Since my last post on Augmented Reality (AR) and near eye (head mount) display Google put out some publicity on their Project Glass concept. Google made it abundantly clear that this was only for the purposes of concept testing and not a real product, but they also said that there would likely be some test products at the end of 2012.
Jason, “The Frugal Dad” wrote saying he had seen my first article on AR and that he has a new “Infographic” that includes Google Glasses as a Future “disruptive technology.” Unfortunately most predictions about the future turn out to be wrong and nothing I have seen so far in the way of near eye AR, including Google Glasses, I believe will meet the consumer expectations and become pervasive. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen, but rather there are still many major problems to be solved.
As I wrote before, I think there are many practical issues with near eye displays and augmented reality. The Google Video “Project Glass: One day…” was obviously a “concept video” and all the images in the display were “fake” as in not what the actual display will look like.
Along these lines, the April 5, 2012 Wired had an article called “Google Glasses Face Serious Hurdles, Augmented-Reality Experts Say” which raises concerns that Google is over-touting the concept. The Wired article quotes Pranav Mistry, from the MIT Media Lab and and one of the inventors of the SixthSense wearable computing system, “The small screen seen in the photos cannot give the experience the video is showing.” Also in the Wired article, Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech raised concerns that Google is raising expectations too much. Both Dr. Mistry and Dr. MacIntyre are certainly proponents of AR. Their concerns, and mine as well, are that that raising expectation too high could backfire on the AR concept in long run.
Sebastian Thrun, Google Fellow and Stanford professor, was on Charlie Rose on April 25, 2012 wearing a working Google Glasses prototype. The first 4 and a half minutes of the Charlie Rose video discuss Google Glasses and gives some insight into the issues, not the least of which is whether people are really going to wear something like this.
To see the images in the “glasses” he has to look up, where the Google Concept video suggest the images are right in front of you all the time. So he can’t see the person he is talking to and the computer image at the same time. Imagine talking to somebody wearing these when they are clearly looking up while talking to you (particularly notice Dr. Thrun’s eyes in the picture above at 1:11 into the Charles Rose Video). By instinct, humans are very sensitive to eye behavior, and someone constantly looking away (up) is a distracting behavior. Now imagine you are walking down the street and searching for something on your glasses and a truck comes by — big oops.
The most insightful comment by Dr. Thrun was “we having yet found this [augmented reality] to be the compelling use case” but he didn’t elaborate as to why. But this does indicate that Google is still be trying to figure out if AR is really compelling. Dr. Thrun did say that “the compelling use case is the sharing experience” and commented on sharing pictures at being something they enjoyed — I guess this is Tweeting on steroids where all your friends can see what you are doing as you do it. In this case the glasses become a hands free video camera.
The Google video has inspired some funny spoofs of it that in their own way make some of the points above:
ADmented Realility — Google Glasses Parody extrapolates on the what could happen with advertising gone wild.
The next time on the subject of AR, I plan to talk about more of the technical issues with AR.