Project Glass stole the show at Google's I/O developer conference on Wednesday: Just as the Vic Gundotra was wrapping up the presentation, founder Sergey Brin interrupted to introduce a demonstration of Glass that could go wrong in 500 different ways. The demo went off without a hitch, and thanks to a YouTube hook-up, worldwide audiences got to experience its first intimate moments with Glass, watching first-person perspectives of live skydiving, biking, and rapelling down the side of a building, all using Google Hangouts.
Google said that it would exclusively release an Explorer Edition of Project Glass to developers next year for $1,500, but when can consumers expect a wide release of this incredible hardware? Google has confirmed the augmented reality headset will ship to consumers less than a year after the developer release, which means we will likely see Project Glass released before the end of 2013, probably just in time for Christmas.
At the moment, Google has priced Project Glass at $1,500, but the company doesn't expect this to be the final price for consumers. Brin has said that he wants these wearable headsets to be both high-quality and affordable; eyepiece specialists and experts believe Google Glasses cost cost between $200 to $500 a pop.
These are still rough prototypes, Brin told Gavin Newsom back in early June. I have some hopes to maybe get it out sometime next year, but that's still a little bit of a hope.
What Is Project Glass?
Unveiled as the first major project out of Google's highly-secretive Google X laboratory, Project Glass is a wearable solution that uses pieces of smart glass with a heads-up display (HUD) to seamlessly blend the virtual world of smartphones and computers with the real world of people and places. Google Glasses leverages communication technology like social networking, calling and texting, and it interacts in real-time with people, places and things. When it all comes together, Project Glass creates a type of meta-reality, or smart reality.
It's one of my main focuses at Google now that I've shifted more to R&D, Brin said in his interview with Newsom. The idea is that you want to be free to experience the world without futzing with a phone, so for example, you didn't even notice, but I just took a picture with you, and you were making eye contact with me in the picture. If I'd whipped out a phone, it'd have been very different. I'll e-mail it to you after.
The finished product features a small metal frame that goes over the ears, and a small piece of glass over the right eye that shows the HUD. Google introduced a video alongside its announcement to give users a concept of what the finished product could look like.
We think technology should work for you-to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don't, Google said in a Google+ post. A group of us from Google[x] started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment. We're sharing this information now because we want to start a conversation and learn from your valuable input. So we took a few design photos to show what this technology could look like and created a video to demonstrate what it might enable you to do.
Google Glasses: What Can It Do?
When you put the glasses on, the HUD senses you and immediately activates, showing the various icons and applications for a brief moment, in the same way the old Macintosh computer would display logos of each piece of software as it was booting up. In Google's promotional video for Glass, users can see applications for the date, time, and temperature, as well as options for music, texting and calling. And of course, no future is complete without Google+.
So how do you activate your apps? In the video, the Google Glasses wearer simply looks up and sees the icons in a virtual row, and Google's eye-tracking software detects which application the user wants to activate. The wearer also says hm, which could potentially be a secondary vocal cue to show you've selected your choice. When the owner receives a notification, such as a text from a friend, he says hm again to open the notification. To respond, he says, um to begin a recording feature, and he speaks his message as it's written right in front of his eyes.
Project Glass will also take advantage of Google's new service announced on Wednesday, called Google Now. By using location-based services, Google Glasses gives its wearer information about their location, so for example, if you approach a subway station, you will see a full schedule of trains, or if it's suspended, you can ask Google Glass for an alternate route, since it's also hooked up to Google Maps. From there, Google Glasses direct you with arrows and signals so you can get where you need to go on time.
Google Glasses can also pick up on location-based services that others use, such as Foursquare. If you want to know if your friend is in your area, you can ask Project Glass, and it will give you an approximate distance (in feet or miles) to that person. And speaking of Foursquare, if you want to check in to a given location, you need only look up in or around that location, choose the Location application, and check in.
With Google Glass, you can also set reminders with visual cues, which will surely make Apple's Siri engineers irate. Just by looking at object and saying, Remind me to ..., a user can set reminders for anything at any time. But one of the best features of Project Glass is something sci-fi fans and novelists could have only dreamt about. If you happen to find a picturesque scene in your travels, you don't need to fumble for a camera. As long as you're wearing the glasses, you only need to say, Take a picture of this, and your glasses become your camera lens. Just adjust, snap, and either share it to your Circles (there's Google+ again), or delete it. In the department of capturing moments instantaneously, Google's Project Glass even one-ups the Lytro camera.
Then, there's chatting. When a user receives an incoming chat notification, they can choose to either just talk (like a normal phone call), or go into a video chat that shows their friend whatever they are looking at through their Project Glass eyeglasses. This opens the door to tremendous possibilities for sharing what one does on a daily basis.
Potential Issues With Google Glasses
Multi-tasking. Smartphones, tablets and computers are constantly attempting to take our attention away from the real world. Google's Project Glass may be the first piece of technology that actually wants to keep you in the moment, but will it?
Google's glasses introduce yet another screen on top of computers, smartphones, tablets and gaming devices. But this screen is right in front of your eyes, so its messages will be very difficult to ignore. Since the glasses can track your eye movements, it may accidentally perform an action when your eyes are looking at an object, perhaps in the sky since the icons appear when you look up.
Owners of these glasses will be placing a lot of trust in Google, but the ultimate question is, can Google be trusted with your attention? If too many pop-ups or notifications occur, the attention required for these glasses could tear us apart, rather than bring us together.
Internet reliant. Project Glass comes with plenty of incredible features, but how many of these features require an adequate Internet connection? In the promo video, all icons are displayed in a virtual row, including apps for the date, time, temperature, as well as options for music, texting, calling, Google+, taking pictures, reminders, searching (the Web, presumably), voice dictation, and location-based services. Unfortunately, at least six of those major services will need a Wi-Fi connection to work. In the same way Siri depends on the Internet to perform, these glasses could be spectacular, so long as you never leave a Wi-Fi-friendly zone.
Learning context. At any given time, you could be talking on the phone, cooking food and talking to your friends in the room all at once. How will Google's glasses know which activity you want to focus on most? If you're on the phone and you want to shout to someone in the room, how can you mute the receiver on your glasses? Google's concept device borders on sensory overload, so it'll need to find ways to pick up contextual clues in order to decipher who your message is intended for.
Battery life. Brin was overheard saying Google Glasses could have six hours of battery life from a single charge, so enjoying a full day out with Glass is relatively unlikely. However, this is new technology, and Google really felt the lightness of the device was an extremely important factor. For now, battery life will have to suffer so the experience itself can be maximized to its highest quality.
Would you buy a pair of Google Glasses? How much would you be willing to pay for a pair? Is $1,500 too expensive? Feel free to answer these questions or tell us how you'd use Project Glass in your everyday life in the comments section below. But first, check out Google's videos demonstrating Google Glass!
Full demonstration of Glass from Google I/O (thanks CNET!)
Behind-the-scenes of Glass at I/O (thanks Google!)
Google's original promotion for Glass
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