Google Glass = Big Brother C:\>Error – Does Not Compute

July 28, 2013
google glass privacy

google glass big brother

I am a Glass Explorer and keep up to date with all the news and information on Glass. a particular subject which keeps cropping up is that of the use of video data collected through Glass. Although it is true that its capabilities for Big Brother-type activity are present in the device’s technology, it really is no different to your phone in many respects in terms of tracking your whereabouts, what you buy etc.  As for privacy, the average city dweller walks past a hundred active CCTV cameras a day so there’s no real change there either- do you ever complain in a store that the cameras are following you? You assume they are using the data they collect for security but in reality, you have no control over where it can be used.

The gathering of information via video in a Big-Brother-fearing manner is another huge big-data analysis challenge that is way beyond the capabilities of our computing networks even into the foreseeable future.

The issue is that to be a great Big Brother, you have to be able to look at all the data and use it somehow. Who will have the computing power required to analyze 100 million users’ personal videos every day for example – never mind the billion tweets and emails that they also generate?

Google Glass Video – 5 hrs per day = 5Gb of data

Let’s stick with video as the other data available from your Android is already being analyzed and is old news.

An average hour of MP4 at 720p is about a Gigabyte. So an average user with 5 hours video per day and 100 million users; as Big Brother you would be processing the data amounting to perhaps (at a very conservative estimate of 500 million Gigabytes (476 Petabytes) per day. If you had this computing power on hand, the genome project could have been completed years ago. As it is, although we know what genes there are, matching them to the creation of over 100,000 proteins is apparently a bitch to compute. The biggest universities in the country have spent over a decade working on it using Supercomputers and complex math. So back to our Google Glass video surveillance by the government (or Google?). 476 Petabytes of data processing would require not only a server farm the size of Greenland to store it and index it all: 576 Petabytes needs 488,000 One-Terabyte hard drives like the one in your laptop to store it on.

Cost? One day’s storage of 476 Petabytes at say $50 per drive is 488,000 x 50 = $24m for the drives plus about the same every week to manage them. That’s just the hard drives for one day’s storage.  Add in there the cost of the computers required to run them….they are probably about $1000 per server blade running a max of 10 hard drives in an array so you need 48,800 of those too. The processing required to analyze them all would be another server per drive. That is now half a million servers plus drives. Oh and there needs to be data integrity too so add a 20% overhead to all of that. The actual cost of just the storage and processing hardware is phenomenal. Now add a new satellite or two as this is mobile data and bandwidth would need to be created to cope with the data flow. We are talking many billions of dollars, and thousands of employees to install and maintain such a vast computer.

Can’t get your head around those big numbers? Google processes about 20 Petabytes per day of user data across its servers. 476 Petabytes of user data is going to need 20 Google-sized server farms to process it. The thought that the government can suddenly resource all that (without you knowing too) is unthinkable. The cost of each “Google” sized complex would be hundreds of millions – trillions would be the actual total cost when communications, human resources and power consumption are included.

Pretend they did.

Assume they managed to do this, what would Big Brother get from the many $Billions it would require to become a decent-sized Big Brother operation?  Um… a lot of video of people doing their daily stuff. Combing out the faces from that video alone would require such a large server farm, it would be cheaper to hire cops to just go walk the beat instead. And there we have it. Google Glass users will have a choice in all this too. The video cannot be “Switched on” by some nefarious organization as part of some NSA plot. This type of nonsense has been touted before. Why is it so ridiculous a scenario? The user can tell when the video is running. Even without the display being active, the chips on the circuitry inside warm up. You can feel them get warm as the processor works harder. Also, the battery would be used up and noticeably drained for no reason. so all these comments are really sensationalist and not based on any technical observation or conclusion. As a Glass Explorer I will not be in the slightest bit concerned about the video my Glass takes as I cannot see what interest that anyone would have in it other than curiosity. In line with the regular social acceptability of pointing a camera at someone and taking a picture, you risk being punched in the face if you dont choose your subjects carefully or politely. Glass is no exception and I imagine there will be an ER that will be picking a prism display out of someone’s forehead at some point for this reason. Technology changes but we don’t change much. The next generation will assume that a wearable computer is as normal as a telephone with a rotating dial to the generationsof years gone by. Including me.

