As a kid I was enthralled by Steve Austin, the bionic man. With his go-faster legs and magical telescopic visual abilities. not to mention those seventies sound effects, he was an iconic hero. Something to aspire to, when you were 5.
How many stories or movies can you think of that involve some sort of adaptation or artificially enhanced form of the human body? Science fiction has presented us with plenty of examples over the years. In the recent movie Elysium, Matt Damon is kitted out with a robotic exoskeleton, hard wired into his neurological network so that he could, you know, fight baddies and stuff…
The examples could go on and on. As a rather clever species, we’re obsessed with forcing our own evolution. But biology is too slow and we’re too smart, so technology bridges the gap. Google seems to want to be at the centre of this bio-digital revolution, unsurprisingly.
Through the (Google) looking Glass.
The Glass project has been around long enough now that I feel I don’t need to provide an intro, and I’m assuming that anyone reading this blog is probably already familiar. What intrigues me is that it’s such an obvious and logical stepping stone to something new. It softens the interface between us and our networks, blurring the boundaries between man and machine and projecting individual neural networks onto the macro social plane. Some would say that sounds terrifying. Cue paranoid Orwellian fantasies.
We’re not quite there yet, but what follows Glass? When the technology exists to stimulate the visual cortex directly, do you think they’ll still bother with clunky apparatus worn in front of your eyes? Extrapolate the concept, and your grandchildren might very well have full neural access to the web, all with integrated GPS and comms capabilities too. They might still call it an iPhone, but the ‘i’ will stand for internal or integrated.
I thought this was a cycling blog?
OK, enough with the crazy talk future cyborg stuff.
Where’s all this going for me and my bike?
Glass isn’t even a commercial product just yet, it’s still in beta testing. But that little cycling app called Strava that we all love has got in on the action, and there have been several interesting posts appearing on the web.
A very brief mention of Strava, but with some interesting shots of what glassware looks like.
In this article, the author describes his experience of using Glass for a year, in which the biggest issue seemed to be the social segregation it caused, which led him to feel like a “glasshole”. There’s a brief mention of the Strava app.
This article focuses more explicity on the potential of wearable tech for Strava, with Google glass being one of the approaches, among more traditional ideas such as wrist worn devices.
Finally, here’s a YouTube video of a presentation for Google developers, which give you a clearer idea of what Strava might look and feel like on Glass. The video is set to start at around 15:53, just as the presenter starts the Strava segment [sic].
So many roads
Where is this all heading? If anything is clear, it’s that it won’t appeal to everybody. There’s a good chance that some people like to ride their bikes precisely to get away from this sort of invasive technology, whereas others will embrace it as a performance enhancing tool, or maybe just a techie toy to geek out on, at least until the next thing comes out.
So for those of you who anticipate being first in line for the Google brain implant, this might be the next best thing, for now.
This kind of thing can be quite divisive. Where do you stand? Let us know in the comments.