History repeats with high-tech glasses

May 14, 2013

Google’s immensely hyped Internet-connected glasses promise new vistas for both convenience and annoyance.

On the one hand, we will no longer even need to pick up a smartphone to surf the Web. On the other hand, we could soon be subject to the irritant of, say, people bellowing requests to their glasses when we’re trying to quietly enjoy a meal in a restaurant.

Though the glasses are just starting to filter out to consumers, legislators in West Virginia are getting an early jump on banning them, at least in certain circumstances. An amendment to the state’s law prohibiting cellphone use behind the wheel has been introduced that would also prohibit using “a wearable computer with head mounted display” when piloting a car.

While we are all for any action that would enhance the safety of motorists, the concerns about driver distraction here could be misplaced. Though the glasses provide ample opportunity for unnecessary diversion, they also include navigation features that will likely prove useful to travelers. And isn’t there just as much opportunity for drivers to be distracted, and potentially get in an accident, if they have their eyes fixed on a map rather than the road?

This seems all too reminiscent of those who, when faced with the prospect of car radios in the 1930s, strenuously labored to have them banned. Those who don’t learn from history…



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