It’s happening: people are once walking into public places wearing a video-recording face computer on their heads. Only this time, the faceputer is sold by Meta, not Google.
Say hello to Meta’s Glassholes.
Over the weekend, as buyers got their first uninterrupted stretches of time with the new Meta Quest 3 headset, some started posting videos of themselves interacting with the real world instead of playing games.
Sure, it’s cool to blast low-poly baddies breaking through your walls, but isn’t it more technically impressive that Meta’s new headset lets you cook a meal or sweep your floors or enjoy a fancy coffee on a beautiful day without ever taking off the machine? That’s what the Quest 3’s full-color, low-latency passthrough video allows.
It didn’t take long for people to begin pushing the limits — both technologically and socially. Jay Mayo walked the New York Comic-Con floor with the headset on, recording clips of strangers along the way.
Kukurio59 filmed themselves waiting for an elevator, already one of the most socially awkward spaces humanity has to offer. (They also filmed some less public demos.)
And, in the video you already saw atop this post, XR and AI booster Cix Liv went nearly full Glasshole by walking straight into a San Francisco coffee shop and placing an order, without bothering to hide the cafe’s address.
Here’s that video again:
I spoke to Ray Ng, co-owner of Fiddle Fig Cafe, the coffee shop in question, and he thinks it was just “a stunt for laughs and giggles.” Liv didn’t sit down and drink his coffee with the headset on, says Ng. “They took the set off, sat down, and that was it,” he tells me over the phone. The whole thing was over in “maybe 5 minutes.”
But that won’t necessarily stop other attention-seekers from following Liv’s lead — they might even embolden each another. “Now I don’t feel bad walking around with the headset during comic con,” Mayo replied to Liv, after the artist who filmed themselves walking around New York Comic-Con saw Liv’s cafe video.
We’ve been through all of this before, of course — a decade ago, public opinion turned against Google Glass, with public business owners in particular coming out against the tech. Diners, movie theaters, casinos, bars, and other public establishments outright banned the headset — one woman was allegedly assaulted for wearing Google Glass in San Francisco, and an XR pioneer was assaulted in Paris while using a similar-looking device.
But that was a decade ago, and I argued last year that our definition of privacy, our tolerance for public photography, and our resistance to wearable technology have all changed considerably since Google first introduced Glass. Maybe it won’t be such a problem this time around? Smartphone cameras everywhere is now the norm, and small businesses often benefit from an influencer plug; Ng was fine with me naming Fiddle Fig Cafe in this story.
I do wonder if Meta was prepared for the Quest 3 to be the glasshole’s headset of choice, though. While the company has put considerable thought into making sure its glasses-like Ray-Bans don’t fall into the same trap — publishing privacy explainers and guidelines on using those glasses in public, including proactively letting people know you’re recording — the Quest 3 doesn’t seem to have similar published guidelines.
It’s also a bit harder for bystanders to tell when the Quest 3 is recording. It simply pulses a white light, slowly, and it’s a light that’s already on by default. When I asked my wife if she thought I was recording, she said she had no clue.
Then again, if I saw someone walking into a cafe with a bulbous white object atop their face with multiple camera slits, I’d just automatically assume they were recording absolutely everything.
Meta didn’t respond to a request for comment.