services wherever it can, with shots of remote wilderness, canals, rivers and even mountains. Now, the latest location to face the all-seeing eye of Street View is Cern, near Geneva.
V3 has seen the site in the flesh and from the outside it isn’t much to look at, appearing very much like your standard set of offices in the European hinterland. But inside it’s a treasure trove of scientific wonder, with scientists tackling some of the most pressing questions about our universe.
So, the chance to peer around thanks to Street View is a great opportunity, and one that Google was keen to embrace, as Google Street View program manager Pascale Milite explained in a blog post.
"We’re delighted that CERN opened its doors to Google Maps Street View allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to take a peek into its laboratories, control centres and its myriad underground tunnels housing cutting-edge experiments,” she said.
“Street View also lets scientists working on the experiments, who may be on the other side of the world, explore the equipment they're using."
As ever, the images are slightly out of date, with the photography taking place back in 2011, Google said, but the firm did get access to some of the most important parts of the site, which are usually only seen by its top scientists, so we'll forgive them for the lateness.
"You can check out experiments, like ATLAS, ALICE, CMS, LHCb and the Large Hadron Collider tunnel in Google Maps,” she added.
And if you're really lucky, perhaps you'll spot a Higgs boson lurking in the background.