Time Tech recently announced their Best Inventions of 2012 list and included in the list is Google Glass, Google's augmented reality eyewear project. This almost cliche looking piece of futuristic hardware has the potential to become as ubiquitous as cell phones or laptops. At least that's the plan.
Nobody is quite sure what the device will do exactly, but imaginations have been running wild ever since the project was first announced. Adding fuel to the fire was this utopian simulation of what a day in the life of a project glass user would be like (set to Bibio - Lover's Carvings for anyone who wondered). While this video might be a little far fetched for what’s capable today, The New York Times recently got their hands on a prototype and they say, the hardware is there.
Initially the focus seems to be on taking photos of what you're seeing using the front facing camera, sharing those photos, and for accessing common mobile information without taking your phone out of your pocket. The glasses include an ear piece along with a microphone so making hands free calls seems like an obvious first use as well.
This is where things become foggy for me though. If the device, at least to start, is basically saving you from having to take your phone out of your pocket, will people really be willing to shell out a significant sum for that convenience? Let alone wearing the thing all day. Is it possible that the adopters of the device will be the same tragically uncool crowd who wear bluetooth headsets in public throughout the day?
As David Pogue from the NYT article points out:
We may be waiting, too, for that one overwhelmingly compelling feature, something that you can’t do with your phone (beyond making it hands-free).
He continues to say:
it may take some unimagined killer app to convince them to wear Google Glass headsets all day.
That sums up the battle Google Glass is facing very nicely. There is a tremendous 'gee-whiz' factor to this technology, and the video simulation had me excited like a little kid, but can it possibly live up to those goals in the near term? We won't have to wait too long to find out. It’s estimated that the glasses may be available for sale by the end of 2013 or early 2014.
Google showed a live demonstration of the device during May's Google I/O event in which a man jumped out of a plane with a live video feed streaming from the glasses, but that is a far cry from augmented reality. Aside from that, nobody has actually seen the thing in action for themselves. That should change next year when a developer version goes on sale for a planned $1,500. I'd expect to see a slew of early impressions at that time but Google will be relying on the developer community to create some truly useful apps for the device before its public launch.
It's important that companies with the means take these kinds of risks however. The first version may not be the life changing hardware we are all hoping for, but that doesn't mean future versions won't be. There is the looming potential though, that the first version is so lacking in a killer use case, or the market is so unprepared for the innovation, that it becomes the next Apple Newton.