The Google Glass and 3-D Printing are two new innovations with far-reaching consequences. Industry insiders offer their views

Let us take a moment to reflect upon the way technology has changed our lives. A scant 15 years ago, a computer powered by an Intel Pentium 2 would have been something to be proud of. Around the same time, mobile phones were a rare commodity among the populace, a luxury item. Fast forwarding a bit, another fact that seems unbelievable in a time when a smartphone occupies almost every pocket is that the first iPhone debuted only in 2007, and the first Android handset, in 2008.

It is a sign of the times that these archetypes of their kind are already rendered almost obsolete a mere few years after their release. Now among the things we take for granted are handheld devices that understand what we say and talk back, zap through webpages and user interfaces at lightning speed and pack more processing power than early supercomputers. All this makes one wonder, what is next in this technological Renaissance? And what are the consequences?

Prasanth Parameshwaran, founder of web design and development firm Apprender, believes that 3-D printing (essentially a printer that builds objects layer by layer with extreme precision using CAD drawings as reference) is going to be the start of a new epoch. “3-D printing has limitless possibilities, as it can create almost anything with just raw material and a computer generated model. The applications in medicine are particularly impressive, as specialised items for rare transplants can be created rather than wasting precious time.” He cites an example where doctors at the University of Michigan created a windpipe splint for a six week old baby boy whose airways were collapsing, out of material that will be reabsorbed by his body when his respiratory system develops sufficiently.

Another popular favourite is Google Glass, a pair of wearable spectacles running Google’s Android with a small heads up display mounted onto it. It is the latest invention from Google’s cartoonishly named ‘Google X’ division, already responsible for creating driverless cars and internet beaming balloons. “Google Glass is definitely going to change the way we see the world, literally,” says Pratheeksha A.K., one of the co-founders of app development company Amidray Technolgies. “The idea of a wearable device that augments reality, showing you real time information on the things you see in front of you, is amazing. There are already hoards of apps being developed for the device, and we are considering some too,” she says.

However, both Prasanth and Pratheeksha offer a word of caution as well. “In light of the recent ‘Prism’ controversy, as well as talks about our own proposed Central Monitoring System, one has to wonder what will happen to privacy in the near future. The smartphone has already led to a decline in our privacy levels and a device like Glass in the wrong hands is a scary prospect,” says Prasanth.

Pratheeksha concurs, “In a country like India, where women are already in constant fear of their privacy, such devices do raise questions, but being in the technology field, I still cannot help but be excited about its positive potential,” she says.

In an interesting side note, Google Glass has already been banned in some cafes and casinos abroad, a pre-emptive measure against any issues its eventual arrival may create.

The situation is summed up rather succinctly by Prasanth, “I think as a global community we are at a crucial juncture, we have endless potential thanks to these upcoming devices, whether we use them for good or not is up to us.”