Google Glass – gimmick or breakthrough?

Various people have started claiming that Google Glass is going to transform the meetings industry. For those who haven’t seen this technology yet, it looks like a pair of glasses with an added bit to the right. This includes a small glass rectangle which is in view while the headset is being worn and provides a heads up display. Apparently it will enable people to see websites and email while they’re walking around, take photographs and videos without needing a separate camera… it looks a bit like having an iPad that’s small enough to wear on your head. Google claims that it will be available some time in 2014.

So that’s what the technology does. I’m a little sceptical about the final result though. The major technical challenge is to provide an image from the headset that the human eye can get into focus at the same time as having a distant view in focus.  In the end it may be that you have to focus on one or the other, a bit like choosing to be able to read a book or to look at the scene beyond it because you can’t hold both in focus simultaneously. Of course, it may be that the Google techies have overcome this problem. So far the information isn’t really clear on this point.

One of the misconceptions that seems to be driving expectations far too high in the meetings industry is that people are discussing the ‘Augmented reality possibilities of the technology’.

Watching Google’s promotional website, Google Glass will be like having a tiny TV screen in the top right corner of your field of view. So maybe it’ll be possible to feed a video into this screen but it’s still only a very small proportion of your field of view. I really can’t see that it’s going to be any better than projecting the video onto a screen at the front of a meeting.

One of the challenges for presenters, though, is that instead of being able to see people scrolling through emails on their ‘phones as a warning that they’re losing the audience, all they’ll see among a crowd of people wearing Google Glass is a bunch of people stroking the earpieces of the gadgets (stroking the earpiece is one way of controlling the thing).

So expectations seem to be set too high to start with. Apart from that, Google doesn’t always get it right; does anybody remember the much-hyped Google Wave? I suspect that Google Glass is being massively oversold and when it’s finally launched the die-hard geeks will go overboard about it but the rest of us will be left wondering what all the fuss was about.

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