[FoRK] Google Begins Testing Its Augmented-Reality Glasses

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Apr 5 01:38:43 PDT 2012


Google Begins Testing Its Augmented-Reality Glasses


April 4, 2012, 12:00 pm 47

Photos via GoogleGoogle showed off its first venture into wearable computing,
called Project Glass.

If you venture into a coffee shop in the coming months and see someone with a
pair of futuristic glasses that look like a prop from “Star Trek,” don’t
worry. It’s probably just a Google employee testing the company’s new
augmented-reality glasses.

On Wednesday, Google gave people a clearer picture of its secret initiative
called Project Glass. The glasses are the company’s first venture into
wearable computing.

The glasses are not yet for sale. Google will, however, be testing them in

In a post shared on Google Plus, employees in the company laboratory known as
Google X, including Babak Parviz, Steve Lee and Sebastian Thrun, asked people
for input about the prototype of Project Glass. Mr. Lee, a Google product
manager and originally worked on Google mapping software Latitude, mobile
maps and indoor maps, is responsible for the software component and the
location-based aspects of the glasses.

“We’re sharing this information now because we want to start a conversation
and learn from your valuable input,” the three employees wrote. “Please
follow along as we share some of our ideas and stories. We’d love to hear
yours, too. What would you like to see from Project Glass?”

The prototype version Google showed off on Wednesday looked like a very
polished and well-designed pair of wrap-around glasses with a clear display
that sits above the eye. The glasses can stream information to the lenses and
allow the wearer to send and receive messages through voice commands. There
is also a built-in camera to record video and take pictures.

The New York Times first wrote about the glasses in late February, describing
an augmented-reality display that would sit over the eye and run on the
Android mobile platform.

A video released by Google on Wednesday, which can be seen below, showed
potential uses for Project Glass. A man wanders around the streets of New
York City, communicating with friends, seeing maps and information, and
snapping pictures. It concludes with him video-chatting with a girlfriend as
the sun sets over the city. All of this is seen through the augmented-reality
glasses.  University of WashingtonBabak Parviz, who is working on Project
Glass, developed contact lenses with pixels embedded in the display.

Project Glass could hypothetically become Project Contact Lens. Mr. Parviz,
who is also an associate professor at the University of Washington,
specializes in bionanotechnology, which is the fusion of tiny technologies
and biology. He most recently built a tiny contact lens that has embedded
electronics and can display pixels to a person’s eye.

Early reports of the glasses said prototypes could look like a pair of Oakley
Thumps — which are clunky and obtrusive sunglasses — but the version Google
unveiled Wednesday looks more graceful. There are reportedly dozens of other
shapes and variations of the glasses in the works, some of which can sit over
a person’s normal eyeglasses.

People I have spoken with who have have seen Project Glass said there is a
misconception that the glasses will interfere with people’s daily life too
much, constantly streaming information to them and distracting from the real
world. But these people said the glasses actually free people up from

One person who had used the glasses said: “They let technology get out of
your way. If I want to take a picture I don’t have to reach into my pocket
and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and
that’s it.”

Project Glass is one of many projects currently being built inside the Google
X offices, a secretive laboratory near Google’s main Mountain View, Calif.,
campus where engineers and scientists are also working on robots and space

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