Google looks to put Augmented Reality technology where it belongs – right in front of our eyes.
Augmented Reality (AR) has come a long way in the past year. From the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita bundled with simple AR games that turn your table into a (literal) gaming platform, to Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s PS Move bringing AR technology into the comfort of the living room. And if you haven’t tried Augmented Reality on your phone yet, you’re missing out. Augmented Reality apps for Android and iPhone have been available for quite some time, and are growing in number. The biggest leap forward, however, will be Google’s own hardware – a pair of wearable AR glasses, in the late stages of development and rumored to be released this year, possibly unveiled at the Google I/O in June.
But just what is Augmented Reality? In its simplest form, AR is computer generated content that augments a live view of the real world. By this definition we’ve already been doing this for years, for example sports analysts digitally inserting graphics on the field as we watch the game. And while newer, interactive forms of AR like consoles and phones are impressive; having the entire Google ecosystem augmenting wherever you see will open up a whole new dimension. Here’s what we know about Google’s AR glasses so far:
When and how much? We don’t know for sure, but the Bits blog (New York Times) was able to get an idea of the price and zone in the release date slightly, with unnamed Google employees stating that it will go on sale to the public by the end of the year (Q4?), and “cost around the price of current smartphones”. If high-end smartphones are any indication, that would peg them at around $600. I’d love for it to be less, but if they want to wow people with full smartphone functionality and quick performance, I doubt it. They may also roll it out as a beta / pilot program before general release, as they did with the CR-48 Chromebooks last year. In any case, development has been in the works for quite some time; According to several patents, their AR glasses technology has been in development since 2009, notes TPM. Google is also preparing a secret lab to test “precision optical technology”, which could be a testing base for the new hardware.
- 940 x 540 floating virtual screen, dual micro-LCD projectors projected onto angled 1.5” panels (87” screen equivalent)
- Internals comparable to “generation-old Android smartphone” (single core / downclocked dual-core to conserve battery?)
- Android OS (unknown version), full smartphone functionality
- Front-facing camera with flash for photos, image recognition, and aid in AR apps
- “Terminator-style” Heads-up display (HUD)
- Connectivity: Wifi, 3G/4G, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, gyroscope (motion sensor), microphone, speakers
- Navigation – head tilting scroll and click, easy to learn and “almost indistinguishable to outside users”, hand and arm gesture tracking (using camera), voice recognition
Fashionistas may also be wondering if the device will more resemble a pair of ski goggles than designer glasses. Thankfully, a late prototype looks similar to thick-rimmed glasses that “normal people” wear, according to inside sources. Not unlike Oakley Thumps, which have thicker arms to support bluetooth and a battery pack. So expect the first generation to be a bit chunky; think 3D glasses in cinemas rather than Geordi La Forge – and a far cry from the virtual reality helmets of old.
Besides the thick frame, and slightly strange looks you may get from bobbing and weaving around the sidewalk while playing AR games, what are some other potential pitfalls of having Google in your line of sight?
- Annoying Ads – We all hate when ads pop up while we’re using our phone, and wearable AR glasses make it that much more an issue. Imagine looking around a shopping mall using augmented reality, and getting ads popping up left and right? Provided you’re wearing them for most of the day, advertisers can have a field day with you. And compulsive shoppers beware; you can be at the checkout screen with just a few nods and tilts of the head.
- Safety – Google won’t want you using their AR glasses while driving; as they are “not being designed to be worn constantly”; but I doubt that will stop people from trying. Even when you’re not playing Fast and the Furious while doing so, the hazards of wearing them behind the wheel are clear. Crossing a busy road? You’ll probably want to take them off as well, but oops…maybe next time. I can see lawyers filling up their schedule already.
- Privacy – Like it or not, Google will need to make it clear you’re on camera. So expect shutter sounds and bright recording lights to alert the world that you’re sporting Google’s latest fashion statement. Granted, hacks will surely arise to make it less conspicuous, but this will open the door to unauthorized photo ops and unwanted face recognition. Again, lawyers better clear out their calenders for this one.
Do you think Google Glasses will catch on, or is the technology not ready for prime time as yet? If the recent push of Augmented Reality applications and games are any indication, AR is on the fast track this year, with no indication of slowing down. In any case, Google is hoping to augment your reality later this year, making it easy to Google things without even lifting a finger.