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Smartphones already have Google Goggles, an image-recognition search app, but consumers may one day have “Google glasses.” The search company publicly introduced Project Glass on Wednesday, a concept for wearable glasses that integrate directly with Google (s goog) services.
Google is sharing this video to kickstart ideas and gather feedback for the connected, wearable device concept. It may sound like a silly project, but when you think about it, the device actually makes sense.
The initial design vision is for lightweight frames that don’t actually have full-sized, traditional glass lenses. Instead, a small display is available up and to the outside of the right eye so that information doesn’t interfere with viewing the world around. And as shown in the video, there would be some type of eye-tracking mechanism allowing users to interact with data on the small display — similar to a touchpad tap — although much of the interface could be controlled through spoken commands.
As silly as the idea may look or sound to some, I find merit in the approach, as it seems like a logical next step. We have gone from immobile desktops to portable laptops and now we are toting tablets and pocketable smartphones. Where can we go from here if not to the growing number of connected, wearable gadgets that we have been reporting on for well over a year?
From a consumer perspective, Project Glass also forwards another theme that has been growing. Touchable user interfaces have reinvented how we use mobile devices, but hardware design is advancing to the point where the interfaces are starting to disappear. Instead of holding an iPad (s aapl) or other tablet, people are interacting directly with an app, Web page, photo or other digital object in a reduced interface, with either voice or minute gestures. In essence, such glasses would allow people to digitally interact with the physical world around them without a device or user interface getting in the way.
This quote, told to the New York Times from someone who tried the glasses, says it better than I can:
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.
I expect that any first-production version of these glasses would heavily leverage a smartphone’s connectivity, much like many smart watches do today. The glasses would likely have a low-powered wireless connection to a phone, which would provide Internet connectivity, a place to store photos or a way to shoot them to the cloud, a GPS for location purposes, and so on.
Think of these spectacles as the next iteration of a smartphone, just one that you can wear and not look geeky. Well, not too geeky anyway. I’m all for wearable gadgets, so if Google is looking for beta testers, I’m in. How about you?