This week I thought I would investigate what’s been going on at, arguably, the world’s most digitally advanced company. Google has been working tirelessly playing catch up to Apple, secretly creating a new technology that could flip the smartphone industry upside down. Earlier this year, Google released information on their revolutionary prototype Project Glass, a pair of glasses that layers digital information over the real world. Through augmented reality head-mounted display (HDM), the user sees the same kind of information they are used to seeing on their smartphone, except the physical device is transparent. They can make voice and video calls, read text messages, and listen to music and view maps. The device will rely heavily on voice command and recognition, a technology that is yet to be mastered. In the prototype video (see below) when the user moves their head, the point-of-view of the headset moves with them. They can make selections and control the device by tilting their head. Google admits the hardware is far from perfect, but it is predicted they will be commercially available by the end of 2013 for an estimated $1,500.
Because the headset is so light and doesn’t cover the eyes, the aim is for the viewer to actually forget that they are in fact wearing a computer interface and accept the graphic image that is offers as its own virtual world. Critics of the technology fear a dystopia. The headwear is intended to be worn throughout one’s entire daily life, enhancing each task and helping you “explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment”. Is it possible that the technology becomes so integrated into our lives that Google will alter our sense of reality? In other words, can what we know to be “virtual reality” one day become our actual reality? Technology has already invaded our lives and I would argue that many would find it impossible to live with out their smartphone. Commercially available augmented reality hardware would further develop human’s reliability on technology. In the nearer future, there is the concern that advertising will infiltrate the user’s immediate vision. Currently, Google’s main source of revenue is advertising. However, they have stated they have no plans to introduce ads to Project Glass.
There many questions yet to be answered about the technology and the prototypes seem far from flawless. The idea is ingenious from Google and is the first time they have ventured to hardware design; traditionally it has stuck to creating software and operating systems and simply outsourced the hardware design. I’m more than sure Apple is working on their own head-mounted technology but they usually keep very quiet about the on-goings at head office. It will be interesting to see who will be first to release a version to the public. Either way, Apple’s is sure to look more stylish than Google’s.