Imagine a world where we can experience our online lives without having to sit in front of a computer screen or fiddle with a handheld device. Where information is not only at our fingertips but, literally, in our field of vision. Notifications popping up in front of our eyes, keeping us connected with the world around us: Facebook profile of the person next to you, directions to a new restaurant, photos at the blink of an eye.
It may sound like a world straight from the imagination of H.G. Wells or Star Trek, but this in fact what Google has proposed with their Project Glass, the latest concept to come out of the company’s X Lab. Rumors of Google selling eyeglasses by the end of this year have been circling for a couple months, but Google finally put the rumors to rest with the product’s announcement via Google+ and the release of the “One day…” video.
“We believe technology should work for you – to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t,” the product description reads. “A team within our Google[x] group started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment.” Looking at some of the prototype photos the search engine giant released (and also modeled by Sergey Brin at a charity event last week), the “augmented reality” eyewear look straight out of Blade Runner but have a surprisingly sleek wraparound look and appear nothing like clunky 3-D glasses. Is the promise to put the Web in front of our eyes actually a reality? All signs point to yes.
The response is both enthusiastic and apprehensive, but the big question is whether Google has stepped too far to blur the line between human and machine – or should we all just accept that this future is only a matter of time. Critics have called out on topics ranging from the dangers of driving with the eyewear to privacy issues. One even asked a neurobiologist about the “psychological and visual-cognitive aspects of the user experience.”
What about the lack of Google’s AdWords? Within a day of the video’s release, filmmaker Jonathan McIntosh remixed the original promo to illustrate what the augmented reality would look with the inclusion of ads. As McIntosh writes, “Google will probably not be this obvious with their interface but there’s no question the company will be gathering massive amounts of extremely personal data to build detailed profiles and sell super targeted ads.”
Another question critics have been asking is the glasses’ power source. Lithium ion batteries have their limits, which is increasingly outpaced by the growing power requirements of mobile devices. Google has been mum on the issue, but when Brin stepped out at the charity event with the prototype he was carrying a backpack the entire time – which some have speculated held the battery pack to power the unfinished prototype.
More importantly, is Project Glass practical? As Washington Post’s Haley Tsukayama commented, “In the way that I envision how I would use the product, I’d take it off when I met a friend for coffee, much in the same way I put my cellphone down… In fact, it’s hard for me, a gadget lover if ever there was one, to think of a device I would want to wear on my head at all times.” However, an actual tester told the New York Times that this isn’t the case. “They let technology get out of your way. If I want to take a picture I don’t have to reach into my pocket and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and that’s it.”
What do we think – is Project Glass the product of the future or a breach of our privacy? We’re likely to find out more about the project over the next six to twelve months, but whatever your opinion is about Project Glass the possibility of placing all of the Android OS’s capabilities and apps into a pair of glasses, all accessible by voice command, is breathtaking. Google has always been a revolutionary company, and they will continue to push the technological envelope to places it has never gone before. As Forbes’ James Poulos commented, “What [Google is] doing is not illegal, and the money to bankroll the conversion of their dreams into reality will never dry up, so nothing will stop them.” Maybe flying cars are a possibility after all.