Follow-Up: Google's Goggles Come Into Focus

Google's working on a new device, a pair of augmented reality glasses that've been all but confirmed by the New York Times. We looked at this idea a couple months back—now here's what's new.

jackmanThe New York Times isn't messing around with today's headline: "Google to Sell Heads-Up Display Glasses By Year's End." Nick Bilton's convinced enough by info from his sources to really go for it. And the article's original pre-publish headline even borrows a little sci-fi iconography to spice things up: "Google to Sell Terminator-style Glasses..."

That's more or less what we said back in December when we included a clip from that very film to illustrate what an Augmented Reality system could ultimately be capable of.

Now, according to the Times's sources (who are "several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named"):

"...the glasses will go on sale to the public by the end of the year. These people said they are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones,” or $250 to $600. The people familiar with the Google glasses said they would be Android-based, and will include a small screen that will sit a few inches from someone’s eye. They will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS."

That's pretty detailed. Other leaks add yet more detail, describing a unique navigation system which uses head motions to scroll and click and a low resolution camera that views the world in real-time to feed data back to the wearer. They're not designed to be worn long-term; rather they are meant to be slipped on and off about as often as you'd dig a smartphone out of a pocket. Google's also said to be very concerned about privacy, and whether or not passers-by need to be aware they're being recorded by a camera. As for data, the idea is that the Android-powered specs will tap into Google software like Latitude, Goggles, Maps and so on—with the bonus that you'll be able to do things like check in to locations through the glassses interface itself.

Back in December we pointed the logic of this out—noting Google has "access to data that other AR firms can't compete with and it has the globe-spanning clout to actually change habits." We even guessed that we wouldn't be wearing them 24/7 and instead would "make it a habit to slip on a pair to aid with work, navigation or shopping." 

But where we suggested this was a gateway for Google to embed hidden adverts in the real world, all the while garnering data on the wearer's habits—data it can sell to add partners—the new leaked information implies Google is not looking at business models for the hardware. Instead the company sees them as an experiment that anyone can join. Only if they sell well and are well received will Google look at ways to monetize the system.

That sounds like a development from the way Google's monetizing Android. But really, it sounds more like what Google's going to do is see what data it can gather about its users without invading their privacy too much—if that's at all possible—and then slap ads everywhere they can. Just not at first.

[Image: Flickr user ladydragonflyherworld ]

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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3 Comments

  • Mogwai

    I'm not seeing any imperative to wear these. What need are they answering? What's their singular promise? Yes, there's benefits. But are they integrated into a proposition that outweighs the obvious pain points (ie looking like a Gargoyle)?

  • Kit Eaton

    Aha, a Snow Crash fan. Yup... valid question. But Google's really wedded to this experimental mode of trying new things and not minding if they fail. It's arguably a flawed strategy. But I wouldn't be surprised if in about 5 years devices like this are, if not completely common, not an unexpected sight in public. Use cases will emerge, basically.