“Let me show you the world through my eyes!” – Depeche Mode
I wonder if one day we will look back at today’s attitudes towards Google Glass and think about them the way we now think of how people saw movies before D.W. Griffith?
Google Glass turned two today, having been first released on April 4, 2012. Matt McGee at Marketing Land has written an article about Glass’ progress, describing 60 ways different organizations are using Glass. And it really made me think.
There are a bunch of nice business uses, such as Virgin Atlantic’s agents at Heathrow being able to maintain eye contact with travelers by using Glass instead of their usual screens, and Sherwin-Williams paint creating an app that takes the colors seen in a Glass photo and matches them to their colors of paint. But what really floored me was how Glass is being used to show the subjective views of different people to audiences.
A lot of professional sports teams are showing fans the view from the Glass of players during warm-up, cheerleaders, and even the president of the San Jose Earthquakes during the annual player draft. The Kansas City Symphony has shown a symphony performance from the view of three musicians and the musical director. Riz Nwosu, of AppCurious, is said to have made the first music video shot completely with Glass.
I may be a bit biased about all this. Back in 1947, my father produced the first feature film shot completely in subjective camera, from the protagonist’s perspective. That was Robert Montgomery’s “Lady in the Lake” at MGM. That movie wasn’t a big hit, although it’s doing OK in DVD today and is shown in a lot of film classes. The audience wasn’t ready for it. Since then, we’ve gotten more used to subjective camera, to some extent thanks to the Blair Witch Project, the Chernobyl Diaries and other films telling the story through the lens of a portable video camera. We’ve also gotten reality TV, where we’re supposed to forget that all that “reality” is taking place under the watchful eye of a cameraperson and God knows who else.
Glass could change that in some interesting ways. We could have completely DIY reality TV. No phony cameraperson, just the real people wearing Glass. Of course, some editing will improve the results, and purists can say that editing takes us beyond reality, too. Still, it would be a step. It would also be interesting to see something like a Shakespeare play performed with all the actors wearing Glass. Mixing the feeds would be a challenge, but a traditional TV control room could probably handle it, with a good director. What if an actor had to learn not only how to look but what to look at?
We don’t know what would happen. There could be a lot of flops. But then some artist might get it right, and all of a sudden we suddenly see something through somebody else’s eyes.
I’m hopeful, because I have seen what film looked like in the very early days. Basically, it was a camera in the audience of a play. D.W. Griffith is given the most credit for assembling the first films with shots from different perspectives, long shots, over-the-shoulder shots, close-ups. Today, we take these for granted, and their use has become varied and sophisticated. With Glass Cinema, less might be more. There might be less of those wide establishing shots, aerial photography, and sweeping pans. We might be stuck closer to how people see things, the way we are all, really, stuck. At some point, will we move from all those action shots in race cars and on snowboarders’ helmets to something subtle and personal?
Looking back from the future, will we wonder how it took people so long to get it? Will we marvel that early reactions to Glass seemed divided between people who saw it as a heads-up display and those who worried about people taking it into bathrooms? I guess no matter what perspectives new technology gives us, we will always have blind spots.