Could Google Glass be employed by law enforcement agencies to help identify and apprehend suspects? The New York Police Department thinks so -- one official says that the force is testing Glass to see how it could aid officers in the field.
Google Glass is a wearable computing device that allows a user to search for information, take pictures and even record video with a built-in camera. Glass also offers a heads-up display -- what looks like a small screen in a viewer's vision is actually being projected onto the eye with a small prism -- similarly to how information appears inside of Robocop's helmet in the eponymous 1987 sci-fi film.
According to a report from VentureBeat, an unnamed official said the NYPD thinks Google Glass “could help impact patrol operations in New York City.” The gadget is not yet available for sale to the general public.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) distributes Glass through its Project Glass Explorer Program, where interested applicants apply to obtain the wearables and then can purchase a early version for $1,500.
“We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes,” the NYPD official told the site. “We’re looking at them, you know, seeing how they work.”
A spokesperson for the Mountain View, Calif.-based corporation said Google was not working with law enforcement, and that the NYPD most likely acquired the wearables through the Project Glass Explorer program. Google allows any U.S. resident over the age of 18 to sign up to become an Explorer.
Google has so far done its best to ban facial recognition technology from Glass. But some rogue developers have vowed to circumvent the prohibition.
Glass is one of many "moonshot" projects from the Google X Labs. The top-secret think tank is also working on driverless cars, high-altitude balloons that broadcast wireless Internet signal in remote areas, and a contact lens capable of measuring and transmitting a diabetic's blood glucose levels.
The NYPD also began testing out “supersmart” patrol cars last year in parts of Brooklyn. The Ford hybrid cruisers are capable of recording everything in view of their windshields.
The high-tech vehicles are also capable of automatically scanning nearby license plates with a separate camera that uses infrared technology, and communicating the data to police headquarters. The custom cruisers also have built-in radiation detectors for possible bomb threats.
The NYPD has also expressed interest in flying unmanned aircraft, or drones, over the city. Police Chief T.K. Raymond said last year that in an "extreme situation," such as a terrorist attack, it would be prudent to have the technology capable of stopping an aircraft.
Follow reporter Thomas Halleck on Twitter @tommylikey