Google’s Project Glass: Gimmick or great idea?

April 5, 2012

Google unveiled the first peek at what it’s calling “Project Glass” on Wednesday, an augmented reality eyeglasses that keeps Google services on hand at all times. The glasses will have the capability to display messages, chats, appointments, weather and maps right in your field of vision, according to a video the company posted on Google+ Wednesday.

Google, it should be noted, is not the first company to come up with the idea of augmented reality glasses, but would have a perhaps unprecedented consumer reach.

Plus, they’ve made them look kind of cool The pictures on the Project Glass page show people modeling the specs, a thin silver band that runs across their foreheads and a small screen over their right eye. To someone of the generation that grew up with Terminator (or DragonBall Z), the device looks strange but oddly familiar. In the video that accompanies the pictures, viewers follow a man around on his augmented day, in which he wears the device while eating breakfast and while meeting with a friend.

It kind of makes you wonder what that world will look like if these devices take off.

The ability to follow walking directions without having to look down at your phone is an appealing one, as is the idea of in-view video chat. As a person with relatives who live across the country and overseas, I like the idea of being able to share a particularly nice view or quick tour of a new apartment with my grandparents.

On the other hand, I’ve always been a people watcher. And here in D.C., there’s a game I play, which I’ve dubbed, “Bluetooth or crazy?” The rules are simple: Whenever you see a person walking down the street talking to themselves, you try to determine if they’re on a wireless headset or if they’re just muttering to themselves. (I should note here that I have been both kinds of people.)

The man in the video Google released kept his glasses on the whole time. To me, that’s a telling component of the demonstration.

In the way that I envision how I would use the product, I’d take it off when I met a friend for coffee, much in the same way I put my cellphone down. I’d fold them up in the bookstore, like I do my sunglasses. I’d set them aside to do my work, like I do with my wireless headset. In fact, it’s hard for me, a gadget lover if ever there was one, to think of a device I would want to wear on my head at all times.

Obviously, it’s hard to say what the product will be like from a few minutes of video and some glossy press shots. For now, I’m guessing that the technology we see in Google’s Project Glass will become useful in other ways, for other, possibly similar, products, and that this first iteration of the idea will be one of those products that we remember as something that could have changed the way we live.

I could be wrong, of course. Maybe it will be like the cellphone — I’m sure there was a time when people thought we’d all look insane speaking into our hands all the time, too.

More technology coverage from The Post:

Survey finds e-readers are spurring consumers of books in all formats

Google glasses get a preview (VIDEO)

Would you buy Google’s glasses?

Slate: Google Moves Forward With Its Long-Rumored Augmented-Reality Glasses

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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