Project Glass: what you need to know In Depth Are Google's glasses more than just a gimmick?
When Google unveiled Project Glass, the tech world instantly fell into two camps. Camp one was excited: we're living in the sci-fi future! Camp two, though, wasn't so happy. It's vapourware! some said, while others worried that Google just wanted to plaster ads on the entire world. Is either camp correct? Let's find out.
What is Google's Project Glass?
Google's Project Glass is Google's attempt to make wearable computing mainstream, and it's effectively a smart pair of glasses with an integrated heads-up display and a battery hidden inside the frame.
Wearable computing is not a new idea, but Google's enormous bank account and can-do attitude means that Project Glass could well be the first product to do significant numbers.
When will Google Glass be released?
It looks as though Project Glass will see a public release in 2014 at the earliest. Latest news is that developers will be able to get hold of 'explorer edition' units at some point in 2013 with a "broad consumer offering" arriving a year later.
What's the difference between Google Glasses and Google Goggles?
Google Goggles is software, an app that can search the web based on photos and scans. Google Glass is hardware.
How does Project Glass work?
According to well-informed Google blogger Seth Weintraub, Google's Project Glass glasses will probably use a transparent LCD or AMOLED display to put information in front of your eyeballs. It's location-aware thanks to a camera and GPS, and you can scroll and click on information by tilting your head, something that is apparently quite easy to master. Google Glasses will also use voice input and output.
What are the Google Glass specifications?
The New York Times says that the glasses will run Android, will include a small screen in front of your eye and will have motion sensors, GPS and either 3G or 4G data connections. Weintraub says that the device is designed to be a stand-alone device rather than an Android phone peripheral: while Project Glass can connect to a smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4.0, "it communicates directly with the cloud". There is also a front-facing camera and a flash, although it's not a multi-megapixel monster, and the most recent prototype's screen isn't transparent.
What will I be able to do with Google Glasses?
According to Google's own video, you'll be a super-being with the ability to have tiny people talking to you in the corner of your eye, to find your way around using sat-nav, to know when the subway's closed, to take and share photographs and to learn the ukelele in a day.
OK, what will I really be able to do with Google Glass? Is Google Glass a vision of the future?
Nobody knows. The idea is to deliver augmented reality, with information that's directly relevant to your surroundings appearing in front of you whenever you need it. For example, your glasses might tell you where the nearest decent restaurant is, book your table, invite your friends and show you how to get there, or they might provide work-related information when you're at your desk.
What information we'll use it for, if we use it at all, remains to be seen: like Apple's Siri, it's a technology with enormous potential. It could even end up in contact lenses: one of the Project Glass team, Babak Parviz of the University of Washington, recently built a contact lens with embedded electronics.
I already wear glasses. Will Google Glasses work for me?
Yes. Google is experimenting with designs that will fit over existing glasses so you don't have to wear two lots of specs.
Is Google Glass vapourware?
The New York Times says no: Google's got some of its very best people working on the project, and experts such as wearable computing specialist Michael Liebhold say that "In addition to having a superstar team of scientists who specialize in wearable, they also have the needed data elements, including Google Maps."
Not everyone is convinced. Wired spoke to Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech, who said "you could not do [augmented reality] with a display like this." MIT Media Lab researcher Pranav Mistry agreed, saying that "the small screen seen in the photos cannot give the experience the video is showing."
There are several engineering issues - making a screen that works in darkness and in bright sunlight is tough - and mobile display technology doesn't offer dynamic focusing, which reads your eye to deliver perfectly clear visuals. Current wearable displays have to be two feet away from your face.
There's clearly a big gap between Google's demo video and the actual product: Google says its photos "show what this technology could look like" and its video demonstrates "what it might enable you to do" [emphasis added by us].
What is the Project Glass price?
It looks as though Project The NYT again: according to "several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named," the glasses are expected "to cost around the price of current smartphones." So that's around £500, then, possibly with the help of a hefty Google subsidy.
Is Project Glass evil?
It looks as though Project It could be. Google's business is about making money from advertising, and some people worry that Google Glass is its attempt to monetise your eyeballs by blasting you with ads whenever you look at something.
If you think pop-ups are annoying in a web browser, imagine them in front of your face. The ADmented Reality spoof is one of very many parodies that made us laugh.
Some of the parodies actually make a good point by showing people bumping into stuff: heads-up displays can be distracting, and there may be safety issues too. Until Google ships its self-driving car, the thought of drivers being distracted by their glasses is fairly terrifying.
There are privacy implications too. Never mind your web history: Google Glass might record everything you see and do.
Will Google Glasses make me look like a dork?