Google is reportedly preparing to launch a pair of Android-powered glasses by the end of this year that will feature a heads-up display (HUD). The geek in me is crying to try a pair right now, it sounds like a futuristic Minority Report/James Bond gadget, but the rational side of my brain is telling me they’ll be too goofy and impractical for everyday use.
According to the New York Times, which recently published a piece claiming the product could be priced between $200 and $600 and offer a 3G or 4G connection, the glasses will be equipped with a camera and will be able to inform you of buildings and locations of interest in your immediate area. Sounds neat, but has augmented reality really taken off? Is there even a market for these glasses yet? I don’t think so, not yet.
Augmented Reality Still Doesn’t Work Well
Sure, there are a number of augmented reality (AR) applications available in the iTunes App Store and in the Android Market that are compelling enough. Sky Map is the first one that comes to mind, but the ones that are supposed to tell me where the nearest Starbucks or subway are — Acrossair and Layar are two such apps — barely work at all. I’m not the only one who thinks that either; the ratings for both applications are average at best.
Surely, Google has a set of top engineers and programmers working on the project, but how am I supposed to believe a tiny processor in a set of sunglasses will perform any better than the dual-core processors that are available smartphones? Android phones already barely get me through a day with moderate usage, too, so can I really expect my glasses will last any longer? Will I have to sit down at a restaurant and plug them in?
I’m all about dropping $200 on a pair of sunglasses that works well, but $600? Nope, no way. Perhaps the 3G/4G connection that the New York Times references will mean I’ll be able to purchase a pair of Google’s HUD glasses from a wireless carrier with a subsidy, but at the rate that I lose sunglasses I doubt I’ll get through a two-year term without having to buy at least one or two more pairs.
Fashionable? I doubt it.
Look, I’m not a fashionista, and I’m as geeky as the next guy, but when it comes to a pair of glasses most people are looking for something that offers style. That’s why Lens Crafters is still in business. So Google’s going to have to create a set of glasses that are attractive and practical. The set, according to 9 to 5 Google, will reportedly look like a pair of Oakley Thumps. The idea behind those glasses was that a user could load MP3s onto them and listen to them using a set of built-in ear-buds on the go. I’m no analyst and so I’m not sure how the sales of those glasses did, but they definitely looked and felt to bulky for my face. Will Google create multiple sizes? Different designs? My guess is no. The only upside I can think of is that they’ll allow you to move freely without having to look down at a phone to see where you’re going.
I’m about to head to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. There’s the possibility of an imminent transit strike, so a pair of Google HUD glasses could make my life much, much easier when it comes to finding my way around a foreign city. That is, if they worked well. I just have a hard time believing that Google’s going to be able to pull this project off by the end of the year. The glasses are going to be expensive, will no doubt be bulky for the required processor and battery, and will need to actually perform well. One only needs to look at the current state of augmented reality in the smartphone market to understand that it might be too soon for the type of heads-up display that we see in the movies.