Most of us were first introduced to the potential 3D-printed glasses held back in the fall of 2013 when headlining company Protos Eyewear launched its crowd-funding campaign. Recently, in parallel with Protos filling customer orders from said campaign, buzz has been circulating suggesting that retail partners and VCs around the world have heavy interest in the company. While coverage on Protos and their 3D printed shades tends to emit a tone of excitement and admiration, it is hard not to notice how differently its “Big Brother” (pun intended) Google Glass has been treated. While those involved with creating and wearing the latter have been dubbed “Glassholes” and “Cyborgs,” 3D-printed eyewear has received a rather warm welcoming.
Why the difference in reactions? That’s easy: Google Glass is one more precarious step toward “The Matrix” future while Protos Eyewear is a leap toward “The Jetson’s” future, as described in a much more intelligent fashion on this blog.
Allow me to explain.
In the futuristic cartoon utopia, father-figure George Jetson works an hour a day, leisurely flying to and fro work, while his house cleans itself. The show illustrates an idealistic future where positive progress reigns, all thanks to the conveniences of modern technologies. The cartoon embodies the theme of technology as a benefit to, for and by mankind. Of course, 3D-printed glasses may not be quite as extraordinary as some of the gadgets in the Jetson’s, but they still represent a step in the right direction.
Now, a quick lesson on 3D printing: Otherwise known as “additive manufacturing” or “rapid prototyping,” the 3D printing process takes a digital image and interprets it, layer by layer, into a three-dimensional object within an isolated chamber.
You can watch the full process, here.
Although the technology, in principle, has been around since the mid-80s, only in recent years has it gained significant traction. And while it’s currently being touted for its apparent capability to print fruit or guns or any other number of shocking objects, the true value of the technology lies less in what it creates, but more in how it creates. Essentially, 3D printing may hold the key to high-end yet affordable customization.
Affordable customization could disrupt nearly every industry, the Fashion Industry naturally very much included.
For consumers, this could equate to a future devoid of fitting-room guessing games or scattered sizing charts. In terms of glasses, this means that instead of asking your friend her opinion on 20 different pairs of shades, you can just smile at a screen for your facial dimensions and let the impeccably-proven math and technology setup do the decision making.
Algorithms paving the way to high fashion – now, who could have predicted that?
So, 3D-printed glasses? For now, they a free pass for leveraging a powerful technology to create efficacy in people’s lives and wallets.
Google Glass, on the other hand, still doesn’t quite fit the bill. Glass is becoming infamous for its vague, invasive-like utility and its wearer’s eerie resemblance to a robot. While technology is bound to develop at a more rapid pace each and every year, it is imperative that we continue to take a moral pulse on each new device or service’s core purpose.
I mean, just because we have the capability to semi-discretely wear a computer and camera on our faces doesn’t mean we should actually go forth with doing it, #amirite? While weighing the intrinsic value of new technology, we must ask ourselves: are we advancing out of reason or simply out of momentum?
Because, as previously mentioned, The Matrix is ever-nearing – and that’s the one where we humans end up in a dystopian war against machines, all naked and weak and tied together side-by-side in liquid-filled vessels.
Call me a drama queen, but that’s no place I want to end up.