For those of us who already consider our Smartphone an extension of our being, Google will by year’s end release a product that can only render us more in tune with today’s watershed of information. But rather than having us retrieve a small screen from our pockets to access all the data in the world, the company’s inventors instead will have us don…eye-glasses.
Heads-Up Display Glasses — it sounds straight out of a sci-fi fantasy: glasses that allow you to literally “see” the virtual world before your eyes. If this doesn’t yet remind you of an excerpt from a cheesy spy flick, then get this: the prototype is in development at Google X, Google’s secret research facility at an undisclosed location in the Bay Area. The innovation lab has been working on other eyebrow-arching projects, among them driverless cars and space elevators. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, is among the leaders in this glasses project.
The functionality of this project may be too far-fetched for an ordinary Smartphone addict to digest at first. The glasses contain a low-resolution camera to collect data from your surroundings in real time, and Cloud technology syncs this information with current Google software products. For instance, information can be transmitted to Google Latitude to share location and to Google Maps for information on places nearby. The technology is also meant to be (surprise, surprise) a social networking tool: using the glasses, you can check in with your friends at different locations and see who’s nearby.
The current prototype contains a small screen on one side of the glasses and is meant to replace the Smartphone. Rather than display information on a Web browser page like your standard Blackberry or iPhone, these glasses will present information in an “augmented reality view” —basically, streaming a world of information to your eyeballs.
But the rabbit hole descends further. The most exciting ingredient of the current prototype is its navigational system — a software allowing the wearer to “scroll” and “click” through subtle head tilts, a practice that purportedly becomes second-nature to the wearer. The gap between our person and our gadgets is quickly closing.
This development is no doubt exciting. Years of watching children’s shows like “The Jetsons” and sci-fi films like “Terminator” have fostered in many of us a picture of what the “future” looks like. But on a day-to-day basis, we seem nowhere close to achieving the lifestyle of hovercrafts and robot-maids. These Google glasses feel like a leap towards a high-tech future.
But what does this mean for us? These glasses are a prime example of how technology works to fix the symptoms it creates. Technology gave us Smartphones and as a result gave rise to a generation of addicts. While jaywalking, while driving, while conversing at dinner, millions of us have our eyes glued to miniature monitors. Technology birthed this societal tick, and it is not disappearing any time soon. But this may be technology’s concession: by allowing us to wear our gadgetry, we can integrate it into our senses. This way, by granting us our newly-sprung need for continuous information, these glasses may make our dependency more streamlined, more efficient. This might be best outcome. What could the worst be? I suppose it’d be our living in a “Terminator”-esque reality—all the while looking just a tad nerdy.