By Jim O'Reilly
Google Glass, essentially a personal heads-up display in a lightweight headset, has been in use for around 18 months. Experimental work to use it during surgery and other uses has made this a well-followed item to even the nontechnical public, but the very visible head-band and the tapping method to activate the unit have created reactions among the general population that range from fear and violence to derision.
Now, the publication Addictive Behaviors is reporting on what they believe is the first known case of Google Glass addiction. The article reports that a 31-year-old man exhibited "problematic use of Google Glass" and that he underwent residential treatment at the Navy's Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program (SARP) for alcohol problems. While in treatment, the patient was frustrated at not being able to use his Google Glass unit, which, as is customary, was taken away with other electronics items at the start of treatment. The patient wore the Glass unit all his waking hours, taking it off only to sleep or shower
According to Addictive Behaviors, he demonstrated a "notable, nearly involuntary movement of the right hand to his temple area and tapping it with his forefinger. He reported that if he had been prevented from wearing the device at work, he would become extremely irritable and argumentative."
He had a 35-day treatment, which resulted in a reduction in the temple tapping and his irritability. However, the report conclusions note, "He continued to intermittently experience dreams as if looking through the device." This was described as the "Tetris Effect," whereby gamers would see shapes in their dreams. The patient's problem with the involuntary tapping of his temple may be part of his diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The article noted the patient's employer let him use Google Glasses at work to access data quickly, so this may also qualify as the first work-related problem with the technology.
The spread of Google Glass in the workplace is just beginning, so we can expect this and other problems related to its use. There are emulators, ranging from smart ski goggles to a good many personal heads-up displays already on the market. In many ways, the condition emulates what many of us have seen – the compulsive need to work on smartphones and tablets that have spawned nicknames for the units, such as "fondle-slab." This man's problem may be the tip of an iceberg.
Google Glass isn't yet ready for prime time, and the units are expensive. Even so, there are organizations anxious to deploy them, such as the Dubai police, who plan to equip their mobile officers with Google Glass to match their Lamborghini patrol cars.
Google may have to create a big data application that detects excessive wearing (and tapping) patterns and warns the person doing it, or his employer, that there's a problem.