Bang Bang

06.05.14

Google Glass+Guns=Disaster

Firearm manufacturers are crossing into nerd world, marketing Google Glass as a marksman’s device. Bad idea.

TrackingPoint, a company manufacturing precision-guided firearms—or firearms designed to turn even mediocre shooters into the best of crack shots with the help of embedded digital technology—is apparently ushering in a “new era in augmented marksman ability,” according to their concept video. In the video, a bearded man wearing Google Glass combines the nerdy with the deadly by shooting with a massive firearm at orange targets, while making it a point not to look at them.

The company is looking into combining wearable technology and guns to “allow for accurate shots around corners, in unsupported positions—behind the back, to the side, and over barricades,” the video tells us.

“We want to show people what is possible in the future,” says Oren Schauble, the marketing director at TrackingPoint. “The traditional design of a firearm hasn’t changed since World War II, so there are a ton of people really putting the effort into integrating engineering technology into firearm platforms.”

While a specific app for Google Glass has not been developed yet, one can already stream from the scope to smartphones, and have the phone send the streaming video via Bluetooth to Google Glass, he says.

“If you are shooting one of our precision-guided firearms, you can stream it to your phone, tablet, smartwatch, or wearable and share it,” says Schauble. “Or if you’re hunting and want to remain behind cover and not scare an animal, I think it provides an interesting solution.”

Unsurprisingly, gun control advocates are not amused—and it’s not just because deliberately not looking while shooting is in itself a very uncomfortable concept, and not just because it might be too soon to introduce ideas on how to make guns cooler. Rather, some say gun manufacturers apply a double standard when it comes to applying technology to guns.

“It seems unnecessary, dangerous, and inappropriate for civilians, but it’s a marketing strategy.”

“Gun companies have no problem with 21st-century technology if it’s used to enhance the lethality of their products,” says Ladd Everitt, communications director at the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “But if you try compel them to use technology to improve gun safety, they turn around and sue you.”

He cited the lawsuit put forward by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) against the state of California to prevent microstamping—where lasers engrave the gun’s model and serial number on internal parts of the gun, which should show up on cartridge casing when it is fired—from being enforced.

Everitt points out that laws that would mandate smart handguns—which are supposed to prevent misuse of firearms by, say, children or gun thieves, via recognition technology that renders the gun unusable by people other than the owner—have been severely criticized as well.

But Schauble thinks it is all about the customers. “Smart handguns and microstamping are products that have little to no consumer demand,” he says. Citing technology his company developed, he adds, “you can lock out advanced functionality with a code on your phone the way you would lock an iPhone for when you store a system.”

Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says the upcoming technology advertised by TrackingPoint seems all right for the military, less so for civilians.

“It just strikes me as yet another military-style technology, which will be marketed to civilians. Just like assault weapons, just like large capacity ammunition magazines—it’s a lot in the same line,” Cutilletta says. “It seems unnecessary, dangerous, and inappropriate for civilians, but it’s a marketing strategy.”

However, both Cutilletta and Everitt think the idea will gain little public traction—Everitt because interest in guns is dwindling anyway. “The only ones who will truly notice are those who have been keeping track—the real aficionados,” he says. “If you go back to the mid-’70s, more than half of households owned a firearm. Now it’s about 1 in 3.”

Cutilletta, on the other hand, thinks common sense might keep the Google Glass and gun combo from truly taking off on the market. “I think if you showed the general public the video, they would think it’s a terrible idea,” she says. “Not just because there was a mass shooting, but because even if they did own guns, they could see from a common-sense perspective view, it is a dumb idea. It’s not safe.”

But the minority of people who might think “it’s the best idea ever, and rush out to buy it at the first opportunity they get” will be enough to bankroll continued production, she says.

“These things don’t come cheap,” Cutilletta says.