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Google stretches the boundaries with Project Glass

In the wearable technology arms race, Google is aiming for the face

Jim Kerr is Venture Publishing's Associate Director of Digital Initiatives. Get in touch with him at

Feb 21, 2013

by Jim Kerr

While Apple toils away on a smartwatch, the people over at Google are working on a much more revolutionary form of wearable technology.

If you haven’t already heard of Project Glass, it’s unlike anything the world of consumer technology has ever seen – a pair of glasses with a built-in computer and camera, allowing the user to take the idea of a “smart device” to the next level.

All you have to do is put on the glasses and say the words “OK Glass,” followed by a command like “take a picture” or “take a video,” and Glass does the rest. You can even share those files through email or social media, right from the device.

Writing about all the neat things Glass can do is one thing, but seeing it in action is a whole other ballgame. Take it away, Google:

Can you picture yourself walking down the street with a pair of these on?

One of the features that Forbes writer Dave Thier is most excited about is the translation function. In the video, a person asks Glass how to say “delicious” in Thai while he enjoys a meal, and the device repeats the word back to him. Simple as that may be, imagine all the possible ways you could use that type of technology, especially if you’re a businessperson who travels a lot. It’s tough to say just how advanced it will be when it first rolls out, but with time, that could become a main selling point of Glass (unless you have a thick accent, of course).

Despite the amazing potential that this device has, there are some drawbacks. First off, there’s the appearance – they can make them as cool as possible, but you’re still going to look a bit like some kind of futuristic robot when you’re wearing them. If you thought the people who yap away on their Bluetooth headsets were bad, imagine someone walking around having a video chat, oblivious to the world around them.

Then there’s the whole “I’ve got a video camera and microphone pointing right at you during our conversation” thing that CNet brings up as an awkward byproduct of wearing Glass. That leads us down the road of some major privacy questions like, for example, how do you stop someone from using certain functions of the product in a situation that they shouldn’t?

That type of question will be answered with time – I’m sure the same discussions were had with the advent of the camera phone and the smartphone after it. As is the case with similar technologies, the laws of the land will continue to adapt to whatever new device requires a change.

Another thing that might get in the way of this product’s success is the price. At $1,500, it’ll be a tough sell regardless of all the neat things it can do. Any time there’s a big jump in technology, it comes at a high cost, but I don’t think Google has the type of “fans” that a company like Apple does at this point.

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided you want Glass, you have two options: you can wait until they come out in 2014, or you can head to Google+ or Twitter and answer the following question in 50 words or less:

What would you do if you had Glass?

Sadly, only U.S. residents can apply for now, but those who are selected get to pre-order an “Explorer Edition” Glass and “be a part of shaping the future” of the product.

So, is Google Glass the next big thing?

This is a game changer that will probably spur a wave of development in the wearable technology market, but it’s going to be costly for the early adopters. Still, as the bugs are worked out and the price comes down, I believe more and more people will take this product for a spin and decide it’s something they need.

After all, when smartphones first came out I remember saying to myself, “Why would I need the Internet on my phone?” Now, I can’t live without it.

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