Project Glass, commonly referred to as "Google Glasses" is a Google project to make augmented reality glasses. This is a cross between a cell phone and a science fiction movie. The glasses made their debut at the Google I/O developer conference where parachuters and bicycle stunt riders gave viewers a live feed during the developer keynote.
The idea seems swiped from our collective imagination. We knew the future would work this way. It's right next to the flying cars. They already can drive themselves. Someday we'd be able to wake up in the morning and put our computer on over our eyes. It's just like the idea of the smartphone, extended. You could use it to keep track of appointments, get directions, check into locations, and do all the activities you already do on your smartphone, only without your boss being able to see your secret game of Angry Birds. That last bit wasn't included in Google's promo video, but we all know somebody's going to do it.
Augmented Reality in Action
Augmented reality is already here. It's the biggest selling point for the PlayStation Vita. You can use the cameras to blast space ships and hunt bad guys superimposed on whatever it is that you're viewing right then and there. There are also some great games on the Xbox or other game consoles that take advantage of camera accessories to make your living room the funnest gaming arena, ever.
It's not just for games. You can already use apps on your smartphone to see enhanced visions of what you're standing in front of and get more information about your surroundings, whether it's the disappointingly under-adopted Layar app, Google Maps navigation, scanning QR Codes or just looking up restaurant reviews. We're expanding our understanding of reality, and some of those things can be done with the camera on our phone or tablet right now. So make that camera something that mounts on the bridge of your nose and displays in the corner of your eye, and you've essentially got Google's augmented reality glasses.
What Are the Implications of Google Glasses?
Obviously we'd need some self driving cars before we start dictating texts on the road, but there are still some concerns beyond that. Google tends to either be viewed as a friendly company with a colorful logo or some sinister data collector that knows too much. By gathering so much information about us, they seem like digital spies. We could be giving them the power to literally spy on everything we see.
Now let's add the next layer of sinister to this Google-is-evil sandwich: advertising. Google makes most of their money from ads, one way or another. Picture those ads delivered straight to your eyeballs. It's quickly becoming like that advertising scene out of Minority Report, and just as creepy. I'm going to give Google the benefit of the doubt on this one. They started turning a profit with unobtrusive and useful ads, and I suspect they'll continue in that direction. However, I'm not going to give the app makers that much credit. Sooner or later, these things are going to have obvious ads, and consumers will hate it.
It's not all dystopian future and robots killing their masters. Google's promo video shows us connecting with people, being on time to our appointments, dressing appropriately for the weather, tagging our locations, and otherwise extending ourselves through our technology. We could do even more than that. Picture a live translation of someone speaking a foreign language or live captioning for the hard of hearing. Maybe a virtual tutor that repeats what the professor says when you didn't catch a concept. There's no way anyone will buy a pair of cyber glasses if they're not getting some great perks from the experience.
We've been turning ourselves into cyborgs for a while. We use our phones to augment our brains, and we've been doing it for a while. Some people are going to view this as making ourselves better, and some will see it as a crutch that weakens us, just as we've viewed every technology from the beginning of time. Does social media disconnect us from each other, or does it allow us to keep even more connected with our friends and family? Your answer will probably tell us whether or not you're going to to buy a pair of augmented reality glasses. And just as not everyone has a smartphone, not everyone will get these glasses when they're introduced.
What If This Never Happens?
Google has some great ideas, but some of them never get released, and some of them get killed off far too soon. Google Wave was going to be the future of email, and it turned out to be dead before the project could blow out any birthday candles. Google TV was going to be the future of television, but television is doing its best to crush the future before it happens. So what of glasses? This is something people have been working on for a long time. Surely we'll see some sort of augmented reality glasses at some point in the future, but we may all end up standing in line for the version with an Apple or Amazon logo.
We're still waiting for a chance to buy one of those self-driving cars.