Lady Gaga's weirdo Polaroid glasses are about to turn our faces into Facebook feeds and mood rings.
The glasses have two little screens in them. The weird thing is that they face outward. You can imagine the scene as Polaroid's suit brigade and accountants took the pitch from Gaga, stammering and wondering what they got themselves into and if they'd willingly let her take the company down with her. It makes no sense on first thought. OR DOES IT.
The history of science fictional and concept eyewear is littered with ideas stacked on top of a simple basis: that eyes are for seeing. A Terminator's vision let it see wartime meta data on enemies, terrain and weapons; augmented reality apps like google goggles and Amazon's product search that works through a camera are already living in smartphones now. In its most general and obvious sense, eyes are for seeing, and the future of eyes is about seeing better.
That is irrefutable. But there are two other things technologists and futurists often overlook when thinking about the future of human vision: That people look into each other's eyes when they talk to each other. And that eyes say a lot, powerfully and subtly, on their own. Winking, rolling, smizing, crying, squinting, for starters. Gaga's glasses take direct advantage of the way we lock gazes when we converse in person, but they kind of throw a nuke down on the subtly of eye based body language. It's more like they replace it, sunglasses betraying nothing, while user-selected, pixel precise messaging comes through the screens. Think of it as flickr or a facebook photo album for your face. Loaded with hamburgers if someone's hungry, hearts if they're in love, videos of thunderclouds rolling slowly in if someone is pissed off. The screens could output colors to match clothing or moods. Anything is possible.
Maybe it won't catch on. Maybe kids will go nuts with it. I don't know! But I do know that this gadget dovetails perfectly with what the future is starting to smell like: Less the crisp clear world of touch interfaces with meta data on everything, everywhere. And more like the micro broadcasted one we contribute to every time we tweet, post or share.