The internet has permeated every aspect of our social habits, and as a result the way we woo one another has irreversibly changed. From online dating to relationship statuses, every facet of romance is documented and facilitated by social networking or dating services. So when the next wave of technological interaction hits, will the romantic landscape be as affected?
This next horizon may well be augmented reality, or the seamless incorporation of internet services and virtual interfaces into everyday life. Potentially the first large scale product of this nature, Google Glass is a headset with a small lens that acts similar to a Heads Up Display (HUD) in science fiction video games, displaying information that reacts and interacts with what you are seeing in real life.
If this device or similar technology becomes widespread, the meeting and courting process could be facilitated by real time updates and feedback that help determine compatibility and make even the most awkward and socially inert into smooth criminals – but is this a good thing? In testing this idea, artist and programmer Lauren McCarthy set up a system where she would covertly film her first dates and stream the content to an anonymous hivemind of observers who would coach her through the process. Via The Verge:
Over the next two hours, McCarthy and an anonymous man went through the motions of a first date, while a rotating series of Turk workers watched the video feed for an average of four minutes and 32 seconds, wrote down what they saw and sent McCarthy instructions, which she tried her best to follow. At 9:24PM, one worker rated the interaction a five out of five, told McCarthy that she should say, “What are you looking for?” and logged the following observations: “man seems to pity her and find her exquisite at the same time. WOMAN SEEMS TO HAVE STUMBLED UPON THE WAY TO LIVE!” For this, the worker was paid $0.25.
This type of feedback could certainly be helpful, as anyone who has ruined a date through some avoidable buffonishness will certainly agree, but social crowdsourcing is a slippery slope. At what point does it turn from ‘getting advice’ into a dismissal of real personality in favor of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision making based off of some collective consciousness? McCarthy claims that this is exactly what her experiment is trying to discover. Is there a line, and where does it exist?
“The technologies we create shape our experience into rational interpretations,” says McCarthy. “I want to keep pushing on the boundaries of this and asking what kind of experience of reality are we building for ourselves.”
Google Glass is a prosthetic. As marketed so far, it’s a prosthetic for navigation, communication, and memory. Using turn-by-turn directions, search, and Maps integration you can find your way around. Using video or audio streaming you can talk to people anywhere. Using the camera you can store things as they happen, and using notifications you can remind yourself of things you need to recall.
McCarthy wants to see what happens when we turn a device like Glass into a social prosthetic.
An exciting and dangerous idea no doubt, and one that may soon become a reality whether its a good thing or not. Google has designed glass to be a universal assistant, providing everything from navigation to social networking at a glance. Dating is sure to follow. The developers have been pushing the device’s image since its announcement, relying on viral advertisement like simulated videos and an exclusive, secretive invite system. They truly believe that this is the way of the future, and they may be right. To keep tabs on McCarthy’s experiment, check out Social Turkers; or you wait until the Glass shows up on your doorstep to see how your love life is affected.