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Google's Project Glass has everyone talking. It's a glimpse of the future of augmented reality, wearable computing, and better integration of the Internet and technology in our day-to-day lives. Imagine replacing your smartphone with a pair of glasses, controlling them with your voice and movements of your head. No more pulling out your smartphone and concentrating on a slab of glass as you walk around – everything you need is already right there in your vision.
One day, when we're all using retinal implants with built-in augmented reality tech, Google's Project Glass will seem quaint. But today, it's the future. At least, I hope it is.
If you haven't seen the video that's got everyone talking, you should watch it now. It's a concept video that shows us a vision of the future, and the first Google Glasses will be a step along the road towards it. Also, as James said yesterday – the concept is easily within the realm of possibility.
An Augmented Reality HUD For The Masses
We already have a variety of augmented reality apps for smartphones. Augmented reality apps take the video from your smartphone's camera, displaying it in real time and overlaying it with information. Say you're using Yelp's Monocle feature – the augmented reality vision on your phone will display information about nearby businesses over the video.
Augmented reality is really cool, but actually overlaying what you see is the "killer app." It's one thing to pull out your smartphone and use it as a window into the augmented reality world, but it's another to walk down the street and have everything you see be potentially augmented. The uses of a theoretical augmented reality heads up display are practically only limited by your imagination. The arrows in the video are one way to display a route, but the display could draw a virtual line on the sidewalk for you — or pave the path you walk with a virtual red carpet.
That said, the video isn't what Project Glass is really about — yet. The first iteration has a single display near one eye. It won't overlay your entire field of vision, it's just a data overlay that appears in your peripheral vision
We're Closer Than You Think
A data overlay that appears in your peripheral vision – we already have that! Recon Instruments' MOD goggles are ski goggles with a heads up display that can show your speed, statistics, and a GPS navigation map. The display appears near your right eye, on the periphery of your vision — the rest of your vision is normal and unobscured. This is what the first Google Glasses will actually be like. It still integrates the technology into day-to-day life, but it can't modify everything you see. It'll be similar to the video, except the floating information will appear near one eye instead of at the center of your vision.
Transparent screens? We've got those too. Here's the Samsung Smart Window, which functions as both a window and a transparent touch screen.
People Are Already Distracted & Walking Into Things
Some people see Google's Project Glass as a menace – yet more electronics interfering in our day-to-day lives, crowding our vision, taking us out of the moment, and distracting us from what's really important. Those people are living in a world that no longer exists. I can't walk down a city block without someone on a smartphone almost bumping into me. People walk the streets, oblivious to their surroundings, looking down at small, rectangular pieces of glass in their hands. Project Glass is an improvement over the current situation and will bring these people back to the real world, making them more aware of their surroundings.
And for those of you worrying about this distracting people driving – well, they're already distracted. They're texting, talking, and using their smartphones while driving. And Project Glass or no Project Glass, augmented reality is coming to a car near you. Car companies like General Motors are working on augmented reality windshield displays.
Brilliant People Are Involved
Project Glass isn't just some half-baked idea dreamt up in a garage or yet another Google research project with no force behind it, it's being developed by Google's Google X Lab. Google X is the same lab working on Google's self-driving cars, another I-can't-believe-this-is-already-happening project that's dragging us into the future.
Google X is full of smart engineers working hard to make the future actually happen. Most of their projects are a secret, but they're also reportedly working on space elevators.
At Least Google Is Trying
Whatever you think of Project Glass, Google is reaching for something new, innovative, and futuristic. What are other tech giants doing that's so interesting? If you believe the current rumors, Apple's foray into wearable computing is centered around wrist-mounted displays. I'm sure people will line up to buy a wrist-mounted iWatches if Apple ever releases them, but Google is out in front doing something much more interesting with Project Glass.
And for you tweakers out there, Project Glass uses Android, so the potential for customization is huge. Worried about the default software? I'm sure there will be a community-developed custom ROM for your glasses.
What do you think of Google's Project Glass? Will you be the first in line to get one, do you think it's all hype, or do you just not like the idea? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!