Google Glass Enables New Forms of Cheating

It’s mentioned here:

Mr. Doerr said he had been wearing the glasses and uses them especially for taking pictures and looking up words while playing Scattergories with his family, though it is questionable whether that follows the game’s rules.

Questionable? Questionable? It’s just like using a computer’s dictionary while playing Scrabble, or a computer odds program while playing poker, or a computer chess program while playing an in-person game. There’s no question at all—it’s cheating.

We’re seeing the birth of a new epithet, “glasshole.”

Posted on April 15, 2013 at 4:29 AM42 Comments


Adam April 15, 2013 5:40 AM

I expect Google Glass is going to enjoy the same social acceptance as constantly filming people with a camcorder. i.e. none whatsoever. People are going to be creeped out by these things and they’ll be banned even in places that phones might be allowed.

karln April 15, 2013 6:59 AM

I’m inclined to say it’s cheating if the rules of the game (including tournament rules, house rules etc.) say it is. I’ve never been a fan of vague ‘we’ll know cheating when we see it’ ideas about games, because in practice everyone will have differing opinions and then they’re effectively playing different games. Codifying everything is preferable wherever it’s practical.

This sort of thing may – or may not – be covered by a rule stating that using reference material to look up words during play is cheating, which I’d be fine with.

Jason R. Coombs April 15, 2013 7:01 AM

I also disagree that it’s cheating. It is, however, playing the game outside of the environment for which it was designed.

Games challenge our abilities and technology advances our abilities. Centuries ago, intellectual games were less common and more games were physical, challenging those aspects of life which benefited us most.

As our technology advances, so will our games, and in the meantime, the older games will seem less challenging, possibly to the point of seeming dull.

But with that change will also come a new set of games designed to challenge our abilities within the assumptions of the new environment (e.g. ubiquitous smart phones, google glasses, etc.).

Because the enhancements make the game unfair, we will probably impose house rules to keep the games interesting for some time, but eventually, the game will need to be retired or amended to remain engaging for all parties in a mixed-capability group.

Would it be cheating to play scatergories with a half-illiterate group? No, but it sure wouldn’t be fair either.

Clive Robinson April 15, 2013 7:14 AM


“Glasshole” has so many posible meanings…

Perhaps a competition to find the politest meaning would be in order.

Afterall “We must think of the children” who will suffer the deprevation of being subjected to such depravity when a Google Glass wearer aproaches…

onearmedspartan April 15, 2013 7:25 AM

Anything that gives you an unfair advantage in a game with rules is cheating.

You can try to shine a turd…

Logan April 15, 2013 7:27 AM

I’m confident that a lite version of GG will be released that doesn’t have a camera. It’ll be cheaper and won’t attract so much criticism.

Thomas Ferraro April 15, 2013 8:24 AM

karln and Jason R. Coombs,

The rules don’t explicitly say a friend can’t sit behind me giving me the answers or that I am not allowed to mount a video camera trained on my friend’s cards, so that’s not cheating either, I guess. Wow, I am really going to clean up at every game I play if all I have to do is follow the explicit rules on the box.

Jason April 15, 2013 10:13 AM

It’s not a new form of cheating. It’s just old cheating with a new technology.

This is my current pet peeve about technology and law and ethics: we insist on seeing new technology as the gateway to a “brave new world” (in either the literal utopian or sardonic dystopian sense), where the rules go out the window and (terrifyingly, excitingly) anything goes.

But privacy rights don’t end because someone invented a drone, search warrants don’t vanish because the cops have gas chromatographs, and cheating at Scrabble is still a thing once somebody perfects the heads-up display. Some of these basic principles may need to be clarified by the court of law or the court of public opinion, but it’s lunacy to throw out a few thousand years of social fabric over a small tech upgrade.

Mi Amore Cadenza April 15, 2013 10:36 AM

@José Pedro Magalhães: all is fair if you predeclare, but if you (surreptitiously or openly) utilize extra tools or resources not available to other players and not covered by either the rules, tradition, or tacit agreement, all in order to gain an advantage in a game, you are cheating by definition.

This is true for using computers to help you in chess as much as this, and the fact you can allow those tools or resources in different kinds of games/competitions doesn’t matter. Compare e.g. the ultramarathon cheater who apparently bikes between aid stations, the German chess amateur whose meteoric rise was only matched by his decline and who was apparently using Fritz, etc., all covered here by Bruce.

Bob T April 15, 2013 11:01 AM

“Mr. Doerr said he had been wearing the glasses and uses them especially for taking pictures and looking up words while playing Scattergories with his family”

And then his wife gave him the nonookie scattegory.

