google-glass-prescription-lenses-900-80Here’s an article that points out a problem that will only become more common as wearables do. A member of the Google Glass program had prescription lenses on his Glass, and wore them everywhere as his regular glasses. He didn’t have any other prescription glasses, so he wore them to a movie, with the Google Glass part turned off.

He’d been to an AMC theater with the Glass three times, but this particular time (watching the new Jack Ryan movie, no less) a federal agent came in, plucked the glasses off his head, and proceeded to accuse him of taping the movie and interrogate him for hours (“Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie.”) before bothering to access the files on board the device and determine there was no attempted recording of any part of the movie.

I asked why didn’t they just take those five minutes at the beginning of the interrogation and they just left the room. A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes “so I can see the movie again”. I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn’t they ask me not to wear them in the theater? I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and “here are two more passes for my troubles”. I would have been fine with “I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies”. Four free passes just infuriated me.

(Later the story was amended to note they were more likely Department of Homeland Security, not FBI.)

You can, of course, say (as AMC did in a statement to Business Insider) that it was his own fault for wearing an obvious recording device into the theater. The problem is that recording device also happened to contain his $600 prescription lenses. You can say he should have had another pair of glasses he could wear, but that poses the question why he should have to pay another $600 on top of the $600 (plus $1,500) he already spent on his “main” (Glass) glasses.

And goodness knows, everyone with a smartphone in his pocket or a tablet in his bag has a “recording device” with him. Judging from the movies I’ve been to lately, sometimes it seems like that’s more people than not. If they weren’t requiring every smartphone owner to turn their smartphone in at the start of the movie, why single out someone with it on their glasses?

(Heck, at my local AMC theater, when I went to see The Hobbit a couple of weeks ago, they didn’t want me to take my shoulder bag in with me, but then relented when I explained I was on a bicycle and had no car to put it in, and showed them it just had my Nexus 7 tablet in it—a tablet that also has a camera built into it. I expect they were more concerned about smuggled-in food, or maybe handguns—Indiana does permit concealed carry. For that matter, I had been to another movie at that same location a few weeks before that and they never said one thing about my bag then.)

This problem is only going to grow as wearable tech becomes affordable enough for everyone, and devices incorporate prescription lenses so they become daily-worn appliances rather than special gadgets you only use every so often. I don’t know if wearables will ever be as common as smartphones, but if this is going to become common behavior, there is trouble brewing.

And that’s not even getting into the question of why movie piracy is apparently now something that merits calling out the Department of Homeland Security (or the FBI, if it was really them). What, is copyright violation a terrorist act now? Are illicitly-taped movies being used to fund al Queda? Bizarre.

I should note, the story is not completely verifiable outside The Gadgeteer. Update: I since found that the story had been covered by The Business Insider, who heard the AMC’s side of the story directly from them. The person to whom it happened, though he responded in the comments, is loath to give out his real name (though he offered to provide his contact information to another commenter so he could verify it). (Update 2: He later spoke to Phandroid about the incident.) Another commenter reported calling the theater and being told by a manager they had no comment. Whether or not the story is true in all details, it seems like the sort of thing that could happen, and probably will happen more often as more people get wearable tech.

I will say that if you cavil at the name of the “Movie Association” guy being Bob Hope, that’s one part of the story that is independently verifiable: Bob Hope is the comedian’s great-nephew, a former Ohio Highway Patrol trooper, and an anti-piracy field investigator for the MPAA in Ohio.

Another interesting thing, now that I think of it, is the pushback you see in some of the comments—people complaining about “glassholes” with the temerity to walk around with a recording device on their face that no one can tell if they’re using. And yet, any time you see someone peering intently at their smartphone, you don’t have any way of knowing whether they’re filming or just checking Facebook. (Someone made an entire covertly-shot movie at Disney World using cell phone cameras.) Sure, they might hold it in a certain way if they’re recording, but I’ll bet I could hold mine as if I was just reading something on it but get a pretty good recording out of it too. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with that as more people get wearables, too.


  1. If they weren’t requiring every smartphone owner to turn their smartphone in at the start of the movie, why single out someone with it on their glasses?

    The obvious difference is filming with glasses, as opposed to phones, can be done much more surreptitiously.

  2. If technology advances to synthetic body parts, like bionic eyes, then we’ll really see some interesting dilemmas.

    Personally I think the only thing that happened here is… “Me caveman scared of shiny eyemask! Ooga booga! Me call mighty warrior to smash scary cyborg-man!”

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