Google Glass Augments Reality, Doesn’t Improve It

aNewDomain.netGoogle Glass is now shipping to developers who were willing to pay $1,500 for version 1.0, the specs have been released and a venture capital firm has been formed to fund application development.

Image credit: Wikicommons

While Google Glass is new, the idea of wearing a heads-up display is not.  University of Toronto professor Steve Mann has been wearing electronic glasses and working with mediated reality for more than 30 years.  Mann differentiates augmented reality, where text or graphics are displayed over your normal vision and from the more general mediated reality, in which vision is improved. An example of the latter is detecting infrared radiation to see temperature differences, zooming in on distant objects, or extending the dynamic range of a photographic image by combining various exposures.  He discussed these applications and more in a recent Techwise Conversations podcast interview.

Mann has pioneered mediated reality, but he is not alone in the field.  For example, Professor Gabby Sarusi and his colleagues at the at Ben Gurion University of the Negev are working on a nano layer coating for detecting infrared radiation in night vision goggles.  Work on high dynamic range photography has also been with us for some time.

Journalists are reporting on initial experiences with Google Glass prototypes and Google is casting around for a killer app, but I suspect that Google Glass will turn out to be a niche product.  We will not be wearing them 24-7, but some of us may put them on for special tasks—like a surgeon entering the operating room.  Google Glass will be more like the Segway than the Apple iPhone, two other products that debuted with a lot of hype and venture money.

That being said, research prototypes and high-value niche applications have a way of turning into ubiquitous, game-changing products. It takes time—as you see in this photograph of Ivan Sutherland, the inventor of Sketchpad, the first object-oriented computer graphics program, which he developed more than 20 years before MacDraw came out.  (Ditto, any early prototype).

Image credit: MIT

What about 50 years from now?  Will Google Glass 2063 interface directly with the retina?

Based in LA, Larry Press is a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills and a senior editor covering tech issues at aNewDomain.net. Check his Google+ profile to contact him or see what else he is up to: http://bit.ly/viXqr4.

Larry Press
Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a senior editor at aNewDomain.net and a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Email him at [email protected]
Larry Press
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