A View Of Google Glass

July 9, 2013
Have you seen anyone walking around wearing Google Glass? Technology Editor Bill Wong has and gives his view of emerging technologies.

I probably will not get my hands on Google Glass until next year (see Google Glass will be released to the public 'in 2014', says Eric Schmidt) since I am not a developer or working for Google. I have been following Google Glass since it was announced but did not have a chance to see it in action until recently when I was at Ford's technology event (see Focusing On Ford's Electric).

There I met developer Sahas Katta (Fig. 1). His first app for Google Glass can be found at GlassTesla.com. If you have one of Tesla's electric cars then you can take advantage of it (see Tesla Roadster Gets Ready To Hit The Road In California).

Figure 1. Sahas Katta's GlassTesla app runs on Google Glass providing information to the Internet connected Tesla electric car.

Internet connected cars are getting more common and the application will likely expand to handle more vehicles in the future. Electric cars like Tesla's are likely to be more common (see Tesla Launches Nationwide Supercharger Network) and I have been seeing Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs even locally in Pennsylvania.

But back to Google Glass. I talked with Sahas about his application (view Glass Tesla Uses Google Glass To Control Tesla Model S) for Engineering TV. I did another about Google Glass (view A Look at Google Glass). He wore the glasses almost all the time although the four hour battery life tends to run short if they get utilized a lot.

Google Glass is really a super peripheral for a Bluetooth smartphone that provides Internet connectivity. Without it the glasses are more of a hands free camera although you can do a few things with it when the Internet is not handy.

Martin Missfeldt has an excellent description of the operation of Google Glass (see Google Glass (infographic) - How it works) that I include here (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Google Glass' screen is just part of the puzzle. (Click the image for the detailed Google Glass description).

Essentially, Google Glass includes a transparent heads-up display. You have to look up to see the display that floats above you. The outer section of the display glass dims when it is bright such as in sunlight just like photochromic lenses in conventional glasses.

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One side of the frames is white and longer than the other. It houses the battery and electronics but it also has the microphone and speaker. The systems uses a bone-conduction speaker so there is no earpiece. The microphone is more conventional so since a bone-conduction microphone would compete with the output.

Lest you think that Google Glass is over the top with its transparent heads-up display it is not alone. Garmin is looking into heads-up displays for GPS units (see A New Way to View Directions in the Car: Garmin Introduces Its First Portable Head-up Display (HUD)). Garmin's unit is on the drawing board but not something you can pick up at the local electronics store but it is likely to require more approval although I wonder what the legality of wearing Google Glass is while driving? I suspect that it would actually be less of a distraction that a conventional dashboard nav system since it takes less eye movement to view.

On the other hand, it can present quite a bit more information that could be distracting. I have not found more information on this yet although one of the things that Google Glass can provide is directions, either walking or driving. It is one of the features of the GlassTesla app.

Google Glass and GlassTesla are a glimmer of things to come. The final or common version of this kind of technology may not be the same as what we see now and its functionality will likely change as technology improves. It is impressive to see what is possible now but don't discount it because of cost, performance or social or legal norms. These would not have been possible a decade ago let alone practical for public consumption. We are still a good ways away from something that everyone could use like a smartphone but that time may be here sooner than you think.

About the Author

William Wong Blog | Senior Content Director

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column. Bill is a Georgia Tech alumni with a B.S in Electrical Engineering and a master's degree in computer science for Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

He has written a dozen books and was the first Director of PC Labs at PC Magazine. He has worked in the computer and publication industry for almost 40 years and has been with Electronic Design since 2000. He helps run the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair in Mercer County, NJ.

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