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The real breakthrough of Google Glass: controlling the internet of things

As the first apps start to come out for Google’s (s goog) augmented reality glasses, we’re starting to see how viewing the world and consuming digital content could be transformed. You can capture photos and videos and send them to your friends with a simple gesture, or scan the New York Times headlines without moving a finger. But perhaps the real breakthrough app for Google Glass wouldn’t be about content consumption at all, but about control.

This week the folks at Engadget dug up a patent around Google Glass using wireless connectivity to control connected devices in your home. The glasses could use any number of wireless methods — from RFID, to infrared, to Bluetooth to QR codes — to identify a connected device that could be manipulated, and then, presumably, to manipulate it.

Picture arriving home from work, and the door of your house automatically unlocks to let you in as you walk up to it. Inside, your NPR app comes on the glasses screen and you can tune in or change the channel while you fiddle with turning on the connected sprinkler system for your lawn. Your Nest thermostat app then pops up on your Google Glass screen to let you know that you’ve been good this week and saved a lot of energy, but with a wink you override the conservation mode and crank up the heat.

The scenario isn’t as crazy as it sounds and all the basic technology is there. There are mobile apps that already do all of these things. Essentially you’d just be moving the control function from the cell phone touch screen and your fingertips to the screen in front of your eye and either a facial gesture or hand movement. All devices in the home that would benefit from having connectivity and control are getting it, and there will be a variety of remotes that will control them — why not one on your face?

Move outside of the home, and the world filled with the internet of things could be controlled, too. You could unlock your Zipcar with your Google Glass app, or start warming up your Tesla Model S electric car remotely before you take it for a spin.

As Om suggested in his recent data Darwinism post, the biggest changes coming for the connected world won’t be about technology; they’ll be more about how philosophical, legislative, and political norms evolve in response to this new world. And using Google Glass as a way to be the master of the internet of things would have interesting implications for all of these areas.

Getting the design, interface, architecture and ecosystem right for such a vision will no doubt be difficult. Mark Rolston, the chief creative officer at Frog Design, has noted the challenges inherent in designing interfaces in a world where devices are both trying to understand a user’s intent, and also test out new ways to interact with them, such as motion.

But ultimately these are design issues, and designers will spend the next several years trying to humanize such an experience.

17 Responses to “The real breakthrough of Google Glass: controlling the internet of things”

  1. Sounds pointlessly awful. Why do I need my thermostat to pop up information when I get home? I know what temperature it is, I know how to turn it up if I want.

    And you definitely don’t need to start your car remotely, since you’ll be sitting in the damn thing to drive it.

    The only vaguely useful stuff in this article is having a single point for controlling things in the home, but this is actually much more useful on a phone or tablet then on your eye.

  2. Star Trek did it first LOL. Deep Space Nine, The Dominion used glasses similar to these in their ships, and in the JJ Abrams reboot, there’s a display panel on the bridge that uses this type of tech.

  3. archonic

    Just lost everything I wrote – Please have the web dev look into the use case of writing a comment then posting by logging in with wordpress.

    I’m an interaction designer / programmer who’s worked with gesture control and computer vision. Even if I were to spend months studying how Google Glass or head mounted gear will change interaction – my predictions would mostly be wrong.

    I had more to say but I’m pissed off I lost everything (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

  4. vaibhavmittal31

    Its like Google is going above all limits to introduce new and latest technology. Although the talking shoes are not for consumer use, its good to know that this will be available to people.

  5. N Walsh

    Ok, its now a really sunny day and I need to wear sunglasses. Oops, ill have to put my Google glass in my pocket.
    For me, the future is a wrist wearable tablet type device, where calls will all be video based.

  6. But where augmented reality gives us visualization of sensor data from the world Gartner and others predict to contain 50 billion devices within the next five years. Imagine looking at the floor of a factory and knowing which machines are nearing an end of their maintenance cycle or which are running at temperatures above normal. There’s no reason to plot on charts when simply looking in a direction can begin a stream of data.

    The trick will be integration of historical and real-time data fast enough to make a difference, and finding ways to streaming and static analytics in ways that simplify the complex and give it context.

    We wrote up our thoughts on this here:

  7. winstuff

    Forget glasses and watches. Give me a wallet replacement. Put 4G, text and data contract on my Touch. Add a credit card app. Perfect form factor: light, bright, slight, tight.

  8. Greg Roberts

    We need to start thinking, instead of “will glass replace the cellphone”, is a watch better than glasses? These questions are like asking “is a shirt better than socks?” In a few years our bodies will be peppered with smart wearables… chips integrated into the very fabric of our clothes, and perhaps even implants. So a more likely interim scenario for early adopters is: cellphone in pocket, smartglass on head, smartwatch on wrist… the best apps will fuse data and sensors on and from all three. now can we just do something about the battery life issue? :)

    I’ve put together a detailed resource on the entire smartwear space. enjoy:


  9. realjjj

    You need a PC that is always with you ,this is more a feature for a wrist based device than for Glass. Doesn’t mean glass has no role to play in interacting with other devices , it’s just not the best form factor for it.

  10. reelyActive

    Google Glass may be more about connecting humans to the Internet of Things and less about control. The end goal is no-UI, and while Glass provides a different (arguably better) user interface than the rectangle in your pocket, it’s still an interface. The RFID aspect of Glass is more interesting: if it allows the human to be identified in a hyperlocal space, really cool stuff starts to happen. Like the door unlocking itself. Or better, Nest automatically adjusting to your temperature preferences, but then compromising when your spouse walks into the room. These awesome no-UI experiences happen because Glass is part of the Internet of Things, not because the Glass is actually controlling the devices themselves.

  11. Reblogged this on Tim Chambers and commented:
    Agree that Glass will be good for Google even if it only ever ships in tiny numbers. It’s about digital content in a post PC world. Smartphones were the first real step, this is the second, even if it isn’t this product but this product-space.

  12. homeandmantel

    I find it amusing that the tech blogger echo chamber takes Google glass seriously as a viable consumer product other than a goofy toy.
    Sure heads up displays will always have important purpose specific applications, but it is beyond ridiculous to believe it will gain commercial viability beyond laser tag or paint ball type consumer acceptance.

    • homeandmantel, I think you’re not thinking of this the right way. The combination of mobile, social and streaming apps means the glass is the interface to bring data rather than pulling a phone out of your pocket. The watch has a play, too and these aren’t toys at all but workplace tools of the future.

    • Homeandmantel, you have no idea whats coming and how powerful it will be. If you think google glass is a toy, you’re mistaken greatly, google glass, and the Iwatch will change everything in ways you still are yet to discover. Time will tell.