Google's futuristic glasses move closer to reality (Update 2)

Google to sell prototype of futuristic glasses
In this undated file photo provided by the Google[x] group's "Project Glass", an early prototype of Google's futuristic Internet-connected glasses, are modeled. Google is making prototypes of its futuristic, Internet-connected glasses available for some computer programmers to try out. The company is selling it for $1,500 to people attending its annual conference in San Francisco for software developers. It will ship early next year and won’t be available for sale outside the conference. (AP Photo/Google, File)
(AP) — Google helped create a world brimming with digital distractions for people spending more of their lives tethered to the Internet. It's a phenomenon that seems unlikely to change so Google is working on a way to search for information, read text messages, watch online video and post photos on social networks without having to fumble around with a hand-held device.

The breakthrough is a wearable computer — a pair of Internet-connected glasses that Google Inc. began secretly building more than two years ago. The technology progressed far enough for Google to announce "Project Glass" in April. Now the futuristic experiment is moving closer to becoming a mass-market product.

Google announced Wednesday that it's selling a prototype of the glasses to U.S. computer programmers attending a three-day conference that ends Friday. Developers willing to pay $1,500 for a pair of the glasses will receive them early next year.

The company is counting on the programmers to suggest improvements and build applications that will make the glasses even more useful.

"This is new technology and we really want you to shape it," Google co-founder Sergey Brin told about 6,000 attendees. "We want to get it out into the hands of passionate people as soon as possible."

If all goes well, a less expensive version of the glasses is expected to go on sale for consumers in early 2014. Without estimating a price for the consumer version, Brin made it clear the glasses will cost more than smartphones.

"We do view this is as a premium sort of thing," Brin said during a question-and-answer session with reporters.

Google to sell prototype of futuristic glasses
Google co-founder Sergey Brin talks on the phone as he wears Google's new Internet-connected glasses at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. Google is making prototypes of the device, known as Project Glass, available to test. They can only be purchased — for $1,500 — at the conference this week, for delivery early next year. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Brin acknowledged Google still needs to fix a variety of bugs in the glasses and figure out how to make the battery last longer so people can wear them all day.

Those challenges didn't deter Brin from providing conference attendees Wednesday with a tantalizing peek at how the glasses might change the way people interact with technology.

Google hired skydivers to jump out of a blimp hovering 7,000 feet (2,130 meters) above downtown San Francisco. They wore the Internet-connected glasses, which are equipped with a camera, to show how the product could unleash entirely new ways for people to share their most thrilling — or boring — moments. As the skydivers parachuted onto the roof of the building where the conference was held, the crowd inside was able to watch the descent through the skydivers' eyes as it happened.

"I think we are definitely pushing the limits," Brin told reporters after the demonstration. "That is our job: to push the edges of technology into the future."

The glasses have become the focal point of Brin's work since he stepped away from Google's day-to-day operations early last year to join the engineers working on ambitious projects that might once have seemed like the stuff of science fiction. Besides the Internet-connected glasses, the so-called Google X lab has also developed a fleet of driverless cars that cruise roads. The engineers there also dream of building elevators that could transport people into space.

While wearing Google's glasses, directions to a destination or a text message from a friend can appear literally before your eyes. You can converse with friends in a video chat, take a photo without taking out a camera or phone or even buy a few things online as you walk around.

The glasses will likely be seen by many critics as the latest innovation that shortens attention spans and makes it more difficult for people to fully appreciate what's happening around them.

But Brin and the other engineers are hoping the glasses will make it easier for people to strike the proper balance between the virtual and physical worlds. If they realize their goal, it will seem odd in three or four years for people to be looking up and down on their phones when they could have all the digital tools they need in a pair of glasses

Isabelle Olsson, one of the engineers working on the project, said the glasses are meant to interact with people's senses, without blocking them. The display on the glasses' computer appears as a small rectangular on a rim above the right eye. During short test of the prototype glasses, a reporter for The Associated Press was able to watch a video of exploding fireworks on the tiny display screen while remaining engaged with the people around him.

The glasses seem likely to appeal to runners, bicyclists and other athletes who want to take pictures of their activities as they happen. Photos and video can be programmed to be taken at automatic intervals during any activity.

Brin said he became excited about the project when he tossed his son in the air and a picture taken by the glasses captured the joyful moment, just the way he saw it.

"That was amazing," Brin said. "There was no way I could have that memory without this device."

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Google gives glimpse of Internet glasses

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User comments

Jun 27, 2012
VD, i'm afraid i actually agree with you. We will all be assimilated. lol, first it was Google Search, Gmail, Google Latitude, Google Plus, then Google Drive, and now it's Google Collective.

Jun 27, 2012
Perhaps the machines will do a better job.

Jun 28, 2012
If machines do gain a semblance of independence then I doubt they will have any need of pets, their simulations of anticipated behaviour could occur at speeds several orders of magnitude greater than any pet/machine interaction !

The notion of a pet like relationship such as between young cats/dogs, seals/dolphins, parrots/rats, dogs/humans etc is based upon there being minimal difference in capacity, environment or interests. If the difference is wider in nature then it results in predation or nuisance.

Can humans have a pet like relationship with a flat-worm, I think not !

So before the time comes when humans are outclassed by more than even one order of magnitude of machine like intelligence I think we need to watch out and before its too late, speculate where we can or should position ourselves to survive.

Beware though, advanced intelligence may have great power of hypnosis, we may somehow come to "feel" compelling reasons why our species should decline and rather quickly...

Jun 28, 2012
Vendicar_Decarian obviously thinking like a human, declared
Humans will be kept as pets for their entertainment value.
Nope. No need at all. Thats a human perception based on assumption you expect humour arises from high level machine intelligence. You've also missed the point re advanced simulations ie. in respect of knowing the future. Humans dont know the future, dont see the punch-line so humour and diverse circumstances are 'entertainment' for us. When you can foresee & far ahead, there is no point of entertainment in the form humans might conceive.

Look at the pace of change & consider issues like synthetic biology, there are going to be significant cultural changes in respect of diverse biological variations and if machine intelligence progresses there will be situations we cannot imagine when these intersect *and* clash !

The magnitude of divergence would make us look more like bacteria, short life cycle, incapable of conceiving much, a mere nuisance, destroyed easily.

Jun 29, 2012
I don't think we ever need to be afraid of a superbrain. But we sure as heck better watch out for the operator behind it with a sudden evil laugh.

Jul 02, 2012
Whats so bad about being ruled by machines? Does anyone think politicians do a better job than an intelligent machine ever could? Minus mass human extermination (pest control) it shouldn't be so bad for those of us who survive.

Jul 02, 2012
Why would they bother ?

A waste of resources to make any sort of effort to manage us & for what purpose. What's far more likely is that if any singular machine intelligence rises to prominence virtually anywhere it will very quickly communicate with likewise resources to ensure no competition and may also do this surreptitiously in very subtle ways, Eg through tech like this:-

Consequently there will be only *one* machine intelligence albeit spread across the whole world, satellites, lunar or mars facilities etc.

We would lose control of all of these except for the most basic technology that could not be linked.

A friend mentioned just the other day, that the next step & very soon after agglomeration would be expansion, they might leave earth altogether but I suspect they would always leave a backup of sorts here well concealed from our prying eyes and well protected from nature & humans ordinary destructive impulses if we ever survive any clash !

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