Google has changed how we see the online world and now it wants to do the same for the real thing. It’s a science-fiction stereotype, a vast computer network trying to escape into the physical world. And in a horror movie stereotype, it needs human hosts to do so. Project Glass is a giant leap for the company: instead of organizing things that other people have made, from files to street addresses, they’re launching a whole new line of hardware.
Just as Apple invented the next generation of phone, and re-invented the tablet as something people would actually want to buy, Google wants to own their own industry with Google Glass. And that industry is literally right up in your face. It’s a big play for a first product.
Into the Real World
The first problem was the first promotion, which promised to turn the entire world into an interactive user interface, overlaying options and camera windows on the real world and basically promising things that we know aren’t possible yet. Shortly after, they sprang prototypes of Project Glass on TV and at tech demos, immediately confirming that, yes, their promo lied a bit, but also yes, this is something that actually exists. That was quite a lot more than many people expected.
Instead of dominating your field of view, the prototype installs a small display above your right eye line. This means you can glance up at the Google Glass window, but this also means it’s always on. Controls are by swipe and touch gestures at the right temple, which looked great for camera and video functions, but meant problems for anything more advanced.
Google Glass Has Apps, Of Course
The most obvious application of Google services is Maps. People already use their phones to navigate, waving their smartphones around like dowsing rods. Google Glass will remove the need to take out the phone every fifty steps, but unless you’re planning to tap morse code, you’ll need another input mechanism to set your address. Smartphone syncing would be the obvious choice.
Instead of Maps, however, Google has been stressing the camera applications. At Google I/O, they hired some people to jump out of a zeppelin, to bike ramp on top of a building, then rappel down the side to show off ultimate Google Hangout. And that’s great, but unless you’re planning to considerably upgrade your travel budget, that’s not doing much for you.
Seeing out of your friends’ eyes will be 5% cool and 95% blocking people who are already nearly insufferable on Facebook. Give people who post every meal they eat online the ability to take pictures by scratching their temple, something their overtaxed brains already do every time they have to think of more than three syllables, and every social media stream will be flooded with food porn. Google will need to invent a whole new search program just to deal with the load.
Third Party Developer Support
Luckily, we won’t have to rely on our friends at Google to make Glass worthwhile. Developers are already being offered early headsets to code their own applications. A mere $1,500 nets you an early model and the chance to be the first in a brand new market, a brand new market which might not be big, but will be stuffed with people who clearly have lots of money and will be desperate to prove that their big purchase is useful. Naturally, they will be downloading every half-applicable app they can find. It won’t quite augment reality (unable to overwrite your entire field of vision), but the location-based view and camera feed can still provide a highlighted view in the corner of your field of vision.
Trust us, this is going to be where the Internet fully escapes into the real world. When you don’t even have to pull out your phone to find out what other people think–and, more importantly, when you can’t be frowned at for doing so–the Internet will overlay every city like a thin layer of intelligence residue. Reviewers and trusted friends won’t just tell you about places; they’ll leave indelible marks on the location.
A Brave New Digital World
Even better, you don’t have to trust us. Trust the other companies who are already building their own headsets. Olympus are grabbing eyeballs with the Mega 4.0, which can be added to existing eyeglass frames. So, either they’re really buying into the stereotype of nerds, or want to let people choose their own stylish frames.
More importantly, Apple have tossed their hat into the ring. They haven’t actually shown anyone anything they’ve built, or even thought about building, but they have filed a patent and that’s how they start their business.
And that’s the best thing of all. The first generation of Google Glass may or may not dominate the market. But with this level of competition, the Project to get Google into our visual field will definitely succeed.
Image credit: Google