Google Glass is coming - Macleans.ca

Google Glass is coming

The possibly game-changing, definitely dorky technology is nearly ready for prime time, writes Jesse Brown

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Today Google turned the heat up on a long simmering project. Google Glass, the possibly game-changing, definitely dorky wearable computer, is looking just about ready for prime-time. Google has begun engaging developers, who have been sworn to secrecy, in hack-a-thons to pump out Glass apps.

Here is today’s promo video, shot entirely through Google Glass glasses:

Yes, it’s another Apple-esque inspirational tear-jerking montage. But what does it actually tell us about the device and its uses?

  • Glass seems like it’ll enable a decent first go at augmented reality: the much-hyped but little-realized technology that layers digital information on top of what our eyeballs perceive. Assuming that Google is showing off its best stuff here, it looks like augmented reality will mostly consist of GPS navigation apps, to start.  
  • Real-time video streaming is pushed hard in the video. This is both nothing new and very cool. On the one hand, we can already stream videos from our phones to remote viewers. But putting this function into a pair of glasses lets us literally show others the world through our eyes. Whether it’s used to vicariously experience fencing, skydiving, or a party for grandma held in another country, this seems like a very special app. Head trip alert: while you’re beaming what you see to a remote viewer’s eyeballs, they’re webcamming their reactions into the top corner of your Google Glass display.  You’re not watching them watching you, you’re watching them watching as you. Trippy!
  • Existing voice-commanded Google/Android apps seem ported over. “Google Goggles” has been a Labs app for years now.  With varying results, it did things like take a picture you just shot of a menu in Japanese and instantly translate it. On Glass, this gets a bit more exciting, especially when combined with instant voice translation. I’d like to see a field test before setting off abroad with it, though.

Critics are already asking what the big deal is with Google Glass. What can it do that smartphones can’t? I don’t share this cynicism. If Google Glass does nothing but put a smartphones’ functionality into our sightlines, it will be an ergonomic triumph. I’d like to think that if good design can do nothing else, it can liberate us from staring at our palms every two minutes.

Google has yet to set a release date for Glass, but if you tell them why you’re super special and really, really deserve to get one first, they just might let you and 7,999 other lucky souls buy one soon for $1,500. Applications are being taken here.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown

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