Well I was wrong about the timing of Augmented Reality…I thought by now we’d have some real apps on the market, but it’s just not there yet. However, Microsoft has announced some cool glasses which may provide the boost AR needs to take off. Called the HoloLens, they overlay digital images and graphics onto your field of view, and also add 3D/spatial sound for audio feedback as well. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but they’re expected to be for sale this July! Should be cool. Check out the video below which will give you some idea of the potential applications (and they’re applications which, for the most part, don’t require additional innovation to implement) – I think the Minecraft demo is especially cool (and I expect that’ll launch with HoloLens).
A recent patent application shows a cool possible use for Google Glass…controlling appliances in your kitchen. It’d use the camera in the Glasses to determine which appliance you’re looking at (either object recognition, or perhaps ugly QR codes plastered all over your kitchen), and if the appliance has enough built in connectivity, a command could then be sent to the appliance. The application is broader than just kitchen appliances, as it reflects how this technology could be used in many aspects of your life. Conceivably, knobs, switches, and keypads could all become obsolete.
Shipping in 2013 for $399 are these heads-up display glasses from GlassUp, which project a 320×240 pixel monochromatic image onto the right lens, enough for basic text and graphics. It basically acts as a remote display for your smartphone (via a wireless bluetooth connection). It’s a different sort of use than the Google Glasses, which had a corner mounted display and built in camera. Battery life is a bit of an uncertainty, as these will be more suited to occasional, not constant use. Pop up notices when you get an SMS message, for example.
The Google Glasses project continues to move ahead, and while I expect the coolest uses will take a while to materialize (augmented reality, mainly, due to software challenges), Google just released a video (below) that helps show how people will use these at first. It’s exactly what I want for skiing (how it can integrate with goggles will be a challenge though) – but it’s the ability to take photos or videos on the fly, without digging out a smartphone, that’ll be really cool. I can’t wait! (link for full article)
This is going to be a fun year for geeks who have no fashion sense. Joining the Google Glasses this year will be the M100 Smart Glasses (maybe they’ll think of a cooler name?) from Vuzix. It’s essentially a head-mounted computer, with a 720p HD camera, bluetooth connectivity to your smart phone, and a WQVGA display (that’s a mere 240 lines of resolution, less than the original iPhone’s 320 lines if held horizontal) in your field of view. That display, while small, is comparable to a four inch smartphone viewed about 14″ away. Battery life is just so-so…8 hours when used as a handsfree headset for your phone, or two hours if the display is active (and only about half an hour if you’re also using the camera).
So, why would you want one? Well, like the Google Glasses, it’ll really come down to the software applications yet to be written for these devices. It’s a small step towards truly Augmented Reality, but a cool one, and I can’t wait to see what software developers create for these. Give it a couple years, and as software matures and battery life improves, I think you’ll see a lot of people wearing things like this.
Check out this cool video of a fictional augmented reality / contact lens application. I find videos like these fascinating, for the potential AR applications they expose. This video in particular hits on all the typical uses…entertainment, reality enhancement, self improvement, etc. Also hits a bit on the darker side of this, blurring the line between being fully human, and just doing what machines tell you to do. Worth watching (especially the end…).
A company named Leap is working on a really impressive motion tracking hardware/software package for PCs. If you’ve seen the motion tracking on the Xbox or similar game systems you might have a basic idea of the potential, but Leap has made some huge improvements to the resolution of what can be tracked. It’s tracking fingertips to sub-centimeter accuracy levels, opening up new possibilities for human-machine interaction. The cost? A mere $70, which also means that you can expect this to become ubiquitous in future PCs.
In addition to the website linked to above, here’s a cool demo by the company’s CTO:
It’s pretty much a given that the first wave of augmented reality applications will not be through smartphones’ interfaces, but through glasses that have information overlaid on the display (such as the Google Glasses rumored for release later in 2012). So, it should come as no surprise that Oakley has been working on this since the late 90s, according to their CEO. It just goes to show that this really is cutting edge technology…it’s no small feat, though Oakley has made incremental steps in this direction first with their ‘Thump’ glasses that also had an MP3 music player, and also with bluetooth-capable glasses that would stream music from your iPod. It’s similar to the Apple product design philosophy of slowing incorporating features into your products to learn from that, eventually merging into one awesome product that’s light years ahead of the competition. A newly awarded patent shows that Oakley is indeed working on adding video capability to their glasses. They’ve got the bluetooth link worked out. Battery technology has been a continual learning area for them. I’d say they’re poised to be a leader in AR glasses soon, though ultimately the hardware will not be what makes or breaks a company…it’s all about the software when it comes to AR. If they release an API that provides for an easy link between the glasses and smartphones (since they’re the most ubiquitous portable computers), they could have a hit here.
Yesterday I (and about a million other websites) posted a video of Google’s concept Augmented Reality (AR) glasses. It was pretty similar to other AR systems (here and here, for example) so in that respect was nothing new. I found it interesting how much more publicity that video gained, perhaps because of its source? Well no matter. I really had to share an funny video that someone made to show a possible downside of this AR glasses technology. Hilarious, yet so true…and it shows some of the real challenges that designers of these AR systems will be facing.