The other night I was sitting on the patio of my favorite watering hole, sipping a Moscow Mule. It was a gorgeous and balmy night in mid-Missouri — the perfect backdrop for friends and summer drinks. Tables were pushed together and our party was about 15 people deep. Sounds like a recipe for a great time, right? Then why was I so annoyed?
I'll tell you why. Because almost everyone, save for myself, had their smartphones out in a kaleidoscope of distraction. People were checking into Foursquare, posting photos to Instagram and updating Facebook profiles — everything but having eye-to-eye conversations with each other. Am I so wrong to find this behavior utterly rude, not to mention boring? Or am I just a curmudgeon longing for ye olden days when going out was more about being social and less about documenting it for the Internet?
For those of you who can't resist viewing your social life through the lens of your smartphone, here's something that might appeal to both of us. It's a device that will let you stay connected and keep me from scowling the entire time while we're hanging out…well, almost.
Erick Miller and Jon Rodriguez of Vergence Labs say they're out "to reinvent the human-computer experience as stylish computing enabled eyewear" and they think they can do so with their Social Video Electric Eyewear.
Thanks to "chromatic shifting conductive glass," the lenses are able to be lightened or darkened with a push of a button, basically making them electro-sunglasses. But the big feature of the specs is the tiny camera within the part of the frame that sits over the bridge of the nose.
I think you know where these guys are going with this idea, but allow them to explain.
"Our Web sharing site, YouGen.Tv will enable users to create social profiles and share first-person POV 'experiences' as their real 'life memories' onto Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, from the same perspective, and point of view as they experienced them," the duo wrote on their website.
Sure, camera glasses already exist, but not in such a way that they're integrated with social media. Plus, Miller and Rodriguez say there's another enticing element to these glasses — a more fashion-forward one, if you will. They even go so far as to drop the dreaded "h" word.
"What if the ability was inside a regular pair of stylish and trendy looking hipster glasses? That would be cool! Even cooler, you could record anything you wanted anytime while keeping the use of your hands to, as the slogan goes 'reach out and touch somebody'."
Frankly, if you meet me at the bar wearing these glasses, I'm more likely to reach out and touch you by slapping them off your face. However, I'm a peaceful man, so how about I just give you an over-the-top eye roll instead.
Despite his spelling abilities, Miller describes himself as a "Renissance Man" and Rodriguez not-so-subtly reminds you that, when he helped start Vergence Labs, he was the same age as Steve Jobs when he founded Apple. As you can see, both lads are chock-full of vainglory, which will surely endear them to the millennials of Generation Me, likely their target audience. But still, these guys are anything, if not enthusiastic about a hands-free future:
"This will effectively 'reveal reality' and in the process will increase human learning, bio-metric understanding, and raise the overall level of human empathy across the world so that everyone is able to see things more directly from the validity of other people's point of view."
While the Arab Spring movement was a righteous example of how social networking cane fuel change, I seriously question whether technologies like Social Video Electric Eyewear can really "raise the overall level of human empathy." Most people I see publicly pecking away on their smartphones are so removed from reality they seem like the last thing on their mind is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
At least when people's heads are buried in their phone, I know they're not paying attention. But to have someone zoning out while looking me in the eye through a pair of dark-rimmed frames as they record "life memories" seems even more offensive.
Reality doesn't need to be re-revealed, it already exists. Therefore, maybe it needs to be rediscovered, not virtually, but actually. If there's going to be a Renaissance of anything, let's at least learn how to spell it first. But now I'm straying into bar-stool philosophizing. So while I'm here, "Hey bartender, how about another Moscow Mule."
With all this talk about renaissance, cheers to a new dawn…perhaps a new P.M. Dawn.
Credit: Vergence Labs