By now you may have heard about something called Google Glass. These things are arguably very cool -- they're a sort of "virtual reality" system for Google/Android devices that lets you speak commands and take pictures with a wink of your eye, and they're one of the hottest gadgets out there. But do they live up to the hype?
What Google Glass Is ...
Google Glass is a way to see your phone screen without having to look at your phone. It's also a way to interact via voice commands with your cellphone. To "talk" to your cellphone, you say, "Okay Glass" and then a command. The glasses do the rest.
What does it feel like to wear them? The glasses actually project a small screen in the upper right corner of your eye. When you're not focused on the screen, you can safely ignore it, and when you need to look at it in order to make a menu selection or the like, you simply change focus. It doesn't beam the image into your eye. Instead it uses a small prism to show a tiny LCD screen that is embedded in the device.
To use it you simply pair it with your Android phone -- no iPhones allowed -- and say, "Commands." When you first try it, you have the sense that it is the most futuristic thing in the world. Then, after you futz around a little with it, you start to ask yourself why you'd ever wear them. What Google must do, in short, is convince us all that Glass is the best way to interact with our phones. I'm not sure they've succeeded yet.
What Google Glass Isn't ...
Google Glass isn't yet a true "virtual reality" system. Think of it as a peripheral that lets you escape, for a while, from the confines of your phone screen. You can walk around town wearing them and get calls -- the audio is conducted straight into your head so only you can hear it -- and take photos that will automatically upload to your various social networks.
It's important to remember that Google Glass honestly can't do much right now. It's a very basic system and it's more like a Bluetooth headset than a high-tech VR system. That said, does this mean you won't be wearing Glass sometime soon? I'm not sure. The value of the platform will appear when you have true locational awareness -- when you can aim your eyes at a restaurant and automatically get a Yelp review to pop up over the front door. The system just isn't there yet.
Where can I get a pair?
You can't. Google isn't selling them yet, but they've passed out a few thousand to some lucky (or unlucky) developers. Interestingly, I've seen Google Glass at parties in Silicon Valley but, instead of sitting on the schnoz of some developer, they were being worn by models. It seems that Google knows that it will be a tough sell to get the world to wear some weird glasses for the sake of messaging, so they've seeded the pool with good-looking models.
Should I care?
Sure. To be completely honest, I think our kids will start using Glass-like devices before us oldsters do, and that should be a slight cause for alarm. Glass is very distracting and it allows people to focus on their devices without taking their eyes off the world. I'm reminded of the boy in the movie Children of Men who is so immersed in the virtual world that his father has to yell to snap him out of it.
That's obviously a very dystopian view, but it's frighteningly real. My hope is that Google -- or another company -- figures out a way to make us more connected without pulling us out of the real world. Glass, for better or worse, is a step in a unique direction. It's a bit scary but it's surprisingly cool.
Would you ever use Google Glass? Would your kids?
Image via Google