Google posted two new positions which list augmented-reality mapping as one of their responsibilities (here and here). New job postings are normally not news worthy, but this is amid whispers of Google ramping up to release augmented reality glasses by the years end. The job descriptions certainly give a bit more weight to the google glasses rumor.
Google is said to be researching futuristic glasses which will communicate with their “cloud” services to provide real-time data based on where the user is located. A front facing camera would take in the scenery and using Google’s extensive mapping data, be able to figure out precisely where the user is located, and what direction the user is facing. A screen, either a small opaque LCD, or possibly some sort of transparent LCD technology would relay live data about nearby people and locations. The rumors point towards the former screen option, at least for the initial iteration of glasses, as there are still hurdles with the transparent option.
It is not known precisely what form factor the glasses will take but the oft-shown picture of Oakley Thumps is being used to depict a possible design for “Google’s Goggles”. The glasses would use their own connection to the internet rather than an Android device, although an Android device would be able to communicate with the glasses to provide additional functionality beyond what the glasses are capable of. The final result would be a brand new layer of information, the fabled “augmented reality” layer often the focus of Sci-Fi books and movies, that would merge cyber-space with meat-space. Imagine a world where you could already be familiar with someone’s name and interests prior to saying “hi”, or knowing where the closest burger worthy of your money is. It’s an exciting thought indeed!
Google is known for pushing the boundaries of technology, usually with little regard as to its commercial viability (Google Wave anyone?). While the promise of a better tomorrow is exciting, it’s tough to imagine anyone but the most bleeding edge technophiles who are willing to put up with the trade-offs needed to bring the future into the present. Such trade-offs like bulky, expensive glasses, yet another monthly data plan bill, one more source of distractions, and the stares of strangers wondering if they are being monitored by a shadowy government agency. Only time will tell.