As ever-increasing amounts of data stream off our phones, smart watches and other wearable sensors, knowledge of our intents, desires, actions, locations, and even our emotions will have profound implications on our society and culture. How can you be Breaking Bad’s Walter White in the Age of Context where everyone has Glass and the NSA can listen to everything?
These ideas and more were discussed at this year’s Grow Conference, The Future of Business: the Intersection of Design and Entrepreneurial Thinking, which featured industry thought leaders from Google Ventures, GE, and Marketo, tech writers from Fast Company and Tech Crunch and numerous Venture Capitalists looking to fund the next great idea.
Among those presenting was Robert Scoble, author of upcoming book Age of Context and Google Glass aficionado, who donned his now ubiquitous pair of Glass and gave us a glimpse of its true potential.
Here is what I learnt:
A) Google Glass is all about Context
Google Glass has added four points of context in the past three months. At this rate Glass will have another eight points of context when it’s released in six months. If this trend holds steady in 18 months Glass will know if you are in conversation, out shopping, driving, running, walking, biking, in a meeting or on your way to a flight.
B) Google Glass is not yet smart
Glass currently offers lightweight context but is not yet really smart. For example it doesn’t yet have the capability to know when you’re in a meeting and then block out your day accordingly.
C) Google Glass understands crowds
Glass can see 25 faces at one time and has the capability to do crowd analytics. There’s not yet a personal identifier but that’s only a matter of time.
D) Google Glass will affect commerce as we know it
Glass and other sensors will help open the door to “contextual commerce”, where knowledge of the conditions and circumstances of the customer is taken into account. For instance, Glass will be able to send a pre-order into the coffee shop and have your coffee waiting for you when you get there. No more waiting in line. Consumers are going to demand this type of deeper, more relevant shopping experience, as it removes an inconvenience, albeit mild (think Uber).
E) The eye sensor isn’t turned on yet but you know it’s coming
The eye sensor acts as an interface, watching where you move your eyes, tracking them. If two people are wearing Glass it could surmise they were in a conversation by monitoring the direction of their eyes.
F) Google Glass has Therapeutic Applications
The eye tracker in conjunction with built in headphones could send reminders to someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder to look at the person they are talking to. With additional EEG or EKG sensors Glass could turn into a full-fledged biofeedback tool:
As Scoble says:
In the next 5 to 10 years, our sensors are going to have access to us at a very deep level and they are going to know you better than you know you. There’s even an upcoming sensor which detects whether you have cancer or not.
Glass will be very cool when you think of all the information you could potentially access through its sensors such as detecting someone’s age, health, location and interest level. I’m all for a contextual technology that allows me to schedule my morning coffee, gives me directions to my meeting, identifies those in the room with me and allows me to use my eyes as a mouse.
However, the key question on everyone’s mind is of course: “Would Breaking Bad be possible with Glass? How do you be Walter White in a society where everyone has Glass, sensors and phones and the NSA can listen to everything?”
The future Walter White is going to have all this paraphernalia on him and still need to get away with it so the Walter Whites of the world are going to have to become amazing liars and not just human liars, but human-machine liars.
Not only the Walter Whites of the world because here’s where it gets interesting: We humans, like Walter, utilizes deception all the time:
Think about when you smile but don’t really feel like smiling – maybe a social smile to a colleague or sales clerk. This is deception. Not Walter White evil deception, but deception nonetheless.
Deception in animals is the giving of misinformation by one animal to another, of the same or different species, in a way that propagates beliefs that are not true. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deception_in_animals)
Most often your fake smile won’t be detected as people are bad at spotting them. There are, however, subtle physical differences between genuine and fake smiles as researchers from UK note:
When a smile is genuine, the eye cover fold – the fleshy part of the eye between the eyebrow and the eyelid – moves downwards and the end of the eyebrows dip slightly. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/)
Surprisingly, it is the eye that gives away a fake smile, not the mouth, and it is the eye that Glass will tracking. If Glass can detect fake smiles or other deceptive responses, what will the impact be on our social behaviours and interactions? How as marketers can we tap into these biological cues to strengthen interaction with customers? For an example of biometrics in play, check out the Extra Cold Mind Reader.
Lessons at the conference, however, weren’t limited to Walter White and Google Glass as the speakers weighed in with war stories and advice, giving us a clearer picture of what tomorrow is going to look like through examples already in play.
The overall message? Time to get ready. Time to test. Time to rapidly prototype. Time to risk. As Greg Petrof, Chief Experience Officer from GE said of his company:
GE is evolving. We’ve re-engineered our entire systems with the Internet of Things in mind. We’re open to new discussions and are funding new business models. We’ve realize we can’t do it on our own. We need ideas and ways to execute and rapid execution comes from the combined power of the outside world – other people developing on your platform or within your ecosystem.
So here’s a final thought: What if Google Glass was released to the public and there weren’t any apps or ecosystem for people to join? This is something to think about as your business re-architects its systems to join the API economy, the Internet of Things, the era of the Quantified Self, Big Data and all other aspects of the Digital Experience.