For your eyes only: the promises and problems of smart glasses

August 23, 2012

The idea of “smart glasses” is very seductive. Being able to have information not just at our fingertips but right in front of our eyes at any time would certainly change our lives at least as much as cell phones have.

To design such glasses, there are several technological challenges to overcome:

  • Integrating enough computing power within a small frame (the development of cloud computing really helped since it allows you to “outsource” many functions to a remote computer).
  • Designing a comfortable display.
  • Enabling the glasses to sense what is around them in order to give contextual information.
  • Fitting a power source to make it all work for at least the duration of a work day.

However, it seems that the smart glasses may be finally close at hand. Google demonstrated earlier in June 2012 its own vision of smart glasses, “Project Glass” streaming live video from the glasses during a parachute jump. It promises to provide information based on your location and on what you see and to project that information on the glasses in a way that remains comfortable and natural for the user.

The concept that Google showed is certainly attractive, but so far the firm has only demonstrated the video and picture recording features, not the augmented reality.

Google has announced that the glasses will be available for purchase in 2014, but their price and their exact capabilities are still unknown.

There are also still some unresolved issues with Google glasses, as well as any other similar products. For instance, all the privacy concerns that already exist in relation to cell phones or social networks are multiplied ten-fold when discussing a product that will not only stays with you at all times, but sees everything you see. On a more basic level, driving while wearing a device made to send you constant distractions might not be very safe.

It’s unclear how the smart glasses would work for people who already need “real” glasses.

Still, it never hurts to dream of what the world would be like with truly smart glasses. You would never, ever take a wrong turn or get lost. You would always be able to know (or, at least, ask) where people are. You would never forget faces, names or addresses again, or any task on your schedule. Part of it sounds like heaven, but considering how many of us already have issues relaxing and letting go of work since smartphones have allowed us to remain connected at all times, it could also quickly turn into a very personal hell.

Ultimately, it might be a better idea to let go of all this high-tech digital stuff for a more straightforward enhancement of your regular glasses. The Cycleaware mounted rearview mirror adapts to most pairs of glasses and lets you to see what’s behind you. It may not connect to Wi-Fi or take pictures, but at least you won’t have to fiddle with voice and touch control while trying to find a restaurant nearby.

Especially useful if you are riding a tandem.

Let us know what you think about this upcoming revolution!