Illustration by Jennifer Fox
We’re not total Luddites. We have the smartphones. We know the HTML. We make the Instagram videos.
If you’re unfamiliar with Glass, as it’s called for short, it’s a set of glasses—sometimes prescription, sometimes not—that come with a little visible camera affixed. Glass can read your email, take videos, take photos, Google stuff for you, and in the not-too-distant future, instantly recognize faces at bars and tell you who you’re talking to.
Recently a tech writer named Sarah Slocum wore Glass to a San Francisco bar called Molotov’s and got into a semi-brawl. Someone threw a towel at her, her Glass was briefly stolen off her face, and people got, well, up in her grill. People at bars don’t like being recorded. Particularly people drinking at a bar called Molotov’s, which one fellow is quoted as calling “not really Google Glass country.”
This is a fine point. Which bars should be Glass country?
Let’s catalog, for a moment, what we do at bars: We drink, obviously. We flirt. We make bad decisions. We stay out too late. Think about which of those items you’d like recorded, for posterity, by a stranger. Slocum called the dustup a “hate crime,” which drew pretty much instant mockery, after which she downgraded it to “technophobia” (which sounds rather like a scary strobe-lit ’90s dance night to us). Most recently she’s asked Google for a “sponsored” trip to SXSWi, so she can “educate" people about Glass.
The throwdown at the bar has been coined a class war, between the wealthy tech-world folks who inhabit the Silicon Valley and those who came before. Things have gotten so bad that Google itself had to draw up some politesse pointers for Glass aficionados: “Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass is not going to win you any friends,” the company wrote. ”Ask permission before taking photos or videos of others.”
Well played, Google. Although Google has denied that it wants facial recognition to be a reality, that’s a real possibility and one company has facial recognition tech in beta mode.
But can we be honest? That’s the saddest prospect of all. Because while bars can be places to make deals and break them, make out and breakup, one of their primary lures is meeting people, sometimes people in whom one has a romantic interest. And Google Glass marks the end of mystique.
Picture our heroine, in her Tangerine Glass, thinking: “He’s so handsome.”
The gent, in Sky Glass: “She’s hot.”
They get closer. She records their meeting for posterity and learns, via facial recognition, that his name is Montague Revelry Williams. He works in finance. There’s a photo of him with his ex-wife. There’s a photo of him with his dog. He owns a chihuahua? Really? And he’s drinking a vodka tonic?
Who else is at this bar?
Google Glass. It could kill dating. It could end mystery. Leave us our blurred-after-three-old-fashioneds vision. Please. Let us think that he has especially good hair, or that she has particularly perfect skin. Everyone looks good in this bar. And that’s where magic happens. Let’s keep bars Glass-free… except for the Glasses that come with whiskey in them.