HOUSTON -- Justin Morgan has been getting some weird looks lately.
As the owner of a local manufacturing company, he spent about $2,000 on a prescription version of Google Glass, the high-tech gadget that’s basically a smartphone for the eyes.
“Well, you kind of get mixed feelings when you’re out in public wearing this thing,” he said. “Some people think it’s kind of goofy looking at it. A lot of people think it’s the new big trend coming up, so obviously they’re interested in it.”
Now people are getting even more interested in it, because Google has finally offered its new gizmo to the public. For one day only, the tech company put this peculiar looking product on the market, selling Google Glass for a minimum price of $1,500 (The price varied depending mainly on which accessories consumers wanted to buy.).
Google has marketed the new gadget as a handy device for everything from connecting to the Internet to sending text messages to translating signs in foreign languages. Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital recently posted video showing a child wearing one of the devices inside a hospital ward taking a virtual tour of the Houston Zoo, aided by a zoo worker wearing Google Glass as he petted animals and talked to the sick girl.
Until now, the only people wearing Google Glass were early adopting beta testers who sometimes waited months for their new tech tools to arrive. Now that it’s gone into broader release, this new product is arousing alarm among privacy advocates.
“For the same reason that I distrust the government, I distrust companies that say, ‘Trust us, we will not invade your privacy,’” said Gerald Treece, the dean of the South Texas College of Law and KHOU 11 News legal analyst. “They most certainly will.”
Already a couple of Google Glass wearers have been harassed and attacked in public. A woman wearing the glasses in a San Francisco bar somehow got into an obscenity-laced argument with a couple of people who apparently objected to having their pictures taken.
The video recording feature raises especially vexing issues. Critics complain that Google Glass wearers could surreptitiously record just about anything they see.
“This professor thinks the bigger problem could come in facial recognition,” Treece said. “It could come in storage of data.”
Morgan is still testing his odd eyewear, hoping his workers can use it as a sort of teleconferencing device to transmit images of broken machinery back to the home office. If it works and it saves his company money, he figures it’ll be worth the purchase price. And from a personal standpoint, both he and his kids are getting a kick out of playing with it.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m kind of a tech geek. Absolutely.”