Nick P April 15, 2013 11:59 AM

Funny that history repeats itself. All this stuff reminds me of Steven Mann’s EyeTap (1981) and the guys that were doing wearable computing in late 90’s to 2000’s. I think many of the same issues discussed then will apply to Google Glass, although with differences due to different functions.

I remember one was covered in 2004 on Secret, Strange and True. His computer covered his eye and imposed a text display over what he saw. He had a computer near his waste to manipulate it with his hand. He could save images or text, search for things, pull things up mid-conversation, etc. The guy interviewing him later said he felt something was missing from the social experience because it seemed the guy was distracted constantly on his computer and he couldn’t quite feel a rapport with him.

I see that those last points being a potential issue for Google Glass. Disturbingly, though, people might adapt much like many adapted to talking to one person while chatting with another and reading web pages on another window. It takes something out of the social experience, but it didn’t go away.

edgore April 15, 2013 3:39 PM

Well, of course he sees nothing wrong with it. It’s no different from the insider trading and profiting from asymmetric data that is his entire life.

moo April 15, 2013 7:15 PM

@Nick P:
Another analogy might be, cell phones (which can distract their owner while you are having a conversation with them). Interrupting a conversation with a physical person to answer an incoming call or text message etc. used to be considered extremely rude, but that behaviour seems less stigmatized nowadays as everyone has accepted that cell phones are just everywhere and the interruptions are sometimes necessary, and not a big deal. If it rings or whatever, you can pull it out and glance at the screen and then resume your in-person conversation and that’s within the bounds of politeness. etc.

Also, remember when Steve Mann was involved in an altercation last year where a McDonalds employee assaulted him because he wouldn’t remove his (permanently attached) wearable computer:

So lets say that in some places, its socially unacceptable to record people in public with a video camera. Or at least it is against the policy of some businesses to allow it on their premises.

With Google Glass and similar devices, in the first few years there might not be much awareness among the general public that they can be recorded by that kind of device. The first versions of Google Glass are already less obtrusive than Mann’s gargoyle getup, and I’m sure there will eventually be versions of Google Glass (or whatever they are called by then) that are nearly indistinguishable from today’s ordinary sunglasses. Just as smartphones became common, almost ubiquitous, over the past few years… I expect future glasses-with-embedded-computer devices to eventually be widespread, and I’m wondering what the cultural reaction will look like. (e.g. will there be shops or restaurants where they ask you to remove your glasses? How will they treat customers who need prescription glasses to see? etc.) It will be interesting times.

murray April 15, 2013 10:19 PM

Perhaps the end-game is for Google to store and index a live feed of what most of the world’s population is seeing? The sum total of global perceived reality?
After all, with “Street View” they needed to send out cars. Now they will be able to have a ubiquitous array (I originally typed army) of cameramen; hive-vision.

Figureitout April 15, 2013 10:42 PM

…it’s lunacy to throw out a few thousand years of social fabric over a small tech upgrade.
–Well said, I prefer the court of public opinion b/c I think they actually get justice done. Not always, but they should have a chance.

You can try to shine a turd…
–Check out Mythbuster’s, they..well did just that. I know, I don’t really see the point, but it kills the saying. So maybe we should say, you can’t polish fresh diarrhea.

Andre Gironda April 15, 2013 10:43 PM

Why not play an AR game with your Google Glass instead? The Explorer Edition of Glass is already shipping (as of today). It will only take a small amount of time before AR games, AR gesture-control apps, and the like will be available to the general public.

When that happens, hopefully owners of Glass won’t even care about Scattergories anymore.

Clive Robinson April 16, 2013 3:08 AM

@ moo,

Having seen a picture of Dr Mann with his attachments (implants is the wrong word) the best I can say is it looks creepy at best (and that may be a significant part of the problem).

We have in the past seen significant prejudice against those without sight, have a look at the history of Braille, Seeingeye / guide dogs and even the wearing of dark glasses and carrying of white sticks. Not just the ordinary day to day prejudice of individuals but the sanctioned behaviour of officialdom in Government organisations.

If you go back far enough you will see individuals that “offend the common eye” being persicuted and in some cases burnt alive as witches etc.

Usually on investigation you will find underneth it all “power by division” where an individual seeks to improve their power over others simply by dividing/carving out individuals from the social group or herd and inventing a reason for the individual to be treated differently. They then use this reason to gain “moral high ground” and thus enhance their social status with the bulk of the group. Others in the group say nothing or “turn a blind eye” lest they attract attention to themselves and thus become outcasts themselves…

As the saying has it “First they came for the…”

Clive Robinson April 16, 2013 4:30 AM

@ Jason,

This is my current pet peeve about technology and law and ethics: we insist on seeing new technology as the gateway to a “brave new world” (in either the literal utopian or sardonic dystopian sense), where the rules go out the window and (terrifyingly, excitingly) anything goes.

