Augmented reality glasses from Google may appear in early 2013, but they remain a work-in-progress.
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Google Glass, a project to develop augmented reality eyeglasses, doesn't yet have a clear reason for being and may degrade reality rather than augment it.
In interviews in the January issue of IEEE Spectrum, Babak Parviz, head of the Google Glass project, notes that the Google Glass feature set "is still in flux" and Steve Mann, a computer scientist who has experimented extensively with wearable computers, warns that augmented reality glasses "can ruin your eyes."
Asked about this in the IEEE Spectrum interview, Parviz insisted Google's device is safe. And in an email, Google reiterated this position. "We've studied design comfort and safety very closely, and we haven't found cause for concern," a Google spokesman said.
But even if there's no biological health impact from wearing Google Glasses, there still may be injuries arising from imprudent usage. Mobile phones, for example, are generally considered to be safe, but many people have used them in ways that have contributed to automobile or pedestrian accidents.
Google Glass is not shipping to developers "in the next few weeks," as IEEE Spectrum suggested. Google's spokesperson said the "early 2013" timeline for delivery of Google Glass Explorer Edition, cited by Google co-founder Sergey Brin at the Google I/O developer conference last summer, is as specific as the company has been about a release date. A version of the product for the general public is not expected until 2014.
What's more, Google Glass may not even augment reality. According to Parviz, augmented reality isn't Google's immediate goal for the project, though he believes it will be a part of future iterations of the product. Initially, Google Glass appears to be something more along the lines of a stylish take on a wearable wireless camera, with integrated image and video sharing capabilities and push notifications related to email and the wearer's location.
Asked whether the devices will be addressable through the Android SDK, Parviz said only that Google plans to provide programmers with access to a cloud-based API that's currently being used to test email and calendaring services on the Google Glass prototypes. That suggests Google Glass hardware will be dependent on Google cloud services to operate and that developers will immediately begin looking for ways to extend the devices beyond Google's servers.
Google Glasses are expected to allow the user to record and share audio and video, capabilities that are sure to raise privacy issues. They're also expected to respond to voice, touch and (maybe) head gestures. The Explorer Edition is expected to communicate with the Internet via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; a cellular radio is said to be under consideration for future iterations.