Apr 18 2012

Google Glasses Are Ugly But Important



They are ugly. They are definitely not “cutting edge” hardware. They are so very limited in their “usability”, but none of that really matters. They will still likely replace your current smartphone’s interface over the next five years. They are the “Google Glasses” and you should probably get used to seeing people wearing them.

Why? Because despite their rather primitive state at present, they fulfill a need, and Google is betting that its partners in the android market will find ways to exploit that need. It’s a risk, a search engine company stepping into the manufacturing market, but it’s one they took before and it paid off in spades.

And yes, I am referring to the Google Phone, and despite what you might think, it was one of the single most successful “failures” in history. You see, Google never had any intention of the phone actually being a “success.” It had only one purpose alone and it succeeded brilliantly. Almost overnight, Google shattered the iPhone monopoly on smartphones, and it has been steadily taking that captive market away from them since. That was its sole purpose. In fact, they could have given the phones away and had an even huger success, but they still turned the market on its ear by blowing a hole in Apple’s walled garden that was bigger than what the orcs did to Helm’s Deep. Without Google’s “stupid risk” and “utter failure”, the massive Android market place would not exist.

In much the same way, Google has been slowly building towards a long term goal I believe they have been pursuing for more than a decade. With the Google glasses reveal, I am more certain than ever that Google’s aim is the creation of the “Mirrorworld” I have written about in the past.. They already have an overwhelming majority of the necessary technical hurdles surpassed with the various software packages they have released, such as Google Earth, Google maps, their suite of 3d model building software, and sundry other projects, such as Streetview. I discussed a lot of this in the very first set of articles I wrote for H+ magazine, Virtualization part 1, part 2, and part 3, and this latest glimpse into Google’s plans is simply another piece of the puzzle being put in place.

And you will want to use these glasses. It’s going to look like a perfect solution to a rather large problem, texting while driving. Combined with speech to text apps, these glasses would offer perfect hand’s free texting, not to mention cellular calls. Toss in a GPS map overlay app, and you have a simple way to use Google glasses as a HUD. No more taking your eyes off the road for long seconds to look at the GPS. No fumbling with the phone while driving. No scrunching your neck to try and hold a phone to your ear. With the increasing ability to manufacture displays of nearly any size on flexible plastic, and advances in making plastic electronics, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that in a few years, the cost of a pair of VR lenses with all of the capabilities I described in my article on Quantum Dots will likely fall below the cost of a current smartphone, while far exceeding them in processing power and abilities. This is the gamble Google is taking. It is betting that just like the Google Phone, Google Glasses will create the market. Just the proof that Google is working on VR lenses will inspire other manufactures to enter the market with their own offerings, and push the envelope on the underlying technology.

And Google will be right there, already waiting with dozens of tools and offerings to make those manufacturers jobs easier. And maybe people will talk about how Google had another miserable failure.

Dec 29 2011

Welcome To The Mirror


“Such lenses — when coupled with a next generation smartphone — will enable us to simultaneously exist in both the “Real” and the “Mirror,” with a plethora of “superpowers” at our disposal, all enabled by augmented reality apps as well as real time mapping to virtual space…”


Welcome to the Mirror.

You are probably going “huh” right about now, but relax, sit back, and play Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

Then read this article.

Way back when, over two years ago, in the second article I wrote for H+ magazine, I spoke about a video game called Fallen Earth that used real topographic maps, and discussed the fact that Google was in the process of creating a “Mirror World” of the entire Earth. At the time, they were close to finishing the complete “street view” project. Well that project is finished, and as predicted, Google didn’t stop…

And if you read the previous article of mine, you’ll also recall I mentioned mapping the insides of buildings? Yes, Google is doing that as well.  In addition, browsing Google maps and Google Earth are becoming popular pastimes as people use the imagery to track down and share “geo-oddities”

I’ve also previously reported on Google’s plan for using quadrotors, the creation of low level aerial photos of all those areas which currently lack them, as well as the constantly growing number of 3d rendered buildings being added to the database daily by millions of Google users. Nor are they the sole player in this particular game, as C3 is offering ultra high quality 3d maps as well, based on declassified government reconnaissance technology, and even Microsoft is working on similar technology.

All of which brings us right back around again to the first link I provided up there. Sure, it’s a pretty lame game, more of a demonstration of the concept than a real First Person Shooter, but it’s the first of what is likely to be a completely new generation of games, and of game graphics engines, driven by real world data. Imagine merging the latest Call of Duty graphics engine with a Google mapped locale, enabling you to stage a “block war” with your friends, using your own neighborhood as a combat zone.

Sounds fun, hum? Now let me toss in another element to it — a Quadrotor. Imagine that not only are you using the Google maps recreation of your neighborhood for your shootout, but that you’re also using a quadrotor as your telepresence unit. Imagine that in addition to the static scenery like trees and houses, your game is real time, and the cars moving in the street and current activities around the neighborhood are also included and potential game changers. With a quadrotor as your POV cam, tracking your virtual avatar in the real neighborhood to provide that real time data for your “Mirrorworld” game, it’s more than possible — it’s likely to be a feature.

But such games are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. I’ve talked previously about using such “Mirror” technology to enable you to visit an office halfway around the world to discuss business as if you were personally there. The needed sensor technology already exists, in the Kinect, to make it possible to animate a “real time” virtual avatar. We will inevitably create more advanced versions of the Kinect, and the adding of this technology to quadrotors has already happened in the lab.

When you also add in the latest developments in QLED displays, the probability of ultralight “VR” lenses should be readily apparent. That makes the use of “Avatars” even more likely, as we will need a “presence” in the “Mirror” outside of games. Such lenses — when coupled with a next generation smartphone — will enable us to simultaneously exist in both the “Real” and the “Mirror,” with a plethora of “superpowers” at our disposal, all enabled by augmented reality apps as well as real time mapping to virtual space, and inspired by a slew of video game “conveniences”, like “title bars” “tool tips” “minimaps”, and even “superhuman” vision, like telescopic, x-ray, microscopic, or low light vision. With a pair of lenses and a fully developed “Mirrorworld” such feats would be trivial.  The same goes for even more outlandish abilities such as “teleportation” that enables you to stay at home and visit anywhere in the world.

And if gaming, business, and all the rest leaves you cold, then imagine the educational potential of the “Mirror”. Not long ago, I spent a couple of hours touring Pompeii. I could do the same with NYC and Moscow, even Washington DC. In the not too distant future, I could likely do the same with the Guggenheim, or the Louvre. Imagine every museum and monument in the world — from the Forbidden Palace to the Sistine Chapel to the Taj Mahal — instantly accessible to any child in any school in any country. Imagine practicing your Japanese with a real Japanese tutor, or being given a tour of the Pyramids by an archeologist. With real time “Mirroring,” the entire world becomes an educational resource. Static photos will never convey the same impression of “being there” the way the “Mirror” will.

So yes, Welcome to the Mirror. Get comfortable. You are going to be living here soon.