Google unveils glasses that can show you directions

The glasses would place a small see-through screen that can show maps and other data

Written by New York Times | San Francisco | Published: April 6, 2012 12:59:09 am

Google on Wednesday offered a look at a previously secret project to develop Internet-connected glasses,staking out a lead position in a futuristic and fast-growing area known as wearable computing.

The glasses,which are still in a prototype stage,would place a small see-through display screen above a person’s eye that can show maps and other data. The wearer could use voice commands to,say,pull up directions or send a message to a friend.

Apple,a major Google rival,is also reportedly working on wearable computers. In April 2008,the company filed a patent for a head-mounted display system that showed glasses with screens.

But Google has amassed some of the leading experts in this field within Google X,a company lab responsible for such projects that was also something of a company secret before Wednesday.

Richard W DeVaul,a former Apple engineer who specialises in wearable computers,left that company last year to join Google X. According to DeVaul’s Web site,he is now a “rapid evaluator,” working in a team at Google run by Astro Teller,who specialises in artificial intelligence and wearable devices.

Another Google employee,Babak Parviz,who is also an associate professor at the University of Washington,specialises in bio-nanotechnology,the fusion of biology and technology focused on manipulating atoms and molecules. He most recently built a contact lens with embedded electronics that form a miniature display — raising the possibility that Project Glass,as Google is calling the eyeglass effort,could become Project Contact Lens at some point.

“This puts Google out in front of Apple; they are a long ways ahead at this point,” said Michael Liebhold,a senior researcher specialising in wearable computing at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto,California. “In addition to having a superstar team of scientists who specialise in wearable,they also have the needed data elements,including Google Maps.”

Liebhold said the prototype was “much less dorky-looking than all of the heads-up displays we’ve seen to date.” He added,“Of course it could be really annoying,but if it’s handled well,it could be a nice complement to reality.”

The design prototype Google unveiled Wednesday looks more like a well-designed pair of wraparound glasses — but with no actual glass in the frames. A person working on the project said Google was having its employees test out dozens of other designs,with the goal of giving outsiders access to an early version later this year.

Although some may salivate at the idea of these sci-fi toys,it is unclear whether people will want to wander the streets with a screen in their field of view.

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