News Column

Google Glass: Next Big Thing?

March 1, 2013

Peter Mucha

"The voice-activated wearable computer ... it's coming from IBM," a commercial declared a dozen years ago, while showing a dude wearing funny eyegear and shouting, scaring pigeons in Venice's St. Mark's Square.

Finally, such a device could be out this year -- but from Google, and, as folks have been hearing since last spring, it's called Google Glass.

The buzz got louder this week with two appearances by Google cofounder Sergey Brin, one at an after-Oscars party, another speaking at a California innovation conference.

Promising a whole new user experience -- no looking down and stroking some handheld screen -- Google Glass could revolutionize the digital device market, experts speculate. This isn't some goggly, helmetlike affair -- imagine bottomless eyeglass frames with an extra thick overlay in one upper corner, where a little see-through viewing screen is.

They're so lightweight and comfortable, "you can easily forget you have them on," California Lt. Gov. Gavin said on his TV show last May.

A simple voice command and you're suddenly sharing real-time, eye-view video, even from a roller coaster, a trippy Google video suggests.

Sounds are transmitted by vibrations right into the skull -- which let a parody video demonstrate how one might pretend to listen to someone while taking a call from someone else.

Google Glass could also alter the fashion landscape, as part of a wave of "wearable tech" innovations, from already available snowboarder goggles by Oakley, wristbands with readouts from Nike, and smartwatches from Martian Watches, which seems to have been beaten Apple to the punch, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly said he can't wait to get his own Google Glass.

Brin and wife Anne Wojcicki reportedly wore Google Glasses on Sunday night at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, making them suddenly "very popular," she said, according to a New York Times article.

Brin has talked about the gizmos snapping photos every so many seconds, automatically creating an archive of an event -- like an after-Oscars party.

(The parody video, though, illustrated the potential for privacy-invading mischief with two guys taking photos while using bathroom urinals.)

Wednesday, the TED Conference in Long Beach, Brin called smartphone operations "kind of emasculating" and said the Google Glass frees up eyes and ears, according to the New York Times' "Bits" blog.

"It's been really magical to capture moments spent with my family and kids that I would never have done with a camera or a phone, on a swing, in the air, whatever situation," he said.

New miniaturized projection technology might even let Google Glass users beam "a virtual touchpad onto their limbs and other surfaces," the L.A. Times suggests.

Tech, like the weather, demands change.

"You can probably assume that all the major phone companies are thinking about wearable technology," research analyst Gene Munster told the L.A. Times. "They have to, or they're going to be irrelevant in the next decade."

Until they can implant it directly into our brains.

"Resistance is futile," the Borg -- a wirelessly connected alien hive of tech-augmented minds -- declared on Star Trek series Next Generation and Voyager.

They had some kind of funny eyewear thing going on, too.


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Source: (c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by MCT Information Services


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