This is because it’s useful for many to act this way.

At the lowest level it’s an excuse for a failure of foresight / imagination as in “Who’d of thought you could do that with…” through to the highest levels of “tax dependents” looking to empire build their TLAs through carefully stage managed FUD, or worse such as FBI faux plots etc, through to other rumourd “fundraisers” that sound like the wild ravings of conspiracy nuts but some turn out to be true (J.Edger Hoover, Co-intelPro, Watergate, etc etc).

Clive Robinson April 16, 2013 4:58 AM

@ Nick P,

The guy interviewing him later said he felt something was missing from the social experience because it seemed the guy was distracted constantly on his computer and he couldn’t quite feel a rapport with him.

This may be due to the fact that most f2f conversations use only around 20% verbal communications, the rest being “body language”. In effect the reporter was watching a different conversation to the one he was listening to. He was lucky in some respects to only feel a lack of rapport, in some people such disonence is sufficient to cause effects similar to motion sickness.

Roger April 16, 2013 5:41 AM

@erica, @Rob:
Most casinos that I am aware of, banned portable computers well over twenty years ago, and transmitting cameras not long afterwards.

Possibly something to do with Silicon Valley being about a 1 hour plane ride from Las Vegas.

Ping-Che Chen April 16, 2013 5:55 AM

@ Logan:

The problem is that many potential functions of Google Glass depend on the camera (many are AR based), so it could be impractical to have one version with camera while another without.

Roger April 16, 2013 6:12 AM

It’s interesting that Mr. Doerr is seeking business partners in the same breath that he casually mentions that he cheats at games. It would certainly make me wary about doing business with him.

It’s also amazing that several people defend this behaviour as legitimate. Most fuller dictionaries give at least half a dozen defintions of “cheat.” With respect to games and suchlike, there are two meanings: to violate the rules, and to play unfairly.

It is pretty obvious that this is playing unfairly, and so it is cheating. But it’s also arguably against the rules. The rules of Scattergories do not explicitly prohibit reference material, but they do list the equipment to use in the game: and not surprisingly, no reference material is listed.

You could argue about whether this is a prohibition, but then you hit one of the neat things about the rules of Scattergories: democracy. You don’t argue, the other players just get to vote on it. I suspect the motion to allow Mr. Doerr to use Google Glass won’t get far.

John Campbell April 16, 2013 9:28 AM

I seem to recall one of David Brin’s essays on privacy and the like (and a lot of it is exposed in his novel “Earth”, even if it isn’t an Uplift story) and glass was probably someone’s effort to bring one of Brin’s futures into the realm of reality.

Alan April 16, 2013 9:54 AM

Our family house rules for Scrabble allow use of a (paper) dictionary to see whether words you hope exist actually do so. But that’s with all players having the same access, and agreed in advance.
If his family know he’s doing it and accept that they’d rather have him testing the glasses playing with them than refusing to play, then he’s just being a little bit of a dick.

Robert in San Diego April 16, 2013 10:10 AM

Dear Everyone:

I agree entirely with the history in Clive Robinson’s comments about the discrimination against blind people using adaptive, protective, and concealing devices in public. Acceptance of guide dogs is STILL dodgy in eating establishments (even though the beasts have been allowed in my own home state’s health codes for several years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed). A friend of mine has had some trouble over his sporting dark glasses everywhere, even though he’s intensely photosensitive (pretty much the only things he can see are darkness and pain). And then there’s the white cane thing.

I disagree with his analysis — unlike these adaptive aids for those we’ll call “the other” (blind, paralyzed, etc., whatever adjectives we hang on people who should be people first, adjectives second if at all), google glasses are bright and shiny desirable objects. Here’s a case study of how the techno-loving public see this:

I get around a lot by bike, and for safety’s sake and better integration with traffic I wear a rear view mirror on my glasses. Sometimes I forget to take this off when I’m dismounted. A grocery store clerk spotted it, asked what it was (common), then extolled the benefits off Google Glasses and how I should try them. I’d consider that, if not a security threat (distracted cycling is real, trust me), a degradation of situational awareness. There are road threats I can’t even hear (one semi out of many in traffic noise, or a Prius on my left that’s going to turn right) that are visible in a mirror.

OK: I’m stereotyping Prius operators here, but they’re the most common noiseless road threats (followed by pedestrians, then other cyclists).

Anyway, the tl;dr version: People will sport technical aids like Google Glasses due to shiny object status, unlike even the simplest and most mundane of aids for the disabled.