A more likely use for facial recognition – not Glass though.

Cops will walk their usual beats (probably more of them) and their scanning cameras (which are unlikely to be Google Glass, as integration into their current attire is more likely) and their Facial Recognition Camera will pick out those that they already know are active criminals and those who are wanted already. Hey ho. What is different to how things are now? They use the CCTV in public places to do this anyway, and most of these cops already know the local on-foot criminals on their patch – its their business to know them and keep an eye on them. All a Facial Recog. device will do is enable them to spot their targets easier.

Will they spot the wrong people? Much less likely than if they do it by looking at a “Wanted” pic at the Police HQ on their way to work or worse, by guessing that you have criminal intent by your behavior which can be totally innocent but look suspicious. This also reduces the need for cops etc. to intrude on people by asking for id etc. unnecessarily. Facial recognition is very accurate and will actually lead to you as a taxpayer spending less money attributed to catching criminals on the street; criminals who are probably stealing from you too. One valid concern might be an overuse of facial recognition by beat-walking cops – collection of parking fines on the spot for example might turn the public against the use of facial recognition. However, these cops are not being paid for that purpose and no rational police dept would waste their time becoming a small-fines collection agency. unfounded fears based on an irrational and unrealistic perspective is the foundation of many popular rumors and conspiracy theories.

That there is a conspiracy to invade your privacy is an interesting phobia that is prevalent among people. What these phobics get up to that is not already mostly visible through other channels is a mystery. This does not address proper espionage or secrets of ational interest; it merely address the fears of those who think they are being watched. Truth is, that this observation of your behavior happened years ago. No-one noticed – privacy invasion was inherent to the the new societal model of the millenium. CCTV just appeared and is used as a functional way to prevent us being at risk from being mugged in the street. I for one dislike the thought of being mugged more than I do that of being watched by someone I don’t know on a CCTV camera.

So hopefully this all puts the subject of Glass, Big Brother and facial recognition into a little more perspective. It does not answer all the questions for sure; an important aspect is the facial recognition and sharing of personalized data of those being recognized in real time could have major social consequences in the future. Permission to exchange data like that could well be built into the operating system and perhaps should be an integral part of all such wearable computers.  What is for sure is that there will be a hundred million Glass (and other wearable) users in just a year or two and any notion that all their video could be somehow data-interrogated is more than a little far-fetched. Targeted data collection has been around for years and the tapping of major Internet fiber optic backbone by security agencies is already a known fact. As is the Prism and similar data interrogation and mining techniques. Glass is just a phone + a camera so all the data uploaded will also be passed along those same fiber optic cables through bisecting routers and fiber optic splicers into the same hands before it gets to Google anyway. If you don’t want your shit looked at – don’t go online or encrypt it, but they may have master keys for that too.

As for the processing of even a single hours’ video for 100 million users? I think that the cost:benefit ratio is far too high – exorbitantly so. Even a well-balanced economy would have a hard time paying for that. Getting Congress to fork out a $Trillion for a new Big Brother video processing server farm? That would not float in any party’s budget and would drown a party if it were an election pledge. As for the Bog Brother government or police? On the whole they don’t really have the time or the money to bother with you – if you are of interest, they probably already know about you.

Voice Search Optimization (VSO) and GLASS

July 9, 2013
voice search optimization

voice search optimizationThe advent of Google Glass has brought with it an avalanche of new ideas which in turn are generating new industries. For my part, I work hard at optimizing websites for people so that they appear prominently in search engine results. This industry has been in existence since Google came up with their search engine in the 90’s – anyone who knows the Internet will know this as Search Engine Optimization. Google Glass has come up with a new way to search – although not ground-breaking in itself, voice search is now becoming the norm for mobile search. This puts the Search Engine Optimizer in a tricky spot.

You might think that pages optimized for the traditional text searcher will work for Glass and other mobile devices. This is not so, there is a fundamental difference in the way people would search using voice commands in comparison to a textual search. The reason for this is multifold. Firstly, text takes time to type out, so search terms are often truncated and acronyms frequently used. Even spelling is corrected by Google in search these days. In voice search, the user just has to say words, so not only is the query likely to be lengthier, it may also be more complex in nature and contain words that the user might avoid. This includes words users do not like to spell, or are tedious to type. Voice search is not inhibited by spelling, although pronunciation is of concern. This leads to users making much more complex queries when they use voice search.

