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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
Features Writer

The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Google Glass: Social breakthrough or Orwellian nightmare?

I grew up in a household cluttered with gadgetry: PDAs, laptops, Walkmen, Frisbee-sized LaserDiscs, modems, MiniDisc players and Sega Genesis cartridges. And yet, after undergoing a millennial upbringing, nothing has rattled my skull quite like Google Glass.

Mark Merritt
Mark Merritt

The software giant’s computerized eyewear has garnered both positive praise and scathing criticism since its launch last year. On Tuesday, April 15, Glass was made available to the general public.

Google has yet to release the figures of its one-day-only sale. But the company insists the demand for Glass remains healthy, even as netizens squabble over the product.It’s curious: Glass, which appears to have emerged from a dystopian sci-fi flick, has become the 21st century’s most polarizing gadget.

Proponents consider the device to be a pivotal achievement in ubiquitous computing—a concept that preaches the omnipresence of technology. Skeptics, perhaps unenthused by the $1,500 price tag and widespread douchery within the Glass community, believe Google and users alike will intrude on privacy and other individual rights.

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Tensions have snowballed into a digital deadlock: The Luddites vs. the Glassholes. A recent poll conducted by the market-research firm Toluna, found 72 percent of Americans feared Glass’ invasive properties.

Of the 1,000 individuals polled, many expressed apprehensiveness toward Glass’ high-definition camera, which can snap photos with the wink of an eye. Others feared the emergence of facial recognition applications. Google has taken these concerns into consideration.

Last June, the company reiterated its privacy policy and reassured the public that facial recognition software would be barred from the device.Even so, software, especially that of the open-source variety, is malleable.

When confronted with obstacles, third-party developers find creative ways to outwit, reengineer and innovate. Enter Stephen Balaban, the 24-year-old programmer who last year sidestepped Google’s ban on facial recognition software by assembling an alternative operating system.

Then there’s NameTag, an application built to spot a face using Glass’ camera, send it to a remote server and yield a match complete with a medley of data: criminal records, social media profiles and posts, additional photographs and more. Google is not affiliated with NameTag, but tech-savvy Glass users can install and manipulate the software with ease. All disadvantages aside, let’s examine the positive.

Sension, an application developed to map facial expressions, has the potential to help autistic users identify facial cues in real time. In the not-so-distant future, Glass wearers who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia or agnosia may once again recognize their loved ones’ faces.

That said, Glass’ future remains ambiguous. Ambitious products often fade into obscurity. If self-absorbed consumers hijack Glass, the product might go the way of the Segway, becoming little more than a novelty.

In contrast, if Glass becomes too widely accepted, you might find yourself surrounded by Geordi La Forge lookalikes, who bark commands like “OK, Glass, get directions to McDonald’s.”

The important takeaway from the Glass debate is that parley is essential.

Instead of lambasting Glass users, consider the benefits provided to surgeons, teachers, the handicapped and the less fortunate. Instead of chastising those concerned with the intrusion of privacy, realize the significance of anonymity and security in our society.

Through proper debate and collaboration, we can explore this brave new world together.

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