Google Glass and other ‘wearable recording devices’ have been banned from cinemas across the US after a joint decision by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO).
MPAA and NATO, which respectively represent the six major Hollywood studios and some 32,000 of America’s 39,000 movie screens, said the decision was made due to the threat of piracy.
“As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters,” said the pair in a joint statement, “we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown. As has been our long-standing policy, all phones must be silenced and other recording devices, including wearable devices, must be turned off and put away at show time.”
Google Glass has never exactly been welcomed in US cinemas (whether or not to allow the device has been previously left to the discretion of individual branch managers) but this announcement follows a decision by UK cinemas to make the ban official.
Google might take umbrage at the move, but a little clarity might be good for consumers. In January this year a US Glass wearer was unceremoniously hauled out the middle of a film, detained and searched by members of Homeland Security because they could not tell whether or not he was recording.
However, many will see the decision by the MPAA and NATO as short-sighted and reactionary - not least because cinema pirates have been using video recording hardware far more sophisticated than Glass for years.
Glass may offer video recording from a convenient POV position, but its camera is only 5-megapixels in resolution and its battery life is depleted after 30 minutes of recording.
Google Glass: Everything you need to know
Google Glass: Everything you need to know
Think of Glass as having a smartphone on your face. You control it either using voice commands (eg, 'Okay Glass, directions to British Museum') or the touch panel on the right arm (eg, swipe down to go back in any menu). It can shoot video and photos without connecting to the internet but you need to connect to the web via a smartphone or Wi-Fi to use apps (dubbed 'Glassware). Google hopes it's the future (ie you'll be using Google all the time), others think it's just too geeky or creepy to ever take off.
Glass is about as powerful as a mid-range smartphone with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of memory slotted into the right arm of the frame. The prism-style screen has a resolution of 640 by 360 and sound is conveyed either by a bone conduction speaker (using vibrations into your skull) or using an earphone. The camera has a five-megapixel resolution and can shoot video at 720p. There's also a proximity sensor to turn it on automatically when picked up. Engineers have estimated that the innards cost around £100 with Google's R&D accounting for the rest of the cost.
3/6 Glass in the UK
Anyone in the UK over 18 and with £1000 burning a hole in their pocket can buy Glass. It's available online or through Google's London 'Basecamp' - essentially a fitting station to give you an introduction to the technology (that's the LA one on the left, expect London's to be less sunny). Glass has launched with five apps (known as 'Glasware' in the UK) including a running 'audio game', a star map and a news app from The Guardian.
The location of Glass's screen in the top right of users' vision has led to complaints of headaches. Experts say that the display is in one of the least comfortable areas of humans' field of vision (early prototypes put the screen directly in front of the ye but was too obstructive), although Google says that its only a problem for a small number of users: “Glass is designed for micro-interactions, not for staring into the screen, watching Friday night movie marathons or reading War and Peace.”
Google has been keen to market Glass as a fashionable product, placing the device on catwalks and between the covers of Vogue. The company has partnered with Luxottica (owner of the Ray-Ban brand) as well as designer Diane von Fürstenberg to make special frames. Google's own designs are known as the Titanium Series (left) with perscription lenses costing extra. However, this association with the catwalk has done nothing to shake the criticism that Glass - and its price tag - are elitist.
6/6 Using Glass
Google has partnered with everyone from doctors to engineers to show how Glass can be useful - essentially by helping people in high-pressure professions who need hands-free access to information on the spot. However, this isn't an argument for Glass becoming a consumer product. Advocates of Glass say that it takes away a layer between technology and peoples' lives - and while this may be useful some of the time it's hardly a killer application. Besides, having to make a conscious decision to look at our smartphones may actually help us look at them less. If there's no separation between reality and tech, why would ever put the latter away?