"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Project Glass: Some opinions

Toby Roworth

Apr 9, 2012

Google's photo, not mine!
Unless you've been living in a box for the past week, there's a fair chance you've heard about Project Glass or "Google Goggles", a small heads-up-display mounted on a pair of glasses.
More seasoned followers of Google's antics have been hearing rumours about such a thing for a long time, but finally presses have been released and they've made a nice little video.

Looks very cool, doesn't it? I'd happily go around wearing silly glasses if I could do emails from my eye and get sat-nav without having to look down at my phone. However, I have some further thoughts, and a few misgivings:

Form Factor


Glasses is the perfect place to put this, other than contacts. No argument there.
However, the technology they want to put into these things is essentially the same as an android phone, sans screen. Last time I looked, my phone wouldn't fit in a pair of glasses...
I appreciate that the technology is getting smaller, and has been since the 50s, but it seems a little difficult to fit gps, processor and 3/4g coms into the side of a pair of glasses, even if they're fairly big. And then there's the battery - GPS throttles batteries, so it's going to need a decent sized battery to be useful.
If only we already had a device that had GPS, processor, 3/4g coms in our pockets. Imagine if this also had a low-power radio system designed to relay smallish amounts of information... Why not make these a device that provides a HUD to a phone over bluetooth, at least until we can fit it all into the glasses.

Cost

These are expected to cost about the same as a current smartphone. This could work in two ways:
The bad way: we spend £3-400 on a device that does the same as our phone, but in a different shape. It's very cool but feels a little too expensive. Maybe a lot too expensive.
The good way: just like our phones, we spend £X per month on a 18 month contract, and the glasses come free. This does leave us with yet another contract to pay for though - potentially a third mobile data contract for business users who have a phone, 3G dongle and now glasses.
I'd be far too tempted to buy a pair, even at £400. But as I've learned with the EEEPC 701 and G1, there's a heavy price to pay for being an early adopter, not so much in financial cost, but that of obsolescence. But I've also been tempted to buy a tablet, and held off so far. EEE transformer is tempting though...

Future Gazing

Google haven't announced a release date yet. There was about one source online who claimed we'd have them by the end of the year. I think that's probably a lie.
Google have, historically been very good at future gazing. I'd encourage you to read Think Quarterly, which is Google's future-gazing eZine, which shows the level of their thinking. Google can normally see where the market's heading, and steer ahead of the pack, and nudge it just slightly to net them billions of dollars from advertising.
They're also doing this with the self-driving car - we've seen this in sci-fi for ages, and real planes for years, but they've actually done it. Shame it's in a Prius...
Self driving cars won't be on the market for ages, especially cheaply, but Project Glass could be saleable soon, just not as soon as this year. Android incubated for a year or two before the first phone came out, and then took the best part of a year or two to really take off.
Saying this Google haven't had a 100% success rate with their future gazing. Numerous products have been tried and failed, which I aplaud them for - that attitude's seen far more success than failure. They did kind of miss social networking though...

Round up

Great idea, which I'm sure they've put a lot more thought into than me. But can it really be pulled off soon - let's wait and see, but I won't be holding my breath...
Thanks to Sam, who I discussed this with yesterday - it helped me get my thoughts straight.