Google glasses? Not this year

11 Apr 2012

As you're probably no doubt aware, last week Google announced Project Glass, its augmented-reality project in which glasses become your mobile display for AR apps.

Concept video is available.

Not unexpectedly, reactions vary from unabashed sci-fi/geek enthusiasm to curmudgeonly “it’ll never fly” skepticism, as well as the predictable fashionjokes.

And, of course, there’s the obligatory paranoid Orwellian angle.

My own take:

There’s no denying the SF/geek angle – the idea of glasses serving as computer screens has been an SF staple for ages. So I get that. And I do think AR glasses are going to happen sooner or later, if only because AR only has so much appeal when you have to hold the smartphone or tablet between you and the real world to make use of it. Head-mounted displays will make for a much better experience.

But only if Google (and anyone else aiming for this sector) get it right. And that’s a hard dollar for a variety of reasons. Wired’s Gadget Lab has a good summary of them here. Meanwhile, Technology Reviewcovers the neurobiological challenges of AR displays that close to your eyes.

(One thing I’d add: how will this work for people like me who wear glasses for vision-correction purposes? Can I get prescription AR glasses?)

Despite all that, the New York Timesclaims that Google intends to have actual AR glasses out by the end of the year at price points similar to smartphones. However, between the enormous technical challenges and the fact that the NYT credits unnamed Google employees as its source, I have my doubts.

Also, the Google[x] team in charge of Project Glass have said that they unveiled the project not so much to launch an actual product as to “start a conversation” and get ideas from people just what they expect AR glasses to deliver. So it seems more like they’re leaving their options open.

Whenever the glasses do come out, whether they’ll deliver the high-concept vision in Google’s demo video is anyone’s guess, and Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech, makes a fair point to Gadget Lab when he suggests that Google may have set the bar too high for itself:

“In one simple fake video,” MacIntyre told Wired, “Google has created a level of over-hype and over-expectation that their hardware cannot possibly live up to.”

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