Oh no, Google, why that video?

April 5, 2012

About a 5 min. read

Google Glass original image source
So, Google has finally released some pics and a video showing off their “Project Glass” head-worn display concept.  I have many reactions to the ideas and concepts presented in it, some good and some bad.  I think the glasses exhibit some nice industrial design, for example (although they’re still to geeky for broad adoption).  And the idea of them being a stand-alone device is really cool (complete with Android phone functionality and a variety of sensors for understanding and interacting with the world);  it’s something I’ve mocked up in my group, as have others around the world, and have been proposing to research sponsors for years (but, most of us don’t do hardware, so it’s not like we could have ever done this pretty a job!).  So, like many people, I’ve been waiting for more information on the project!

Alas, though, my main reaction to the video is “Oh no!”

Why oh why, Google, did you feel the need to release a video that your project cannot live up to?  In one simple fake video, you have created a level of over-hype and over-expectation that your hardware cannot possibly live up to.  I care for two reasons.  First, because the hardware does look nice, and I think there is some interesting potential here.  Second (and more personally), I work in this area (broadly speaking) and in the mid-term this kind of fakery will harm the research prospects of the rest of us.

Why do I say the video is “fake” and that the product can’t live up to it?

I’m not going to comment deeply on the actual application scenario.  Some are cute, some seem highly dubious.  None of it is novel, pretty much a collection of research ideas going back to Mark Weiser’s early Ubicomp vision and the work the wearable computing has been doing for years.  That’s great;  it’s nice to see the ideas being taken one step forward!

One closing comment, btw.  To all the press:  this is a heads-up display, it’s not “augmented reality”.  AR is about putting content out in the world, virtually attaching it to the objects, people and places around you.  You could not do AR with a display like this (the small field of view, and placement off the side, would result in an experience where the content is rarely on the display and hard to discover and interact with), but its a fine size and structure for a small HUD.  The video application concepts are all screen-fixed (“heads up” instead of “in the world”) for this reason.  This is not a criticism, but we still have a long way to go before someone creates a cheap, potentially usable set of “augmented reality glasses”.

In case you missed it, here’s the video.

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Oh no, Google, why that video? - April 5, 2012 - Blair MacIntyre