The real breakthrough of Google Glass: controlling the internet of things

March 25, 2013

As the first apps start to come out for Google’s augmented reality glasses, we’re starting to see how viewing the world and consuming digital content could be transformed. You can capture photos and videos and send them to your friends with a simple gesture, or scan the New York Times headlines without moving a finger. But perhaps the real breakthrough app for Google Glass wouldn’t be about content consumption at all, but about control.

This week the folks at Engadget dug up a patent around Google Glass using wireless connectivity to control connected devices in your home. The glasses could use any number of wireless methods — from RFID, to infrared, to Bluetooth to QR codes — to identify a connected device that could be manipulated, and then, presumably, to manipulate it.

Picture arriving home from work, and the door of your house automatically unlocks to let you in as you walk up to it. Inside, your NPR app comes on the glasses screen and you can tune in or change the channel while you fiddle with turning on the connected sprinkler system for your lawn. Your Nest thermostat app then pops up on your Google Glass screen to let you know that you’ve been good this week and saved a lot of energy, but with a wink you override the conservation mode and crank up the heat.

The scenario isn’t as crazy as it sounds and all the basic technology is there. There are mobile apps that already do all of these things. Essentially you’d just be moving the control function from the cell phone touch screen and your fingertips to the screen in front of your eye and either a facial gesture or hand movement. All devices in the home that would benefit from having connectivity and control are getting it, and there will be a variety of remotes that will control them — why not one on your face?

Move outside of the home, and the world filled with the internet of things could be controlled, too. You could unlock your Zipcar with your Google Glass app, or start warming up your Tesla Model S electric car remotely before you take it for a spin.

As Om suggested in his recent data Darwinism post, the biggest changes coming for the connected world won’t be about technology; they’ll be more about how philosophical, legislative, and political norms evolve in response to this new world. And using Google Glass as a way to be the master of the internet of things would have interesting implications for all of these areas.

Getting the design, interface, architecture and ecosystem right for such a vision will no doubt be difficult. Mark Rolston, the chief creative officer at Frog Design, has noted the challenges inherent in designing interfaces in a world where devices are both trying to understand a user’s intent, and also test out new ways to interact with them, such as motion.

But ultimately these are design issues, and designers will spend the next several years trying to humanize such an experience.

(c) 2013, GigaOM.com.

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