A few months ago, it was reported that a certain Mountain View-based company was making some Augmented Reality Glasses called “Project Glass” (Hint: The company’s name rhymes with “doodle”). The product is one of many projects conceived in Google’s clandestine laboratory named “Google X.”
The glasses are intended to provide the user with real-time information in front of their eyes. Patents have already been filed for the product, which can be seen here. Augmented Reality (AR) is basically the enhancement of your real world environment with computer generated inputs such as graphics, video and sound. The idea is to super impose objects on real-life images or environment.
For instance, when you’re watching a football game between Arsenal and Manchester United, the score box in the top left corner is a conventional example of AR. Recent research developments in advanced AR technology are making it feasible for users to interact and manipulate information in their surrounding environment. It is an exciting field, which holds a lot of promise for the future.
Project Glass reminds me of a Qualcomm (QCOM) presentation I attended a few months ago at Co-Creation Hub (CCHub) in Yaba (a place I like to affectionately call “Yaba Valley”). It was actually my first time at the incubation center. I came away impressed with the set up. It had a relaxed and comfortable feel about it that neutralized the stress I gained from the horrendous Herbert Macaulay traffic that afternoon.
At a glance, Co-Creation Hub is well equipped with all sorts of tech toys from game consoles to wall mounted large flat screens. Although I did not have enough time to ask about the current venture projects under development but that is a task for another day.
The QCOM presentation focused on the company’s nature of business, their recent innovations (e.g. Peer-to-Peer connectivity) and a developer program called “Snap Dragon.” However the segment on “Augmented Reality” clearly stole the show. The presenter showcased an AR magazine advertisement spread that provides the consumer with the ability to change colors of the clothing being worn by the model.
The consumer is also able to view the model from different vantage points. It was an example of an “Interactive Magazine Spread.” It was a very interesting presentation as whole. What made it more interesting was that all the AR algorithms are available on QCOM’s website for free. If you’re an experienced coder you could jump in right away. Maybe you can make some neat applications with it. My guess is that QCOM is looking for AR applications that they can package with their phones to push adoption of 4G phones in Nigeria.
Now what Google is proposing to achieve with the Project Glass is no easy task. Here’s a quick rundown of what we do know. The glasses are meant to provide the user with features such as video calling, messaging, a voice-control system, real-time weather updates, turn-by-turn navigation via Google Maps and camera functionality. There’s actually a promotional video that highlights the aforementioned features. The New York Times’ Nick Biliton also stated that the glasses would be able to establish a 3G or 4G wireless connection.
Looking at the promotional photos of the glasses, I was interested to see how they pull off 3G/4G on those small frames. Well it turns out the glasses will be connected to the internet via a tethered phone; this was stated during the I/O Developers Conference held on June 28 2012. Google also stated the glasses will have a battery life of an estimated six hours, which it plans to extend to a day according to All Things D. The tech giant intends to release the glasses before the end of 2014.
Example of proposed AR functionalities for Project Glass
Also during the I/O Developers Conference, co-founder Sergey Brin announced that US-based developers would have the opportunity to purchase an Explorer Edition of Project Glass. The glasses would cost them $1,500. The developers should expect to receive the glasses by early 2013 in order to start work on related software.
I think the vision of Google’s AR glasses could do is somewhat similar in terms of functionality to another AR technology called Layar. It is developed by a Dutch start-up of the same name, based in Amsterdam. You can download the software onto your smart phone and use their “Reality Browser” to locate and find services in nearby locations with the use of your smart phone camera. For example if my favorite restaurant utilizes Layar, ideally when I view it through my smart phone (running Layar of course); the restaurant’s current specials and service information should populate the screen.
The software enables the user to acquire information on anything via a mobile camera. You can scan magazines, street corners, buildings and acquire information through the over 3,000 AR layers that Layar currently maintains. I certainly feel this is one of many directions; Google is going with Project Glass. Currently, we know that e-mail, photos and video streaming can be seen in-frame. With respect to functional AR features, not much is known. I do know the company plans to provide more functions over time.
Project Glass still has some ways way to go. Some people think it is a long shot at best; but you have to be excited about the future possibilities of these AR glasses and what it means for the future development of augmented reality. I can imagine having car trouble, putting on Google’s glasses and then looking at the offending gadget/part, getting instructions detailing what the issue is.
Maybe how I can fix it without the aid of a mechanic. It is one of more many possibilities, which augmented reality can create. It is all about usefulness and convenience. Only time will tell if Project Glass will be able to provide either of the two. If it does, it will join the long list of gadgets that people didn’t know that they wanted until it was shown to them.
You may want to read:
You can keep your Siri. All I want is a pair of Google Glasses – by Jesse Oguns
Not So Cool. Google Glass – The Objective & Distraction – by Godwin Bassey