By Yonatan Gordon
In April, Google first announced the launch of their augmented reality venture–Project Glass. The concept is that wearable glasses should take over much of the tasks commonly handled by smartphones. By use of voice or hand prompts, weather could be displayed, video calls placed, GPS directions given. But as several news sites have reported, the move to a Project Glass world is more than the transitioning of tasks. It signifies the shift from occasional search inquiries, to continuous streaming discovery.
More recently, on June 27, Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin held a product demonstration for these glasses with a well rehearsed skydiving act. This is how Brin explained the concept behind this performance: “It’s the notion of taking computing, which has moved from giant mainframes to laptops to phones, to perhaps an even lighter and more free-form factor.”
If we were to join the Project Glass R&D team, the first thing we would do is brainstorm the concept behind the device.
Two years prior to Project Glass, Google announced the winners of their Project 10 to 100 in commemoration of their 10th anniversary. During the entry period they received 150,000 submissions in order to fund an array of ideas. Project Glass, however, is a project about independent explorations. If Google was searching for the next big project to fund in 10 to 100, now they are are attempting to hand over the reigns to you.
Like a boy who prepares for this Bar Mitzvah on his 13th birthday, the start of consciousness (da’at) begins with independent thinking. Before maturity, a child relies on the advice and guidance of his parents. Then three years prior to his Bar Mitzvah, he starts to mature and receive his own ability to think and create. In Kabbalah, this is termed the ascension of tiferet in order to start building the da’at of zeir anpin. Tiferet (beauty) is the midpoint of the six emotive attributes from loving-kindness (chesed) through foundation (yesod) called zeir anpin. Its ascension then marks the start of adulthood and the ability to consciously observe reality.
The idea that we’d like to take the same tasks previously experienced by smartphones, and “insert” them into glasses, is like inserting loving-kindness and might from the emotions of zeir anpin into the realm of da’at. As is known, the right eye perceives with loving-kindness and the left with might, so Project Glass signifies this transition from the purely emotive arena of childhood exploration, to conscious searches by means of both our right and left eyes.
While da’at is higher than the emotive realm, in order to start building the vessel of da’at, the higher portions of these two emotions need to first ascend and insert themselves into the vessel of da’at. These two emotions come to enlighten the vessel of da’at. As the searching person seeks to mature his interaction with the world, these emotions ascend in order to help assist the process.
People think that the intellect is cold. But there is a completely holy fire that comes from the intellectual union of Aba and Ima, the father and mother principles. This occurs from the proper recital of Shema, the ultimate declaration of monotheistic belief. When one has in mind to elevate the 288 fallen sparks of reality (ban) and return them to the large ע (ayin) of the word Shema itself, then a garment of chashmal is created.
Said simply, if our intellectual search is a search to see everything as one (God is our God, God is One), then some sort of warm or electric (chashmal in modern Hebrew is electricity although in the Book of Ezekiel it relates a more ethereal substance) field is created. This is the holy fire of unification. All of search is a search to unite a seeming pluralistic reality under a grand unity of one.
The desire to lift search from handheld devices is also a result of the power of the intellect. Whereas hands are more prone to impurities, the soil or kelipah of the hands can be cleansed through ritually washing one’s hands as prescribed by Jewish law; but these impurities do not ascend to the intellect. So the first lesson is that properly searching with one’s eyes can layer the world in an warm, electric blanket of discovery, healing and oneness. The second lesson is that maybe the eyes have a chance to be cleaner even more than the hands. Or that at least, they do not need to be cleansed through lathing like the hands do. If the eyes were to always cast their gaze on proper things, then their sight would always be ablaze with holy fire.
Project Glass: The Brainstorm Session
Venturing back to our Brainstorm Session with Google’s Project Glass R&D team. The first thing we would suggest is that there be a hot/cold sensor, like in the “hot/cold” game. A person should be guided to see only those things that are warm (beneficial) for them. Because sight itself has warmth (as we discussed in the previous article that the heart is drawn after that which the eyes see), Google can help to alert us to avert our glance or draw us closer in.
The next thing we would suggest is that the electrical nature of this device in-and-of-itself, makes it something exciting. Like when camera lights are shown on people and objects on a movie set, shining light or using electricity to view something adds excitement because it relates to our chashmal garment mentioned above. What this means is that just as the chashmal field is created through the intellectual union of Aba and Ima, Project Glass should promote this unification.
This could come about by overlaying letters and concepts over objects perceived through these glasses. In the second half of Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains how all things are continuously created by means of the Hebrew letters. A step toward this perspective would be to have the glasses superimpose two-letter Hebrew gateways on objects. As explained, these gateways, with their full array of ten concepts, show the interrelationship between created entities. In total, there are 231 gateways (each with a front and back side as explained). Any person interested in innovation, creativity or marketing should start seeing the world as conceptually based.
Recently Sergey Brin and others have been quoted as saying that their technological device or service “fades away” in the face of the user experience. In a deeper sense, this means that technology itself can also fade away. If the goal of technology is innovation (as many have also said), then if something comes that is more innovative, then maybe that can instead be the next generation of the device?
Obviously we want that everyone should have both their material and spiritual needs taken for them. So while in the future we are now proposing that yes, maybe we will be able to fully “search” reality unaided by technology, still our hope is that the employees at the present-day technology companies will be busy with other worthwhile pursuits. Sometimes innovation puts people out of work for the short term, but this could be an opportunity for these people to pursue something even more worthwhile.
We will end with a story that captures the future home for the Project Glass project. While our above dialogue related some advice for the present-day R&D team, this story is for marketers. Because as we know, marketers like to tell the story of the future potentials or creative vision behind products. The full version can be read in The Storyteller, Volume 4:
Some two hundred years ago there lived in the city of Lemberg (in Poland) a well-known family named Brill. Local people related that the family name was connected to a very strange story. Here is that story.
It was a happy day for the family when they were blessed with a newborn baby boy. The parents celebrated this happy event in the traditional way with a Shalom Zachar (“welcoming the male child”) party on the Friday night before the bris and the subsequent bris on the eighth day from birth. But the joy was short-lived, for the parents soon began to notice that the baby’s beautiful eyes just stared without seeing. Deeply shocked, the parents realized that their child was blind.
Losing no time, the parents sought the advice of expert eye doctors, but sadly, none could help. The parents accepted the sad situation, grateful to God for the baby even if it could not see. They poured all their love into the child.
The boy had a special love for books. Although he could not read any of them, he would frequently go to a bookcase and take out a book. He would run his fingers over the covers and pages, lovingly smooth a crumpled page, and finally kiss the book before returning it to its place.
One day, while in the study hall, the boy brushed off the dust from a book that had not been handled for a long time. He began to turn the pages slowly and gently. Suddenly the book seemed to open itself, and the boy felt a thick object between the pages. He took it in his hands and felt that it was a glasses case. He opened it up and indeed found a pair of glasses inside!
In curiosity, he put on the glasses and something miraculous happened. The darkness disappeared and everything lit up in a blaze of light. He could see! He saw the glasses case, the book he was holding, the study hall, all of it.
Word of the boy’s miraculous recovery of his eyesight by means of a pair of wonderful glasses spread quickly and became the talk of the town. Everyone agreed that the boy was the most worthy person to deserve such a miracle. While he didn’t know which tzaddik (righteous person) the glasses had belonged to, the boy made a firm resolution that he would do his best to make himself worthy God’s gift.
Over time, the boy’s family name became Brill, a shortened form of the Yiddish word brillen, meaning glasses.