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Google's Project Glass: 'terribly cool' augmented-reality Android powered eye wear.

When Google unveiled Project Glass, the tech world instantly fell into two camps. Camp one was excited: we're living in the sci-fi future! Camp two, though, wasn't so happy. It's vapourware! some said, while others worried that Google just wanted to plaster ads on the entire world. Is either camp correct? Let's find out.

What is Google's Project Glass?

Google's Project Glass is Google's attempt to make wearable computing mainstream, and it's effectively a smart pair of glasses with an integrated heads-up display and a battery hidden inside the frame.

Wearable computing is not a new idea, but Google's enormous bank account and can-do attitude means that Project Glass could well be the first product to do significant numbers.

Project Glass is a research and development program by Google to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD). Project Glass products would display information in smartphone-like format hands-free and could interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands. The prototype's functionality and minimalist appearance (aluminium strip with 2 nose pads) has been compared to Steve Mann'sEyeTap.
The operating system software used in the glasses will be Google's Android.
Project Glass is being developed by Google X Lab, which has worked on other futuristic technologies such as self-driving cars. The project was announced on Google+ by Babak Parviz, an electrical engineer who has also worked on putting displays into contact lenses; Steve Lee, a project manager and "geolocation specialist"; and Sebastian Thrun, who developed Udacity as well as worked on the self-driving car project. Google has patented the design of Project Glass.
When will Google Glass be released?

It looks as though Project Glass will see a public release in 2014 at the earliest. Latest news is that developers will be able to get hold of 'explorer edition' units at some point in 2013 with a "broad consumer offering" arriving a year later.
What's the difference between Google Glasses and Google Goggles?

Google Goggles is software, an app that can search the web based on photos and scans. Google Glass is hardware.

How does Project Glass work?

According to well-informed Google blogger Seth Weintraub, Google's Project Glass glasses will probably use a transparent LCD or AMOLED display to put information in front of your eyeballs. It's location-aware thanks to a camera and GPS, and you can scroll and click on information by tilting your head, something that is apparently quite easy to master. Google Glasses will also use voice input and output.

What are the Google Glass specifications?

The New York Times says that the glasses will run Android, will include a small screen in front of your eye and will have motion sensors, GPS and either 3G or 4G data connections. Weintraub says that the device is designed to be a stand-alone device rather than an Android phone peripheral: while Project Glass can connect to a smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4.0, "it communicates directly with the cloud". There is also a front-facing camera and a flash, although it's not a multi-megapixel monster, and the most recent prototype's screen isn't transparent.
Inside is the usual set of components you'd expect inside any mobile phone. There's a "powerful" CPU and "lots" of RAM (though, there was no mention of specifics) alongside an accelerometer, gyroscope and wireless radios for pulling in data. There's a mic for voice commands, a speaker and a camera, which can also be controlled by the touchpad that lines the side of the wearable device. All of those components sit off to one side, though Google says they're still well-balanced and actually lighter than some pairs of sunglasses. The tiny transparent display doesn't actually sit directly in front of your eye. It's slightly above your line of vision, so that it shouldn't interfere with your normal life.
Sergey Brin had three different prototypes on stage -- a light blue pair, a white pair and a black pair -- indicating that personalization and style were concerns. And that's a good thing since Glass is meant to be worn in public. Ultimately Google hopes that the project will be the next step in its quest to make information quickly and universally accessible. The ability to capture images from the first person perspective seems to be key to the device. In a new demo video, a new mother waxes about how hard it is to capture those perfect moments with her child. She "smiles at faces not devices" which makes sticking a D5 in the baby's face a bad idea.
If you're impatient and lucky enough to have been at IO (and live in the US), you can actually pre-order an Explorer Edition of the wearable computer for $1,500. The dev focused units will be shipping early next year. But, be warned, this is not a mass consumer item and will likely be more than a little rough around the edges.

What will I be able to do with Google Glasses?

According to Google's own video, you'll be a super-being with the ability to have tiny people talking to you in the corner of your eye, to find your way around using sat-nav, to know when the subway's closed, to take and share photographs and to learn the ukelele in a day.

GLASS ACT:Google's video is fun, but it's not this-year fun: expect more modest systems at first

OK, what will I really be able to do with Google Glass? Is Google Glass a vision of the future?

Nobody knows. The idea is to deliver augmented reality, with information that's directly relevant to your surroundings appearing in front of you whenever you need it. For example, your glasses might tell you where the nearest decent restaurant is, book your table, invite your friends and show you how to get there, or they might provide work-related information when you're at your desk.

