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Project Glass - The Future Has Already Begun

Look ma, no hands

Convenience is king. It saw laptops crush desktops, the MP3 swallow physical media and smartphones skyrocket as they divested us of our need to carry multiple devices.

Where convenience goes next is hands-free. Having to hold a product to use it is restricting as are physical screens. They may bring new concerns, but glasses and lenses solve both these age old problems.

They bring further convenience. Alerts are the bane of modern devices, but glasses allow them to be processed far more efficiently. In social situations facial recognition will help you never forget another face and while distraction is a key concern, the likes of the commercially available BMW Head-up display acknowledge some information displayed in our line of sight is better than having to look away at screens and dials.

Money, money, money

Don't be fooled, however, every technological evolution has brought better opportunity for companies to make money. How many ads were you exposed to before your computer was connected to the Internet? What did you buy when using your old dumbphone?

A move to glasses is a super highway to money making nirvana. Apps like Foursquare already include location aware deals, but you have to pull out your phone at the right time to see them. Imagine tying your 'to do list' to what you see. Dating websites would have similar joy: members show up to one another in real time as they walk down the street. Suddenly finding the courage to approach someone becomes a lot easier.

A popular theme of Project Glass parody videos is the swamping of Google ads, but it will never be that crude. That said even the slickest ads accumulate and run the risk of turning your everyday life into the virtual equivalent of tourist market where you are nagged at every opportunity.

The future, now

"Right now you really just see it reboot," admitted Sergey Brin of Project Glass on Friday, stressing "Give us time." No-one knows what timescale 'time' translates to, but what is already clear is Google is just one of a number of companies looking at this space.

Perhaps the most famous is Vuzix, founded in 1997, which specialises in 'interactive imaging systems' (its original name) for both military and consumer products. The company hoped to go mass market back in 2008 and designs have refined significantly since then, but as of September last year its flagship Wrap 1200 eyewear still had some way to go. The major players are also moving in. Sony has shown interest and Apple has predictably already patented a visual heads up display.

When practical hardware does arrive it will likely find the content ready and waiting. Aurasma, for example, is a virtual reality browser which recognises 'triggers' to deliver interactive content and advertising. Momentum has built to where it is now the principle sponsor of Tottenham Hotspur and the team's shirts have built in virtual reality content.

The future has begun. We just await casting of the main players…


April 10, 2012, 6:28 pm

I have been wearing glasses since my school days and as much I would like a hands-free phone and voice-input text messaging, integrated maps for occasional directions, I cannot risk having 24/7 unwanted electromagnetic radiation so close to the brain(even though unproven health risks). I'm a doctor.

James Reckitt

April 11, 2012, 10:43 pm

I think these would work very well, perhaps starting off as an addition to a smartphone, like a visual bluetooth "alien" headset, and then later developing into standalone devices.

As a glasses-wearer, if they can work alongside prescription lenses, I'm certainly in.


April 13, 2012, 4:07 am

While the device itself seems interesting... Am I the only one who gets a bit creeped out by an advertising company introducing a device that scrolls right in front of your eyes? This method of drawing your attention to all sorts of notifications and added-value data might be intrusive enough on its own for a lot of people, but when the ads appear – geo-tracked and all – without the possibility of ignoring them, it could turn out to be a real nightmare.

John George Wright

April 20, 2012, 2:10 pm


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