Google’s Fashion Forward Spy Glass


Google’s Sergey Brin at the TED conference where he spoke about Glass.

For those of you who have already forgotten, Glass is Google’s very own high-tech eyewear project. The interactive device, nothing like your ordinary lens in a frame, can connect its user to personal information on their phone or to the depths of the internet. It basically functions as a computer allowing you to video whatever your see, translate whatever you say or record what you hear, amongst other things.  In addition to this, it is virtually weightless. The device is set to be released to the general public near the end of this year, so companies have already begun working hard on developing apps and accessories.

Now if you thought that was Google’s OCD creeping in, then you have not yet heard about the new Insight app that identifies a friend in a crowd by their “fashion fingerprint”.  Google is partly funding a group from Duke University in North Carolina, which has developed the software that allows people to create a “fashion fingerprint” of themselves based on the colour, texture or pattern of their clothing. Images are taken opportunistically through an allied app while the subject goes about using their Smartphone. The images are then shared amongst other Glass users and compared against Google’s fingerprint database, which then scans the crowd and picks that person out for you. To read more about exactly how this app works, take a look at their paper that provides details as to what the app does, how it works and what it can potentially morph into.

Although it has moved away from face recognition technology, it still sparks the concept of privacy invasion and is a little creepy to say the least. The researchers working on the app have reassured consumers that the “opportunistic pictures” mentioned in their paper can be taken automatically and there is an approval aspect as well. To be fair, it is quite a nifty idea, not having to look around while trying to give your exact location to a friend who cannot hear you over the band that plays loudly in the background, is a relief. Moreover, developer Srihari Nelakuditi, argues that your “fingerprint” lasts only as long as you wear the same clothing. If you wished not to be recognised and to disappear off Google’s fingerprint database, all you would have to do is simply change into something else. And in order to be found again, just create a new “fashion fingerprint”.

Despite this, I think the average consumer is going to need a bit more convincing, and not only of Insight but of the entire Glass concept. In terms of usage appeal, it is hard to avoid the fact that Glass essentially requires users to wrap an odd looking technologically advanced metal invention across their eyes. Research reinforces this by showing that fewer females would consider purchasing a pair. However, considering the fact that fashion designer extraordinaire Diane Von Furstenberg, included Glass in her Spring/Summer 2013 collection, I would think those statistics are not going to be relevant for long. In more recent headlines, it appears that everyday business owner’s are already taking a stand against the gadget.  Dave Meinert, owner of the 5 Point Café in Seattle, has banned Glass owners from entering his establishment whilst wearing the device, in order to prevent them from photographing or videoing his customers. His reason is to protect the identity of his customers who consider it “a private place that people go”. Moreover, Senator Cory Bernardi of Australia has pointed out that, “A single Google Glass wearer in your favourite restaurant could capture your image and your conversation without you ever knowing”. That certainly makes me wish I was born in the 1800s.

However, looking on the bright side of Insight, there is a possibility it could be used to aid those who suffer from ailments such as prosopagnosia or visual agnosia, were the app to develop to include facial or object recognition.

For a closer look at what the app can do and a visual simulation, click here.


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