Early last month, following rumors of fueling loads of cash in various R&D projects around wearable computing, Google announced one of the most intriguing projects it has taken on of late: Project Glass. To be worn on the head like (or as) glasses, Google's vision for Project Glass is an augmented reality HUD (heads-up display) controlled by voice commands.
A video posted on the Google YouTube channel shows what the technology could look like from the perspective of the wearer and demonstrates "what it might enable you to do." In the video, the wearer sets out on a rather busy day, wearing Project Glass. He sends a message to a friend via voice input, gets augmented walking directions to a book store, makes appointments in his calendar, video calls his lady friend and checks the weather, all without ever using his hands to pull out a smartphone.
Needless to say, it's a pretty awesome concept. And, as Google has shown us more than once now, there are several (at least partially) working prototypes amongst Google employees. Sebastian Thrun took a photo of Charlie Rose during an interview and shared it to Google+ with Project Glass; he also took a point of view (POV) picture of him spinning his son, Jasper, around in the air; and a jumble of perspective photos were shared at the Google+ Photographer's Conference earlier this week.
And just this morning, a POV video of someone jumping on a trampoline was uploaded to the Project Glass Google+ page, sharing the augmented glasses' video quality with the world, in all its 720p glory.
Other than the fact that they can enable you to take some awesome hands-free photographs and videos, however, not a whole lot is known about the Project Glass. We don't know exactly how the glasses work, if they're a stand-alone device or if they're powered by a smartphone (possibly through Bluetooth 4). We don't know when to expect them to actually come to market, who will manufacture them (likely Motorola now) or what sort of price tag they will carry.
Regardless, I want them ... and I want them now.
Despite how utterly nerdy and unsightly they are, there is a cool factor about them. Who wouldn't want to take hands-free pictures? To make notes without ever having to pull a phone out or lifting a finger? And who wouldn't like augmented reality, turn-by-turn navigation on a small HUD in front of their eye? The possibilities of Project Glass are nearly endless and could certainly revolutionize the way we all interact with our mobile devices.
That said, I have some reservations. Following the Project Glass: One day... video on YouTube, a handful of spoof videos surfaced. One uploaded by user enyay titled Google Glasses: A New Way to Hurt Yourself showed the wearer physically walking into someone on the street after an advertisement for Carpet Warehouse was displayed. Of course, Project Glass doesn't cover your entire field of vision – it's only a small cubed piece of glass that resides above the right eye. But the important part is the sad truth about Google's likely endgame that enyay quite possibly nailed. Google is an ad company. Their main objective is to serve ads to customers and to find new ways to serve such ads. Project Glass may ultimately serve as a way for Google to serve ads directly to the eyeballs of its users.
Another video titled Google - Project Dangerous Glasses (beware the language in this one) shows how awkward these glasses could be to use in public, not unlike Bluetooth headsets. Except, with Bluetooth headsets, you are generally talking on the phone with someone. People chatting in public on Bluetooth headsets has become somewhat common in society – picking out a person carrying on a conversation with someone on the other end of the line isn't too difficult anymore. With Project Glass, though, wearers will be commanding their glasses and asking them questions. Trying to depict whether someone is asking you or their glasses for directions will be ... interesting, to say the least.
I'm not sure I could ever see myself wearing them in public – then again, I may. Either way, Project Glass is quickly climbing my list of most wanted upcoming gadgets.
What say you, ladies and gents? Are Google's augmented reality glasses too much nerd for you to handle? Or, like me, will you be lining up with cash in hand once they're finally available? Once available, will you be wary about using smart glasses in public?
Image via Project Glass