Lowell Gilbert April 16, 2013 12:01 PM

A game is defined by its rules. You can change the rules, but by definition you are then playing a different game. For a small rule change, you might call it a variant rather than an entirely different game, but this is not important. What’s important is that the players not have conflicting ideas of what the rules allow.

Nick P April 16, 2013 2:54 PM

@ moo

” but that behaviour seems less stigmatized nowadays as everyone has accepted that cell phones are just everywhere and the interruptions are sometimes necessary, and not a big deal.”

Yeah, that’s the potential future I was alluding too. It’s just creepier when the distraction is Google Glass’s capabilities.

@ Clive Robinson

Yes, the nonverbal communications are the biggest issue in that. I’d add that people’s most important emotional cues come from their eyes/faces. Someone trying to hide a reaction by letting their body be motionless often can hide a quick facial expression or eye movement. Loosing these cues during significant moments might hurt relationships, contract negotiations, etc.

dbh April 16, 2013 7:05 PM

In times past, there may have been games for which a significant part of the competition was based on eyesight. It would have been “cheating” to wear eyeglasses. One can say that we have come to accept the technology, that the rules of the games have changed, or that, with glasses now common, we don’t play games like that anymore.

As it becomes easier, faster, and more reliable to look things up, there is less point in memorizing facts, definitions, dates, etc. Then there is little point in competing on the ability to do this. It would be far more interesting to compete on ability to think.

Brian April 18, 2013 1:03 AM

Most board games don’t explicitly state there’s a rule against punching your opponents in the face for using glass to perform dictionary lookup on words, so I’d assume that it’s well within the bounds of the game to do so when this happens.

Figureitout April 18, 2013 2:13 AM

–Ha, thanks for pointing out other people’s point. Some feel the need to explicitly say what is and is not legal; that list is way to long to be practical. It’s why I will take the court of public opinion over the legal court we’re forced to obey; they have too many cases to consider and the enforcers have to many lawbreakers to reign in. So, it’s just a subjective/not fair decision w/ law; justice should always be a struggle.

Like a fist fight, which is what you are suggesting. Just hope people don’t care about their teeth or their noses, as they won’t look the same. Or you can be “pussies” and put on face masks and gloves and spare a hospital visit.

paul April 19, 2013 9:56 AM

How long till local routers start doing packet inspection to see if a particular request comes from a glasshole, and modifying it appropriately? I’m thinking that an alternate version of wikipedia would be particularly useful.

roofuskit April 19, 2013 12:44 PM

Has nobody considered that maybe his looking up OTHER people’s words to make sure they’re real? It’s kind of hard to sit there in a room with people and discreetly use Google Glass… no keyboard.

Alex April 20, 2013 10:53 AM


That 20% claim is oft cited by HR people in team building courses, but is clearly BS if you stop and think about it for two seconds. The original study was on the emotional meaning of single words and has been inappropriatly extended to general conversation. There is a good debunking at and Radio 4’s More or Less did an episode on it last year.

Clive Robinson April 20, 2013 4:07 PM

@ Alex,

I was aware of the 7/38/55 % rule and where it came from originaly, and that in effect it had been disproved about a quater of a century before the results were published. This was by work into inteligability of various voice modes for radio communications carried out twords the end of WWII (and it’s one of the reasons aircraft HF voice is USB and VHF voice AM).

The 20%-80% rule I mentioned was arived at by work carried out in the UK by the Army Personel Research Establishment (APRE) and Plessey Comms back in the 70s/80s on using voiced and unvoiced vocoders to cut the digitized voice data rate to2400 baud (not bits/sec) to be used for encryption equipment. They used various “perception tests” with soldiers to work out just how much of the vocal communications component they could reduce, distort, delay or remove. The 20/80 rule was a by product of this work, as was finding out about the seasickness like response in a small percentage of the population.

Similar work was carried out in the US by DARPA and the NSA the eventual result was CELP voice digitization which is still today the prefered method not just for Mil voice encryptors but mobile phones and VoIP as well.

All that said both Nyquist and Shannon as well as many others did work in the area of voice comms on telephones and inteligability considerably prior to WWII and the results they got were different again…

As it goes there is an insider joke about the GSM coder. Apparently it was selected to be most compatable with the male Germanic voice, who it appears not only call their mobiles “mit handy” but are also percentage of population wise the least frequent of mobile phone users in Europe.

eyesoars April 23, 2013 9:25 PM

‘glasshole’ has been an epithet in soaring jargon for many years. In that context, it undoubtedly arose sometime in the ’70s, when (fiber-)glass gliders were new, expensive, and high-performance. (And sleek and beautiful.)

And it means just what one might think.

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