By any measure, Google Glass will go down in history as the most anticipated - and banned - consumer product ever released.
Today Google has by most reports no more than 2,000 devices out in the wild, in the hands of carefully selected partners, customers, and reviewers. Which is my way of saying the large majority of the people who are concerned about the device haven't even seen them or used them. What they are afraid of is the concept of Google Glass and all of the things that connected consumers will mean.
So, let's first take a look at the scope of the Bans that are rapidly being announced and enforced, and then we'll dig in to the actual impact of Glass itself and the Bans as they've been announced.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has moved to ban the wearable computer, telling 12 Casinos in Atlantic City to ban customers from wearing the device. David Rebuck, the director of the Gaming Commission said "If these eyeglasses were worn during a poker game, they could be used to broadcast a patron's hand to a confederate or otherwise be used in a collusive manner." Customers who refuse to take them off can be forced to leave the property. As Rebuck explains it -"Even if the glasses had not been used for cheating, their presence at a gaming table would lead to the perception that something untoward could be occurring, thereby undermining public confidence in the integrity of gaming."
Now that you think about it - anyone wearing a hidden camera can cheat. Hmm... sounds like the Spy Shop better stop selling al those pen-cams and bow-tie cams. Almost instantly, gamblers are thinking - we may have a problem here - with or without Google Glass. And they'd be right.
Hospitals are worried about privacy impact of Google Glass.
Jim Mandler of Continuum Health Partners, which runs NY Hospitals including Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital, told Fast Company: "I would venture to say that we will probably have some kind of policy in place that would ban the use of these glasses until we learned more about them and their use, because it could impend on patient privacy."
Movie Theaters, Sports Arena's, even College Classrooms are finding themselves having to think about the complex line that Google Glass brings into focus, as users who are already tweeting, photographing, and video taping with their mobile phones become portable live video transmission studios - bringing a world of ultimate transparency to otherwise private or controlled environments.
Arizona State Senator Steve Farley sees danger on the roads - and says he'll move to ban Google Glass in moving motor vehicles. But here Google is pushing back, saying that Glass may have a 'tremendous potential to improve safety on our roads and reduce accidents.' The West Virginia legislature has proposed a ban on drivers from wearing Glass. The ban, according to Wired, will make it against the law for people to be "using a wearable computer with head mounted display."
And the pre-launch panic about Google Glass isn't limited to big institutions and state governments. The 5 Point Cafe in Seattle, Wash. announced a ban on Google Glass, prompting author and commentator Jeff Jarvis called the ban "technopanic" and launching the phrase "Glassholes" into the public vernacular.
But hold on a minute - all this banning and fear-mongering totally misses the point.
We're moving rapidly to a world of total transparency. We'll soon be recorded, broadcast, face-recognised, and socially connected by a wide array of devices. Google Glass was the starting gun for a new World Made of Glass. Transparent and Fragile at the same time. Governments and organizations can ban all they want - wearable computing is coming. No, strike that -it's already here. If you want to record a movie you've got your iPhone in your pocket. But the new form factors that will be lead by Glass but surely followed by Apple AAPL -1.39%, Samsung, HTC and a raft of others aren't going to be stopped by fearful institutions. They'll have to evolve, or be eclipsed. One NBA team owner told me he sees no problem with Google Glass - in fact he thinks low quality POV headwear images will make the high quality area created sports coverage all the more appealing. In a world of noisy images and video, people are hungry for quality.
Mark Hurst, the founder of the forward thinking consulting company Creative Good, blogged about it this way: "The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change." His vision of a dystopian future turns every Google Glass wearing user into a potentially unwitting surveillance system of the general public. A dark view for sure, but not entirely impossible. I'm enough of an optimist to believe that we'll create some social and legal rules before Google Glass starts wholesale gathering of our private thoughts. And frankly, I think Google is smart enough to draw those lines as well. But one thing Mark and I do agree on - this change in being a citizen is coming - and will give each of us the power of data, and the new complex pressures of a transparent and fragile world. No law is going to change that.