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:
The Disney research lab in Pittsburgh released a cool demo video showing how any surface can be converted into a touch sensor. One of the coolest applications would be to use your skin to control an iPhone. Your body becomes the buttons…touch your palm with one finger for one action, two fingers for something different, touch the wrist for another action, you get the idea. Exciting possibilities here, check out the video:
If you’re more the DIY type, check out the video below that shows someone making their own version of this touch sensor. You can find instructions and details here.
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.
Google is rumored to be releasing some Augmented Reality glasses later this year, and while there is no official word on this, they make no secret of the fact that they’re interested in this market and working on concepts. One such concept implementation is shown in the video below, and is a really interesting example not only of AR, but how Google specifically can offer services that enhance your AR experience.
I’ve always felt that Augmented Reality (AR) will transform what it’s like to experience the world, but after watching this video about Transcendenz, I find my perspective and vision of AR transformed.
Watching this, I realize that AR has even more potential than I suspected. This technology, if used fully, has the potential to really change what it means to be a person. What does that mean for the future? Will we have ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’? An augmented class of citizen? But more importantly…with some many directions this technology can be used, who will control it? That’s the scary part…