At CES 2012 this year, Vuzix unveiled a pair of SMART glasses, which would provide an augmented reality display in the guise of a pair of sunglasses strongly resembling a pair of Oakleys. Unfortunately for Vuzix, it looks like Google just one-upped them – in style and in substance. Project Glass is coming. Eventually.
Project Glass is minimalist in design, but looks to be big on functionality. The apparatus itself (as it is now, which is an important distinction to make) consists of a thin metal band worn around the eyes, with a small transparent display in front of the right eye. Word is that when Project Glass is finalized, users will still be able to wear their normal eyewear along with it – after all, I doubt Google would be keen on ostracizing the glasses wearing community – that’s a whole lot of people to not make money from.
Project Glass was demonstrated in Google’s “One Day” video, which reveals what Project Glass will do, but leaves us in the dark about how exactly it works. When Project Glass is initialized (apparently done simply by putting the eyewear on), a set of 14 small icons shows up, then quickly disappears. Different icons are activated when the user looks at different places – a blank wall brings up reminders and looking out of the window brings up weather. Messages pop-up in real-time, but it’s not clear yet if you can dismiss them or save them to read later, or how you would even go about controlling that.
At this point, it would be worth it to mention that Project Glass is by no means expected to come out anytime soon. It very well could, but it’s more likely that we’re still at least a year or two (or more) from seeing something like Project Glass become available. Google has stated that the purpose of the video is not so much to advertise as it is to encourage feedback from those watching.
Project Glass appears to have some sort of built-in GPS functionality – when the user approaches a subway station, he gets a notification informing him that service is currently down. The user instantly brings up walking directions to his destination, and follows them. Later in the video, Project Glass even provides him with a map of the bookstore he goes to, which seems unnecessary, but awfully cool nonetheless. A check-in feature is also demonstrated. Users will apparently be able to share their location, so friends can pinpoint where other friends are – useful for meeting up with people, creepiness potential aside.
The notifications don’t appear on “screen” for long, but when they are displayed, they take up a pretty healthy chunk of the user’s field of vision, which is bound to be a concern. After all, this isn’t a video game, where bringing up the HUD pauses the game. Your notifications aren’t going to stop that bus approaching the intersection – Google and users still have plenty more thinking to do about how to make this technology safe to use. An argument Google makes is that the glasses can actually be less distracting, making it so that users don’t need to divert their gaze completely to a mobile device, which is admittedly an argument worth considering. Still, diligence is needed. A lot of it.
Who knows when we’ll actually get our hands on Project Glass, but when we do, it’s almost guaranteed to be a hot item, whether you like the idea or not. If the finished product looks anything like what Google is showing off now, it will look futuristic in the best sense, playing off images from science-fiction classics. Just try not to crush your new toy in excitement when you finally get your hands on one, alright? I know the temptation will be hard to resist.