Google Glass can now tell you what’s nearby. Isn’t that what it was supposed to do all along?

August 22, 2013

(Google)

Let's face it: We all secretly think Google Glass is a little disappointing. It comes out in every story self-consciously mocking the way it looks. You see it every time a famous person struggles to test it out. The problem is that the technology doesn't really live up to Google's original vision. About the most exciting thing you can do with it right now is to catch a live arrest on tape.

But Glass won't be ugly/lame/awkward forever. In fact, we may already be moving into the next phase of Google's plans for the device. This week, the company said it was ready to allow Glass to serve up location-specific information about nearby restaurants, historical sites and other points of interest.

The app, known as Field Trip, is available for smartphones. When you download it to your device, it searches the area for "cards" that can tell you what's around. Google pulls the information from 130 blogs, architectural associations, historical groups and other partners, and it sends your phone a notification when a card becomes available. It's a much deeper and richer version of Google Now, though the two projects remain separate.

On its own, Field Trip is more of a fun tool for exploring cities or getting dining recommendations. It's the underlying technology that promises to help Glass eventually do what it was created to do — that is, provide just-in-time and contextually sensitive updates — that's more interesting. The way Google envisions this in its concept video is by showing a subway service notification as the user approaches the station.

That's currently impossible in existing incarnations of Glass. But tying cards to locations, and then serving you the static card when you come near, is the first step to implementing something like it.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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