The New York Police Department is eyeing two Google Glass devices to see how they might fit in to police work in the Big Apple.
In an email reply to an eWEEK inquiry, Stephen Davis, a deputy commissioner for the NYPD confirmed that the department has obtained the devices and is now exploring how they might be used by officers in the nation’s largest police department.
“As part of an ongoing interest in the advancements in the field of technology, the NYPD regularly conducts reviews of various equipment, devices, programs and other consumer products for their potential application or utility in the area of policing,” Davis wrote. “In December of 2013 the Department obtained two pairs of Google Glass and has been evaluating these devices in an attempt to determine any possible useful applications. The devices have not been deployed in any actual field or patrol operations, but rather are being assessed as to how they may be appropriately utilized or incorporated into any existing technology-based functions.”
Davis did not respond to specific questions about how the Glass devices are being used inside the department, including inquiries about specific emergency or investigative scenarios where they could be effective in police work. He also did not directly reply to questions about whether the devices will be circulated to many officers for trials, how long the testing will continue or about when the results of the testing will be available for review.
Despite that lack of additional detail, the news that the NYPD is investigating possible uses for Google Glass is intriguing on its face, particularly because of several high-profile incidents involving the digital eyewear in the last six months.
In January 2014, a network administrator from Columbus, Ohio, was removed from a movie theater and questioned by federal authorities over concerns that he was using the Google Glass on his head to film a bootleg copy of the movie being shown in the theater.
That followed the case of a California driver who was stopped for speeding in October 2013 and cited for speeding and for driving while wearing Google Glass.
In the movie theater case, an agent from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations unit went to the man’s seat in the darkened theater and asked him to come along for questioning. Eventually, the man was freed when he was able to prove that he had not used Glass to capture the film illegally. While he was detained, he was subjected to detailed questioning about his activities in the theater and about his use of Google Glass.
In the case of the California driver, Cecelia Abadie, 44, of Temecula, Calif., was cited in October 2013 as she drove home from San Diego, but her case was dismissed in January when during her trial a judge ruled that the arresting officer had not observed her actually using the head-mounted computer.
Abadie received her Glass device as a Google Glass Explorer on May 1, 2013, and quickly posted the details of her traffic stop on her Google+ page on the day she was ticketed, expressing shock about the Glass citation and seeking any and all legal advice.
“A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving!” wrote Abadie. “The exact line says: Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass). Is #GoogleGlass illegal while driving or is this cop wrong??? Any legal advice is appreciated!! This happened in California. Do you know any other #GlassExplorers that got a similar ticket anywhere in the U.S.?”
Google Glass Is Being Eyed for Potential Use by NYPD
The ticket Abadie received was believed to be the first one issued by a California Highway Patrol officer for a Google Glass violation. Officers have leeway for ticketing drivers who are operating motor vehicles while distracted, whether by cell phones, eating, reading or participating in other distracting activities.
Concerns about Google Glass and the law had surfaced even before both of these cases. Reports from around the nation have occasionally made headlines when bars, restaurants and other public facilities have posted signs inside their establishments banning the use of Google Glass inside due to privacy and other issues.
The topic of Google Glass potentially being worn by drivers was even raised in March 2013 in West Virginia, where a state legislator introduced a bill that would have banned driving by persons wearing head-mounted displays, including Google Glass. But the bill stalled and never came up for a vote in 2013.
The proposed ban on driving while wearing head-mounted displays was introduced in the state’s legislature by Gary Howell, a Republican state representative in West Virginia’s 56th district. Howell’s main concern with the devices is that they create safety issues such as driver distraction, especially for younger, less-experienced drivers who might be among the users most likely to buy such technology. The proposed West Virginia law would have implemented a fine of $100 for a first offense, and $200 to $300 fines for subsequent offenses.
Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development; it was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.
Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.
At the same time, Google Glass is also gaining acceptance in the marketplace, even before its official launch to consumers, which is expected sometime this year. In January 2014, Google announced a deal with eyewear and vision insurer VSP Global that will cover a portion of Google Glass frames and prescription lenses for its insurance customers.