Screenshot of WWF Google Glass video
Linda's picture
Posted by Linda

At want2donate we're not really sure about the much hyped and encroaching wave of wearable tech and what a drastic change this could mean (for better or worse) of our species.

This is ultimately dependant on the intent of the people who create, own and develop this incredible and increasingly powerful knowledge and ability to bring humans and technology closer and closer. It would probably be fair to say they already know how to do things that would 'blow our tiny minds', as they say!

As Arthur C Clarke famously said: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." At want2donate we'd definitely agree with that.

Well, it's not going away, and in an effort to think how some positivity might be injected into it, want2donate decided to have a think about how charities and non profits might use wearable tech - for good.

After all it's going to saturate the marketplace and peoples' lives before we know it. Are you happy or sad about that? Are you going to rush to buy or think this whole thing's a bit damn freaky?

We feel if this stuff is going to be around as a potential all pervasive 24 hour 'wiredness' then charities and non profit or campaigning organisations can use it cleverly (and have a responsibility to use it) to raise awareness and balance a purpose with the betterment of our species over intrusive commercial insights, uber-surveillance and the ability to weave evil marketing magic.

Perhaps one campaign could be about you taking the damned things off in the spirit of disconnecting to reconnect with some ever more lost parts of ourselves.

We suppose we'll dive right in and go for the big one (with lots of controversy around it already), of course, it's Google Glass.

First off our heads, knowing what we know about it, and making some kind of mind link with the recent 'worst second a day video' the Amnesty bus shelter campaign and this interesting interactive awareness raising creative promoting the use of life jackets I've come up with one idea.

An augmented reality idea?

Charities not always, and not all charities, can and sometimes need to employ the shock factor to create a noise that leads to a ripple of change.

So in 'bullet (ish)' form:

  • Charity dispatches a communication to you based on your registered communication with that charity.
  • This invites you to place yourself in a warzone scenario, but you are warned you might find the content upsetting. It wants access to your contacts. You agree and it launches some augmented reality programme.
  • It's peaceful and normal at first.
  • You are shown a newsreel about some conflict brewing between the UK in a fictional far off world superpower.  It says how things are heating up. War could be immanent.
  • Suddenly, fighter jets tear over the London skyline, dispatching missiles which appear as explosions in areas the augmented reality software detects as the tops of buildings or roads.
  • A read out appears showing your heart rate has increased. You are scared.
  • A notification message appears. Your partner has sent you a text message to say their are soldiers in your street at home and that they are hiding upstairs with the children.
  • You can hear machine guns and explosions and people screaming.
  • An announcement is played - it sounds like it's coming from a tannoy system. "Get off the streets! Make your way to the underground to escape the shelling.", it barks. 
  • Another message from your partner signifies the soldiers are kicking the front door in.
  • Perhaps there's another loud explosion, much closer this time, and it fades to black. You've been caught in a blast. Your world is shattered. What you thought so certain is no more.
  • Then it ends with a message along the lines of Save the Children's recent 'worst second a day' video - 'just because it isn't happening here...' And a call to support in one way or another. To call for peace. And end to arms or conflict. To donate to war relief efforts.

That might sound pretty horrible but a) these sorts of things really are happening and b) UNHCR invites you to step into the shoes of a refugee in a choices based role play game. And in this too you can die. We found that app really powerful which is why we put that in here. In fact it's one of the best of the (few good) charity apps we've reviewed in our previous (and ongoing) series of blog posts.

More thoughts on augmented reality for charities using Google Glass

The Cancer Society of Finland's 'Tobacco Body' awareness raising microsite inspired us to think of another way cancer and health charities might make use of augmented reality on a head's up display like Google Glass.

Imagine you can see your body through the eyes of a smoker in 5 years, 10 years etc.

It could map extra wrinkles on to you. Detect where your teeth are and stain them. Show increased blood vessels near the surface of the skin. Make you look tired and low on vitality.

We'll write more of these. Don't worry, they won't all be so bleak, but don't forget these shock tactics that charities sometimes use are meant to jolt you out of your probably quite comfy world in the UK or other more developed country. It might not work for everyone, but if they help raise awareness and funds (and don't do anything to damage their reputation), then it could be argued that they are doing their job well.

Next time we will look at more practical applications for things like Google Glass as this does all sound a little sci-fi. Well it is all bit anyway, isn't it, so why not?

PS - interestingly here's the US wing of a famous charity piloting it (one of our favourites, WWF).

And more info on (sorry UK charities) a pilot grant scheme that was launched back in April for US non-profits who have big ideas for Glass. Let's watch that space for if / when that's open to UK non-profits too.

We hope you liked this. Please share if so. Until next time :)

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