Think back to the last time you were using your mobile device in a public place – maybe you were playing a game while waiting in the DMV, or checking football scores in a grocery checkout line. Everyone has experienced the moment when reality beckons and you have to return your attention to what’s immediately around you – it can be more than a little jarring. Google’s X Lab (the same elite group of innovators that has been rumored to work on projects as lofty as a space elevator and a driverless car) has a vision for the future where users will never have to experience that.
Glass is Google’s much-hyped addition to the relatively unexplored realm of wearable computing and augmented reality. Equipped with an HD camera, touchpad, microphone, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and onboard storage, Glass seeks to leverage the mobile computing experience to enrich day-to-day activities. Users interact with the device via a combination of voice commands and touch gestures on a pad located on the side of the frames. A small screen in the corner of where lenses would be on conventional glasses shows the user relevant information. Glass will also have the ability to pair with an iPhone or Android to display push notifications.
Public reaction to the project has been mixed – the early prototype version that has shipped to a few hand-selected developers has recently become a fashion statement in Silicon Valley, but outside of the tech community some have voiced concerns over privacy. Glass users could discretely take pictures and videos and instantly put them online – people concerned about this scenario like to point out Google’s outstanding capabilities for speech-to-text, facial recognition, and precise geo-location. Already, Glass has been banned in a few locations – the UK has introduced legislation aimed at making Glass illegal to use while driving, and several casinos in Las Vegas have already stated that the devices will not be allowed in their facilities.
The Explorer Program that distributed prototype models has been closed since February, but users interested in the technology can expect to see a model hit the market in early 2014. Google definitely has some technical obstacles to overcome – namely, accommodating users who use a prescription. I recently was able to try Glass via a friend of a friend of a friend who was selected for the Explorer Program. Unfortunately, as a bespectacled nerd, I was unable to see the screen clearly without some pretty extreme fiddling. Still, the experience was an interesting look into what might be the future of mobile computing.
If you haven’t seen Google’s video demoing Glass, take a moment to watch: