Google Glass redefines what it means to wink

December 18, 2013

Winking may never be the same. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Traditionally we wink to signal some shared hidden knowledge or convey solidarity. Google may be changing that after it released updates to Google Glass on Tuesday afternoon, including a setting that allows for photo taking with the wink of an eye.

In a way this is brilliant. Fumbling in your pocket for a smartphone, then firing up the camera and framing a picture can take time. By the time you’re ready to shoot, the moment may have been lost.

Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” touched on this in a piece in Sunday’s New York Times. She laments how taking a photo interrupts an experience as we put the situation on pause, instead of just living in it and enjoying it.

Snapping a photo with a simple wink changes all of that. It becomes a seamless experience. Google envisions other uses as well:

Imagine a day where you’re riding in the back of a cab and you just wink at the meter to pay. You wink at a pair of shoes in a shop window and your size is shipped to your door. You wink at a cookbook recipe and the instructions appear right in front of you – hands-free, no mess, no fuss.

The drawback — and this could be significant — is potentially alienating those around you. Nowadays we generally know when people take photos of us. A smartphone is pulled out, held up and aimed at us.

In an age of untagging undesirable photos on social media and carefully manicured digital personas, there’s likely to be some discomfort with this feature.

Google’s wink feature brings to mind the example of clap-on, clap-off lights. With a simple clap of your hands, appliances could be turned on and off. This was cool in a way, but never caught hold. We’ll see if winking will do better.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland | December 18, 2013