Mobile Talk: Is Google's Project Glass the future?
Paul Briden grapples with the concepts behind Google's Project Glass
Google's Project Glass is an odd one. Since news first started to leak that the Android-maker might be working on such an ambitious and frankly peculiar piece of hardware, it's still remained very much on the periphery of mobile tech reporting, including our own.
It's of interest to us because it runs Android and it will, allegedly, offer plenty of features you get with a typical Android smartphone.
It'll supposedly have the ability to send and receive messages, browse the web, capture videos and photography then share them via social networking and to perform searches. In particular local searches with augmented reality information in a 'heads-up-display' style - something not unique to Project Glass admittedly, but uniquely implemented in this particular case.
It's not even a huge leap to suggest Google might incorporate actual phone hardware in there for making calls - all it would take is an earpiece and a carefully positioned microphone, not to mention the fact that such a move would also enable VOIP calls over Skype and the like.
Whether Google goes down this route with the initial model or saves it for a follow up is anyone's guess.
After all, lest we forget, Google is being very cagey, at least publicly, about what it's actually going to do with the concept.
There is that overarching air of experimentation tinting the whole enterprise, embodied substantially by the company's statements about how it'd effectively gauge public reaction before deciding where to pitch it.
Google has just revealed its plans to host a couple of special Glass Foundry events which will see interested development teams gather to experience the company's efforts so far and to spend some time learning how to create content for it.
The idea there is that Google wants developers to start creating content this year, strongly implying that there is at the very least some vague plan to have a product launched within the next year and a half to two years at most.
Whether that's a wide-reaching, consumer-facing distribution or something smaller and more niche remains to be seen. I daresay an ulterior motive of Glass Foundry could be to see what kind of apps developers create in order to highlight precisely where Google can aim the device.
For my two pence I think Google knows, in the back of its collective hive-mind, that devices such as Google Glass are indeed the future, that it is ultimately onto a winner, but may be vastly ahead of the game here. Perhaps too much.
Google is probably rightly concerned it might be too early to hit that magic spot in the public perception of what's new, what's cool, what people want and what they need.
Right now smartphones are still on a relentless upwards march as the 'device of the moment', so to speak, and accompanied by tablets no less. Currently people will wonder why they need something stuck to their face instead.
Essentially, the smartphone surge really needs to run its course first and timing, as always it would seem, is crucial.
However, I've raised the point before that Google's approach does seem very weird in the sense of effort and financial investment for what could reasonably be called an experimental prototype.
Google has gone to the phenomenal effort of squeezing smartphone tech into the confines of a pair of spectacles, but I can't help thinking this could've just as easily and perhaps more effectively have been achieved by creating Project Glass as a device which synchronises with existing Android phones - a new, hands-free way of interacting with your phone rather than a replacement.
This could have been done cheaply and field tested at lower cost to see where its potential actually lay.
If you look more broadly at what Google is actually doing with Project Glass, it's essentially tackling head-on the last remaining element of phone interaction which keeps them as handsets you have to, well, handle.
We can already hear them remotely via headsets and command them remotely via voice control, we just can't view the content while they're out of our hands. What better way to overcome this than to stick it right in front of your eyeballs?
Another point, which I appreciate may be a case of running before we can walk, is how is Google going to position Project Glass to be usable by people who already wear glasses? Will it work with prescription lenses? Free laser eye surgery for every buyer, perhaps?
That's a whole other can of worms though isn't it? Perhaps I'll let them actually launch the thing before we hit that subject.
In conclusion then, yes, I think Project Glass, or devices like it, are indeed the future. However, I think Google's approach might not turn out to be the best and that even though it is the future it's one Google thinks we're not ready for just yet.
To be fair it's probably right...