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Google Glass: A Major Step Towards Ubiquitous Computing

3rd May 2013

Google Glass might be a controversial point of discussion in the media (and not just because of how it looks; more on this later), but what about the future? Recently, we looked at Machine to Machine Communication and the Internet of Things, both of which are fundamental building blocks towards a world of ubiquitous computing. This could be described as a “post-desktop” paradigm whereby interactions and data processing between us, computers and everyday objects are all seamlessly integrated and largely invisible. Exciting stuff.


Photo by Antonio Zugaldia

What is Google Glass?

For those unaware, Google Glass is an augmented reality headset created by Google’s ‘secret’ research and development lab. It’s essentially a wearable computer with a tiny display which Google claims is akin to viewing a 63 cm monitor from a distance of 2.5 mtrs It supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, has a microphone, voice recognition system, small touchpad and a camera with 720p video capability. The display is said to feature object-recognition working with a graphical overlay, but its true functionality is fuzzy at this stage.

The current headset looks like a variation of the one worn by Geordi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Google is said to be in discussions with eyewear manufacturers including Ray-Ban to combine the tech with trendy design. Early renders of potential styles make the technology appear considerably more viable from a fashion perspective.

From a practical perspective, Google product manager, Steve Lee, claims tasks that take around 60 seconds to execute fiddling around with a smartphone could take 2 to 4 seconds on Google Glass. Given that Glass uses voice, movement and vision for its inputs, this is a believable claim – depending on the task at hand.

The Panopticon Problem

Every Google Glass wearer is carrying a web-linked video camera wherever they go, and directing it wherever they look. Understandably, this raises serious issues regarding privacy. It already feels like more of our privacy is being chipped away every year, so imagine if everybody was walking around with Google Glass. You would have entire conversations, events and embarrassing episodes, filmed, uploaded and shared all over YouTube in real time.

So what’s the panopticon problem? A panopticon is a type of building designed in the 1800s using optical principles to create a prison where all inmates could be seen at any given time from one spot, without knowing whether or not they were being watched.

Google Glass isn’t just a minor shift in personal and organisational privacy, but a complete societal game-changer, an issue which has many organizations quite concerned.

Potential Uses for Google Glass

The practical benefits of having an advanced optical overlay in your line of vision at all times are as numerous(less over-the-top word) as they are fascinating. Potential uses for this technology may include:

  • The ability to upload and view house blueprints for easier DIY tasks

  • Immediate medical alerts and directions to the patient for doctors

  • Emergency services announcements and updates

  • Other navigational uses including full GPS functions

  • Directions to desired shops or services in the local area

  • Comparative shopping and item reviews when considering a purchase

  • A replacement for instruction manuals in consumer products

  • Refining sports techniques such as golf swings

  • Endless military applications

  • Finding a friend’s face in a busy crowd (an app which is currently under development)

At this stage of its development, Google Glass is still really a glorified media device, so most of these potential uses are some way off, bringing us to our final point.

The Future of Wearable Computers

In spite of various niggles Google Glass is almost certainly a major step towards ubiquitous computing. Perhaps Google will successfully integrate the technology with fashionable sunglasses or reading glasses, making it less conspicuous to wear.

Another possibility is a Silicon Valley competitor beating Google to the first widely adopted device of this nature. Google Glass is expected to be commercially available towards the end of 2013, but Sony also has similar patents filed and Apple and Microsoft are likely contenders too. The first developer of a technology is not necessarily the most successful at implementing it.

Other fascinating advances are on the way, such as Fujitsu’s new display which can read, manipulate and interact with data-containing objects such as magazines in real time. We can only hope that one day we’ll all have the kinds of user interface experiences featured in the Minority Report, though hopefully, without all those scary adverts. Then again, Google is primarily an advertising company…

At the LX Group we have a wealth of experience and expertise with IoT devices, and can create or tailor just about anything from a visual sensor to a complete Internet-enabled system for you – within your required time-frame and your budget. For more information or a confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Muhammad AwaisGoogle Glass: A Major Step Towards Ubiquitous Computing

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