Claire Black: Looking through Google’s Glass darkly

‘CAN you even see me?” I am, it has to be said, spectacularly short-sighted, but when I was asked this question I was actually wearing my specs.
Google is to stop selling Glass just months after launching it in the UK. Picture: GettyGoogle is to stop selling Glass just months after launching it in the UK. Picture: Getty
Google is to stop selling Glass just months after launching it in the UK. Picture: Getty

“Of course I can,” was my indignant retort, squinting just a tiny bit as I said it – it’s been a while since I had my eyes tested. It turns out that my partner with her 20/20 lasered eyes could see how filthy my glasses were even from a distance of several feet. I’m not just talking fingerprints, I think there was some coffee splashback, possibly a bit of croissant. I’m not proud. I always thought I’d be one of those people with a special glasses cloth and a wee canister of spray so that, even on the move, I could keep my lenses sparklingly clean and smear-free. Alas, it turns out I’m more of a give it a rub on your simmet and if that doesn’t work, breathe heavily upon them before re-rubbing on a different portion of aforementioned simmet.

I confess to this ocular slovenliness only to admit that I was probably never really the target demographic for Google’s Glass headset. I mean, someone who routinely wakes up to find she’s slept on hers was never likely to shell out a grand on Glass. A pair of Glass? How do you even say it? I mean, come on, if the name doesn’t even work then are we to be surprised by news that Google is to stop selling their “smart glasses” (with the stoopid name) just months after launching them in the UK? Only about as surprised as we are that Segways aren’t exactly clogging our streets and that the liquid ejaculated from a SodaStream tastes absolutely nothing like the fizzy pop you buy in cans.

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Sometimes technology just doesn’t work. It isn’t progress, it doesn’t improve our lives. It just costs a lot and makes us look like “Glassholes”. This delightful play on words was possibly one of the nails in Glass’s coffin. Another was that most people don’t really want to be around someone who is recording their every word and facial expression. That’s why Glass was banned in bars, cars, cinemas, casinos, hospitals and banks. Glass smashed, and not in a good way.

Once upon a time I was an early adopter. I had an electronic diary long before anyone else I knew. I had a mobile phone long before anyone else I knew. And a tiny notebook computer with the screen the size of a bus ticket. They were all rubbish. I can say that now because I’m older and I have less disposable income and I’m a bit less of an eejit. These days, if I’m going to shell out on technology I want to know what it will do for me. And if there is no clear, quantifiable life improvement then I’m not interested. No, having a cup that tells you what is inside it on a digital screen – the Vessyl, if you please – is not an improvement, it’s a nonsense.

I’m hoping the demise of Glass (Google insists it’s not that, but I don’t believe them) signals that we’re starting to question what all this technology is about. Not just because it’s making us into a bunch of socially inept insomniacs who seem to think it’s OK for the Oxford Junior Dictionary to remove words such as acorn to make way for gems such as MP3. But also because so often it makes us look so ridiculous.

Speed slowdown is just capital

ARRIVING back in Edinburgh from Glasgow the other day, after a delay in the tunnel between Haymarket and Waverley stations – over the years I’ve spent more time in that tunnel than I have at the homes of several relatives – I was running late for an appointment, so I got a cab. As we sat in a long queue of traffic snagged up around the Picardy Place roundabout I couldn’t help but mutter my displeasure. “What hen?” asked the driver. “The traffic in this city,” I said grumpily. I didn’t tell him I was a cyclist and so have even less tolerance of the queues for fear I might be ejected, such is the state of the relationship between drivers and cyclists in the capital. “It’s terrible,” he said. “And just wait until they bring in the 20 miles an hour limit. They’re awfy stupid.” I don’t know what he meant by that, because enduring another 20 minutes in the cab we never got anywhere near 20 miles an hour. Good thing, too. Twenty’s definitely plenty, and so Edinburgh’s decision to roll out the new limit across the city is to be welcomed. Driving more slowly has a dramatic impact on accident rates – they go down. My only complaint? Putting signs up isn’t enough. I know because I live on a street that’s had the reduced speed limit for a year and most drivers still blithely ignore it.

Thunderbirds aren’t FAB

THUNDERBIRDS are go. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s the fact that my son has a Thomas The Tank Engine obsession and I’m being subjected to the adventures of the steamies on Sodor Island a bit too much for my liking – there’s no Ringo Starr and everything is CGI-tastic. Even the Fat Controller. Whatever the cause, news that ITV is to screen a reboot of Thunderbirds has irked me. In fact, my brows looked pretty similar to Scott Tracy’s when I heard. Not because I didn’t love Inter­national Rescue, but because these computer-generated remakes are totally soulless. What’s wrong with being able to see the strings? Just leave Stingray alone, OK?