Posted by Neil Bennett 10 July 2014
How to prank people using Google Glass
One of Google Glass’ features that delights and aggravates users is voice control – but it could also be used by inventive pranksters for some really cool or annoying effects. And I don’t mean how a wearer of Google Glass could prank someone else, but someone could target an individual Google Glass user – or every Glass wearer in a particular space.
The possibilities for this came to me after recent reports that Jesse from Breaking Bad’s Xbox TV ads were turning on Xbox Ones when he spoke the line 'Xbox on' – activating the Kinect One’s always-on voice control. At which point, the user would likely have to switch their TVs back to whatever input they were watching before.
To control someone else’s Google Glass you need two things: a loud enough audio source and the ability to get your subject/s to raise their head 30-degrees to activate their voice control. Here are the two main ways it could happen – or, if you prefer – the two types of situations to be more careful in if you’re a Google Glass user.
Google Glass prank 1 – a single target
The simplest way to prank a Google Glass wearer is to get them to look up a bit and then say “OK Google” in their ear. Saying “look at that” while pointing slightly upwards will only work a few times, so you’ll need to be more inventive. Phrases such as “look at that three-legged pigeon flying past”, “Is that Dave Gahan from stadium synthpoppers Depeche Mode on the top deck of that 38 bus?” or asking “are you coming to the pub?” and catching them as they tilt their head up to begin to nod, will help here.
Once the prankster has control, there’s a limited set of things he or she can achieve before the victim stops them – but that won’t stop the juvenile from image searching anything from porn to some popular online horror show like tubgirl (and if you don’t know what that is, don’t look it up. Seriously.)
Google Glass prank 2 – getting a whole audience
If you Glasses do become popular, we could see bands, artists and even – gulp - advertisers taking control of your Google Glass.
This isn’t always a bad thing – it could be kinda cool if done correctly. If you’re watching a gig, likely your head is already at the required 30-degrees as you watch the stage – so your Glass is receptive to instruction – and the need for a loud audio source is also taken care of. The first band to get enough Glass wearers in their audience that a band member can shout “OK Glass” and get all of them to take a photo at the same – and somehow get them all published together – is going to get a lot of press.
It’ll also be really interesting to see how artists could use this. Imagine standing in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern looking up at an installation where a digital part of it is being fed to your Glass by a booming voice. We could see some wonderful things if this was integrated into interactive theatre projects like Secret Cinema – as they did by building an alien-finding body scanner that tracks you using a Kinect.
However, we’ll also likely see advertisers get in the action. The band might want you all to take a photo, but their management or record company will want you to buy their records or their merchandise. “OK Glass. Go to metallica dot com slash merch” will make no-one happy.
It could roll out to anywhere you get a lot of people looking up. Everyone crowded around in London’s Victoria station, staring up at the boards of train delays times, could be got by advertisers running versions of TV ads on the screen next to it. “OK Glass. Search Axe body spray”. Cue a lot of people shouting “No. Stop. Fuck off” into the air – which could become the next flashmobbing if someone films it and it goes viral.
It’ll only grow
As more devices become voice controlled – including Android Wear watches and car interfaces – there will be more potential for this kind of verbal device hacking. The easiest way to prevent it would be for Google to allow you to customise your message, but the company's not going to easily give up the chance to make you speak their brand and reinforce it's value in your brain. A harder way would be to introduce a level of voice recognition – though you don’t want to be locked out of your devices because you’ve got a cold or your child has just inadvertently head-butted you in the crotch.
Hopefully, by the time Google Glass becomes available to everyone for £200 or a £50 add-on to your current frame, Google will have come up with a solution. Otherwise I'm coming after everyone with a loudhailer and instructions to play Chromeo videos off YouTube – cos that would make all around me happier.