What information we'll use it for, if we use it at all, remains to be seen: like Apple's Siri, it's a technology with enormous potential. It could even end up in contact lenses: one of the Project Glass team, Babak Parviz of the University of Washington, recently built a contact lens with embedded electronics.
I already wear glasses. Will Google Glasses work for me?

Yes. Google is experimenting with designs that will fit over existing glasses so you don't have to wear two lots of specs.

Is Google Glass vapourware?

The New York Times says no: Google's got some of its very best people working on the project, and experts such as wearable computing specialist Michael Liebhold say that "In addition to having a superstar team of scientists who specialize in wearable, they also have the needed data elements, including Google Maps."

Not everyone is convinced. Wired spoke to Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech, who said "you could not do [augmented reality] with a display like this." MIT Media Lab researcher Pranav Mistry agreed, saying that "the small screen seen in the photos cannot give the experience the video is showing."

There are several engineering issues - making a screen that works in darkness and in bright sunlight is tough - and mobile display technology doesn't offer dynamic focusing, which reads your eye to deliver perfectly clear visuals. Current wearable displays have to be two feet away from your face.

There's clearly a big gap between Google's demo video and the actual product: Google says its photos "show what this technology could look like" and its video demonstrates "what it might enable you to do" [emphasis added by us].
What is the Project Glass price?

The NYT again: according to "several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named," the glasses are expected "to cost around the price of current smartphones." So that's around £500, then, possibly with the help of a hefty Google subsidy.
Is Project Glass evil?

It could be. Google's business is about making money from advertising, and some people worry that Google Glass is its attempt to monetise your eyeballs by blasting you with ads whenever you look at something.

If you think pop-ups are annoying in a web browser, imagine them in front of your face. The ADmented Reality spoof is one of very many parodies that made us laugh.

Some of the parodies actually make a good point by showing people bumping into stuff: heads-up displays can be distracting, and there may be safety issues too. Until Google ships its self-driving car, the thought of drivers being distracted by their glasses is fairly terrifying.

There are privacy implications too. Never mind your web history: Google Glass might record everything you see and do.
Google Glass pre-order customers will get regular updates

Those people who paid Google $1,500 for the privilege of pre-ordering some Project Glass specs will be receiving "private updates" through Google+.

Will normal people really wear computerized specs?

Er... yes.

The endlessly hyped Google Glass line of computerized specs made major waves at last week's Google I/O conference when co-founder Sergey Brin showcased a thrilling video of he and a few fellow Googlers jumping out of a plane while wearing the glasses. Google is betting big on Google Glass — which will reportedly allow a wearer to use vocal commands to send instant messages, look up directions, snap photos, and video chat with friends — and seems intent on shaping a whole new product category from which it can immediately emerge as a market leader. 
The Android-powered specs won't come cheap: Early adopters will need to pony up $1,500 for an advanced pair, which are expected to launch sometime in 2014.
 But even when the price inevitably comes down and the hardware becomes less cumbersome, will normal people actually wear these glasses?

Absolutely. You're looking at the future: Sure, Google's digital glasses are "goofy," says Farhad Manjoo at Pando Daily. But so what? "A lot of technologies are goofy until they become ubiquitous." Talking on the phone, beaming the world a Facebook status, or writing a witty review for your neighborhood taco truck were all deemed socially awkward until those actions became a normal part of our everyday lives. Once everyone starts doing it, the "inherent goofiness" melts away. Wearable computers will become quite ubiquitous "sooner than you think."
"Don't laugh at Google Glass: They're goofy, but they will save us from ourselves"

Don't be so sure: A computer "that's literally sitting on our face for every waking moment sounds really socially alienating," says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. And Google doesn't seem to care, instead being happily "blinded by its own smarts." Technology "should make the way we live our lives better, not dictate the way we live." Google desperately wants us to believe that its expansive catalog of products — Google+, Google Now, Project Glass — are all super cool and worth adopting. Clearly, the search giant is good at making impressive things. "But are they impressive things that anyone actually wants?"
"Does Google have any social skills at all?"

Glass will succeed by fading into the background: Brin says the ultimate form of communication occurs "when technology gets out of the way," says Nick Bilton at The New York Times. And true to that promise, these glasses are surprisingly unobstrusive. The headset's display sits off to the side of your eye so that you can interact with it only when you need to. "When an email or text message comes in, you can look if you want, or simply ignore it." The frames are barely there, and that's exactly the point. Glass will free us from having to peer down at a 4-inch smartphone screen, allowing us to be even more social than we are now. "We will no longer have to constantly look at our devices, but instead, these wearable devices will look back at us."
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