I mentioned several weeks ago a NY Times report on Google’s augmented reality project. Google has now revealed “Project Glass“, an attempt at augmented reality.
The first thing that struck me is that it’s extremely similar to Siri, except it is visual as well as audible. This does serve some benefits (for example directions) as seeing is sometimes easier than having to listen, especially with lots of background noise.
My primary concern that it just isn’t practical for cost reasons still seem justified. Under the present model by wireless providers you’d need to add tethering to your phone’s plan in order to use such a device as there’s no Bluetooth profile that would facilitate most of that, with the exception of making a call like a normal Bluetooth headset. That’s an easy $20-30 a month via AT&T and $20 for Verizon. Given data plans are becoming more stringent, paying more for less data in a few years is entirely possible.
I’d bet Apple is working on something similar (how could they not be?), but will either use a proprietary Bluetooth profile or an entirely different radio for the purpose. I can’t imagine Apple shipping something that looks like Google’s device does either. It looks too much like eyeglasses and goes across the entire face to provide a tiny screen to one eye. I’d see a Bluetooth headset (Apple had one in the past) with an extremely thin boom and screen. Perhaps gyroscopically balanced (this sounds like a long shot for many reasons). The whole over the face thing seems reminiscent of when cell phones were 60% keyboard.
Google Glasses or Google Goggles will likely suffer the same limitation that despite its success hinder the iPad: Bandwidth. Unlike an iPad however which is a great couch surfing device, and very usable offline, the glasses are really best suited for outdoors use where augmented reality and real-time cloud data could make use of such an interface.
People don’t mind adopting strange new UI’s when they work well. The iPhone is a great example of that. A tiny touch screen display works well. Uses had no problem adapting to it. I don’t think glasses are anything different. If it’s intuitive and works well, uses will be fine with that.
Supplying them with data however is another story. WiFi is hardly abundant in most of the US. Much of it is paid, or only available with a cellular data plan for the device. Cellular data service is still very expensive. I don’t think there is any bluetooth profile outside of PAN (tethering) that would work and be acceptable to cellular providers. So piggybacking off of your cell phones data plan is unlikely.
Google could go the Kindle route and make connectivity free with purchase of the device, then largely lock it down to Google services. Since Google uses advertising they would be able to subsidize that expense.
The other issue is power, I wonder if Google is able to cram enough battery into a small enough package to make this all workable.
I’d like to try it. I hope it succeeds. However looking at the big picture there is a fundamental issues. Of course there are privacy issues as well, but that’s another topic.