The meaning of words also presents a challenge for voice search. We tend to avoid problems with double meanings in sentences we write, because spelling denotes different meaning between like-sounding words in most cases; we also pay little attention to spoken double-entendres (except perhaps for the naughty ones). “horse” and “whores” are very different meanings but almost identical pronunciation. In voice search, you may for example unfortunately end up searching for a website containing … well…whores and not horse.

Voice Search Optimization VSO is already with us and has been since mobile devices first started using voice commands, but it has been a low-key industry so far. Wearable computers like Google Glass which will be used constantly for search and perhaps shopping etc. will require very specific website pages developed to respond properly and appear in search for voice search queries rather than textual queries. voice search optimization is a specialist site that offers SEO and VSO and focuses on the optimization of websites for both text and voice search performance.

Optimizing for Voice Search

For those with a website that only has a limited keyword target range, niche marketers etc., voice search optimization can start with simply looking at the products/services and keywords used on a page, and say the words out that you would use if you could search without typing. For example. A user with Glass might use a search command such as “Where is the nearest place to get a Chinese takeaway” – it would be unusual for a searcher to type that long search string into a search box. In reality, they will more likely use something like “nearest Chinese takeaway.”  This poses problems for web content writers optimizing for search;

1) Will the search algorithms at Google have to be changed to take account of the difference in users’ search phraseology? If so, what overall effect will that have on performance for an existing page.

2) Will webmasters have to update the way their keywords are arranged and what keywords they focus on, as the transition to voice search continues? Will every website have to be re-written? That is a lot of work and not really a feasible solution.

The probable answer to both of these questions is yes. If so, another industry is born; or born again, depends which way you look at it. Search optimization experts are going to have to retrain and understand what the differences are between verbal word usage and the written word. As a writer I have a (shaky) grip on the written word and as a native English speaker with a good education, a broad vocabulary. This is already of much use when it comes to writing SEO content that appeals to the sematic side of the Google algorithms. Replacing phrases with similar phrases to broaden keywording is something of a thesaurus workout, but crucial these days for SEO. The issue now is going to be appealing to the voice commands as well as text commands. Will there be voice-optimized text on pages for mobile landing pages? It is probably going to go that way out of necessity. The chances of being able to optimize text for voice commands and retain the same level of optimization for text search is a big “ask.” My experience of writing web pages – and I have written thousands – is that this is not going to be an easy thing to solve; not for Google or for the future Voice Search Optimization expert.

Images might present even more issues for Voice Search!

The plot thickens when you realize that voice search optimization is not the only thing webmasters of the future need to look at. If people start using image search – and that is already possible with Glass – they can look at an object and get Glass to run a Google search for it using image recognition. Maybe not faces as that been disallowed, but an inanimate object can be scanned with the camera and similar objects searched for.

If you sell oranges then this is not a big deal. They all look the same. If you sell camping stoves, the situation is very different. A camping stove looks different depending on the angle at which you snap an image, so the search results can depend on the user position in relation to the object they are snapping. If you are trying to appear high up in the list for image search, your site will have to have a range of multi-perspective (and every product in every color) images otherwise matching will be difficult and you will fail to appear in the results. Users may be able to use a combination search – voice plus image, which could help reduce the problem of optimization for image search but is not a solution.

Will we have to Voice Search Optimize everything?

This is not just a pie in the sky situation – this is happening right now with 2 million people expected to buy Glass alone next year. The same thing applies to all the other wearables that are on the horizon which will be using voice search. The Telepathy-One is nearly ready, the iWatch and other wrist-worn computers are also nearing consumer readiness. The market is expected to rise to hundreds of millions of units of voice-search-capable devices. The iPhone has been able to perform voice search for a couple of years now but strangely, I have never been asked to optimize for voice search. I have a feeling however, that webmasters will start to take more notice as more of these wearable computers roll out. One thing is certain; voice search is on the increase and will be mainstream within a couple of years and likely to be more common than text search.

Optimizers, start your engines!

New Official Google Glass FAQ

July 4, 2013
glass explorer

Google have just included a new support website relating to Glass Explorers with a more detailed Glass FAQ including answers to many questions about the technologies and software included in this wearable computing device. You can get all the information here – you don’t need to be a Glass Explorer to get access. Here’s the Glass FAQ link:

The site has a lot of information about the Glas Explorer project:

Google Glass could revolutionize the medical world

June 20, 2013
surgeon with glass

surgeon could use google glassThe Glass Project has generated an enormous amount of interest – some good some not so good. People are worried about privacy, whether their social interactions will change and how laws will have to be put in place to protect people (as usual from themselves it seems). What is not so commonly discussed (yet), is the way it might change the lives of millions who suffer from poor health. This hands-free opportunity to gather, source and exchange live video and other information would be of widespread use in the medical world, specifically in cases where specialized medical assistance is not immediately available. A surgeon can have information about their patient overlaid onto their live Glass video of a surgery they are performing.

With some simple added technology, it would be possible to overlay imagery from other sources to guide a more accurate  (and more successful) dissection of unhealthy tissue for example. These are all problems which Glass (or similar technology) will be able to overcome. Glassheadz is already in discussion with a number of medical practitioners with a view to creating solutions to some pressing problems in the medical world.

This article from Software Advice covers more medical uses for Glass and is an excellent read.”

The Glass Factory System Image for Hacked/Rooted Glass

May 25, 2013


This link shows you where to find the Glass factory system image. Make sure you read the warnings there about hacking or “rooting” Glass before attempting it.  You may well void your warranty if you hack Glass and the factory restore is not guaranteed to restore services nor allow for continued/resumed OTA (Over The Air)  updates.

Here is where to download the Glass Factory System Image

Kernel building and downloading is explained here:

The Playground for Glassware is here:

Have fun but don’t smash that Glass!

Hacking Glass at Google IO 2013

May 17, 2013

Google Development Team show how to Hack Glass – Without busting the warranty!

Heres a video from the Google IO 2013 showing how to Hack Glass – and a wealth of other snippets of Glassware development information, including some juicy info about the forthcoming Glass Development Kit.

Through the Looking Glass – A Google Glass Demo Video

May 10, 2013
Glass developer kit

Need to see a Google Glass demo as seen through the Glass display?

Many people are asking what it is like to actually use and see images through Glass so these guys who have theirs already made a demo for you all so you can find out exactly what Glass looks like through the display. They took a camera and recorded the view a person would get and show off some Glass functionality. As Glass Explorers we will get ours soon (we hope!) and can begin making our own contribution to the Glass user community. For now, enjoy this Glass demo / user video:



May 6, 2013


The Google I/O 2013 conference is due shortly too (May 15th-17th 2013) so there may be more information for Glassware developers coming out there.

Here are some relevant sessions from the conference covering Glassware development and the Mirror API

Google Mirror API sessions


This Timothy Jordan session will probably get a few people interested with a session on developing for Glass.

  • When: May 16, 10:00AM – 11:00AM PDT
  • Where: Room 2
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Track: Glass

Google Glass SDK Update – The Google Glass Kernel is Downloadable Now!

April 29, 2013


Glass Kernel

Google has moved along with the Glass Mirror API now extended publicly for developers to delve a little deeper into  the world of Glassware. The Google Glass Kernel Source is available but not the root yet. Jailbreakers need to be careful about creating useful and acceptable Glassware before they start throwing stones in Glass house or their devices might suddenly become something of a brick. A trendy brick but all the same, an inoperable device is no fun at all.

Those who do want to mess with the Google Glass Kernel Code can play to their heart’s content in the API sandbox and with the Glass kernel itself. Google will be encouraging playware activity in their sandboxes in order to promote broad thinking and innovation which will shape the Glassware of the future.

Although Google have published access to the Glass kernel at the above link, it is expected that the Glass kernel will be moved to Git shortly to allow proper open source collaboration and development in a standard and industry accepted environment. This is good to see as the best apps are not created behind closed doors.

We will be unveiling our plans to help the Google Glass project in the coming weeks. In the meantime, techies can check out the newly released Google Glass Kernel, make their own plans and create new innovations. Glass is a unique platform that offers immense opportunities and is set to become a technology that is prevalent in society.