Tim Stevens of Engadget – Beyond Google Glass and the Potential Future of Augmented Reality

Tim Stevens is Editor in Chief at Engadget.com, one of the world’s top technology blogs whose focus extends beyond product reviews to technology breakthroughs, interesting research, and interviews with Tech experts.

This past week I caught up with Tim about his experience with Google Glass and his ideas about the future of augmented and virtual reality, among other topics (see full interview above).

Tim’s Experiences with Google Glass

As one of the first users of Glass outside the ranks of Google, Tim’s experience has had it’s highs and lows. The first few days, Tim reports, are “eye openings” (pun not intended, of course), having the device beeping and popping up little notifications about emails makes you hardly be able to help smiling. Tim also mentions that GPS is another one of the key features of glass, and that “finding a restaurant is suddenly marvelously easy.” On the other hand, the droves of people stopping him on the street to try glass, theĀ incessantĀ beeping and notifications.

“After about a week or so you realize, there’s a pretty big commitment to putting this thing on your face.”

At home, with a display in front of him, Tim found that he didn’t really need the utility of Glass. It’s relatively limited in it’s utility as present, and Tim hasn’t had any truly “negative” experiences (IE: people being concerned about him video recording them, etc…), and he’s excited about the potential and future function of the device (including when others get their hands on the API and can begin developing and expanding off of Glass).

The Future of Augmented Reality

One of the reasons I’d decided to reach out to Tim is because I saw one of his recent interviews with Thad Starner about how Google Glass could augment our memories and realities.

From what I gathered from my chat with Tim, Thad (who is one of the first promoters of wearable computer devices, and has been wearing computers since his MIT days in the 90’s) believes that wearable computing will mostly develop as a kind of assisting device to our present faculties of memory and mind. Basically, what “augmented reality” devices like Glass will eventually turn into is kind of aide to our modern functions that allows us to access information more easily (directions, restaurant recommendations, etc…).

Thad holds that we shouldn’t really want or need anything beyond those functions, but Tim’s fascination with the technology takes him to a vision of something more immersive, “Fully Registered Augmented Reality.” Tim’s interest seems to stem both from Sci Fi notions and from the real utility and usefulness of a kind of augmented reality that covers your entire field of view.

Tim imagines a world where he can bring up as many displays as he wants at any given time and is able to interact with and data with thoughts alone. The technology, as Tim acknowledges, is nowhere near where it needs to be, though companies like Oculus are making things exciting again.

My tendency is to lean on the side of curiosity and increased utility, as maximizing my human potential is pretty high on my priority list. I am wary, however, of the possibilities of such technology, though I believe the question of it’s development is a “when” question, not an “if” question. The ability to interact with data with our imagination and to interact with virtual reality swiftly provides too much utility for humans – and it’s inevitable development seems to have it’s dangers and it’s possibilities, though I like to hope we as a race will leverage it properly to whatever the next best step is for our conscious potential.

I referred Tim to a video called “SIGHT” that explores some of the ramifications of this kind of technology in a frightfully believable way. I am of the belief that as soon as these technologies are possible, there will be a massive shift in human experience which will quickly take us beyond “human” levels of intelligence, affect, interactions, etc… I am no pessimist, but I think – as I believe Tim does as well – that these technologies require quite a vigilant effort towards the “good” as companies and labs develop them in the coming years.

Personal Security in a World of Wearable Devices

Tim explains that although he has never been accused of taking photos of or video recording people while wearing glass, he suspects that this will become common, and that this will also be a real and legitimate concern. Neither Tim nor I are particularly disturbed by being filmed or photographed in public, but Tim explains that not everyone is like him, and that some people will take their privacy much more seriously (not to mention that nearly anyone can be found in an awkward or embarrassing situation that they’d rather not have spread around the internet in a matter of seconds).

It’s his belief that Google isn’t currently doing enough to handle these concerns, and that the simple addition of a sound or “blinking red light” when recording or taking photos would make people feel safer around Glass, and would make it easier for Glass to gain commercial and political acceptance as a major transition forward in personal effectiveness / connected intelligence.

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I wanted to say thanks again to Tim for taking the time for the interview. Be sure to check out his Engadget Podcast online (where they cover a wide range of topics, from Gaming to Virtual Reality to Tech Trends), and the new Engadget hands-on future technology event called EXPAND.

Otherwise, make sure to keep your Google Glass lazers to stun, and catch you next week.

-Daniel Faggella