First impressions of Google's Project Glass

Just a few comments about Project Glass after watching the concept video and seeing a few photos

So, you've probably all seen the video by now, but just in case you haven't, watch it below.

Clearly this is a concept video, just as any other you've seen in the past (the ones I always think about are the Nokia Morph and 888 ones), but this one has been released via the 'front door' rather than being leaked or simply shown as a 'concept of the future', and they've even displayed a prototype in photos and now to some tech journalists.

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Sports the New Google Glasses at Dinner in the Dark, a Benefit for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- San Francisco, CA

This photo is not just a great photo because of it being worn by Sergey Brin, it's great because you can clearly seen the complete side of the prototype device, while the official photos only show it on a long-haired woman. The reason why I think this is important is that it clearly shows that the device stops before the ear, and does not incorporate any 'Oakleys THUMP' style earbuds. Of course it's possible, and reasonable that there could be a socket for an earbud at the rear of the device, but personally I hope not, as there are plenty of bluetooth headsets that could be paired with the glasses/accompanying Android phone. The lack of earbuds does pose a question though, how the call at the end of the video works.

I wasn't planning on this initial post being a long post, so instead of going into a detailed description here are a couple of simple points of observation about that photo:

  • The device appears to be self-contained. The glasses frame could be concealing a wire to a secondary module, but I'm lead to believe there isn't one, and the rucksack Sergey's wearing is said to be unnecessary for the device to function.
  • There are no earbuds, meaning the concept video showing a call at the end can't be easily achieved unless an additional headset is worn (not necessarily a problem)
  • If this is self-contained, the the frame is simply a way for non-glasses wearing people to use it, and it could probably then be clipped on to existing prescription glasses. This is presuming the display does not have any need to project an image into the eye, and is just a display that floats.
  • The display looks like a prism, and has no back. This could mean that it's using refraction to project the picture towards the eye rather than having it float.
  • The side seems a little chunky for the location it is, and may obstruct peripheral vision. I would personally prefer a thinner side leading up to the corner section, and have a slightly chunkier back section near/behind the ear if necessary.

There are also a couple of questions I'd like to find answers to:

  • Does this require a phone/host device to function fully? I hope so, as having to have another SIM (and data subscription) would be annoying.
  • How is it picking up the speech commands? Having it always listening for keywords must be battery-intensive, but having a button to push could be tedious.
  • How does the device produce a 'full-frame' image? Since the display seems to only cover the top half of the eye, it would seem logical that the user would have to look upwards to get see the display.

I plan to do a more thorough review/comment post/video about the concept, as well as a roundup of the mobile accessories I already own and how they (or devices like them) could work together to form a holistic Personal Area Network (PAN). I'll hopefully get around to doing that this weekend, but suffice to say I think it's an awesome idea, and hope it's not too far away from production/beta testing (although I have no hope of getting to try it until it's in production).

Update 2012-06-01

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin showing off Project Glass on The Gavin Newsom Show

The Gavin Newsom Show, This Week in Google episode 149

So from the photo above you might be able to tell that the device is a little larger than I originally thought, but doesn't look huge. The frame is now black, and part of the device is hidden behind the ear. There is a touch screen on the panel next to the eyepiece (in the photo Sergey's manipulating it in reverse using his left index finger) for gesturing, so it seems the device may not be looking for eye gestures, which I'm happy about, although you could look a little silly touching your glasses like that all the time.

Something else you may also be able to tell from the photo is that from the 'outside' you can also see the screen to some degree, so you won't be able to secretly look up information about the person you're talking to, or ignore them and read news/blogs without being caught out. That could end up being a good way to stop people being too antisocial with them, but if it's a too detailed view it could be annoying when using these in public to browse privately.

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About the author

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On weekdays I'm a Technical Lead at Comparethemarket.com, having previously been a Solution Architect at Nokia & Nokia Siemens Networks, creating creative software solutions for mobile operators around the world.

In my spare time I'm an avid new technology fan, and constantly strive to find innovative uses for the new gadgets I manage to get my hands on. Most recently I've been investigating Mobile Codes, RFID and Home automation (mainly Z-Wave). With a keen eye for usability I'm attempting to create some cost-effective, DIY technology solutions which would rival even high-end retail products. The software I develop is usually released as Open Source.

I have a Finnish geek partner, so have begun the difficult task of learning Finnish.


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