Google Glasses - Looking into the Future

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You may have heard about Google Glasses. They received quite a bit of hype last year. However, I have to say, I never really got what they were or what they might do for me. In case you are in the same place I was, here is the lowdown for those for whom geeky postings about ‘augmented reality’ may have still left you wondering: “Yes, but what ARE they?”

Why?

Perhaps the best way to start getting a fix on what they are is to think about the things you do with your smartphone and - perhaps tablet PC - while doing something else.  Have you ever come close to walking under a bus while following Google Maps walking directions?  Used your phone as Sat Nav in the car?  Watched TV while surfing the web on your phone or tablet? More and more of us are doing this kind of media-mix multi-tasking.  At the same time, the number of different sized-screen we are using is growing at a rapid rate.  

Think about it, the TV in your Kitchen at breakfast, your car satnav, your desktop PC, that screen in your office reception, your smartphone and your tablet, not to mention your laptop and that lovely new 50inch LED TV in your sitting room.  You possibly look at ten different screen sizes during the day.  It’s getting silly.

We’ve learned to try and organise our lives to deliver our preferred content on the most viable screen for the circumstances when and where we want it – and to multi-task with it.  As such, the idea of a ‘heads-up’ display is hardly extraordinary – BMW, Ford & GM all now offer it as an option in some of their cars.  Look at Google Glasses as something that could deliver you simple content in a heads-up way and it begins to make sense.

Then consider the GoPro fad.  Mountain bikers, skiers, even horse riders – they’re all at it.  Strapping small video cams to their helmets and recording the action for YouTube.  If Google glasses did this well, you have to think that they would access a big market here alone.  So it’s not just the heads-up display, it’s head’s up video shooting.

Augmented Reality – WTF is that?

Apparently all this belongs to the world of augmented reality.  According to Wikipedia, AR is augmenting our real world view with ‘computer-generated sensory input’.  Constantly have your satnav on in the car?  You are probably an augmented reality fan.  In fact, if you are one of those people I regularly see with their satnav stuck on their windscreen in front of their nose, driving home in the dark blinded by the daylight setting on their satnav, you are probably already an AR addict.

When?

Allegedly ‘explorer edition’ (presumably meaning not de-bugged yet) units will be available this year, with a public release in 2014.  It seems to us that whatever progress is made with the hardware, unless GG-specific apps for navigation, communications etc. are there to go with it, and preferably from a good set of vendors, the start is going to be pretty shaky.

What Technologies?

Android (of course), with a small transparent LCD or AMOLED display, GPS, a camera, 3 or 4G connectivity as well as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Won’t it be bad for your eyes?

Who knows.  It sounds like it could be a challenge for them.  Some experts have expressed concern – but someone always does.  Based on the habits of satnav users as above, we would worry more about the dangers of distraction.  As many legislatures have banned mobile phone use in cars, you only have to guess what they may think of people driving around with ‘infotainment glasses’ on. . .

What if I wear glasses?

Not a problem apparently.  Google are working on a set that will supposedly fit over glasses – but it will probably have to be pretty versatile then.

How much?

Apparently – according to un-named employees – about the price of a Smartphone.  Based on Google’s very aggressive tablet pricing, possibly subsidised they could end up being ‘surprisingly affordable’.

Will they be evil?

Probably only a bit.  As Google drives for world domination in information services, it’s not difficult to see this as another way of ensuring you are never offline from Google – and that means advertising of course.

Our take?

It’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t re-define the way we consume media on the move, it will find a role at least.  Anyone trying to make a career out of underestimating Google will have had a thin time of it. Apple underestimated what it took for Google to get where they have with Google Maps/Earth, and look where that got them? The development effort behind Google maps must be of a huge magnitude greater even than this clever pair of specs.

To read our quick update on Google Glass click here. To read about other wearable technology click here.

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