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Glass by Google
The rush is on to develop high-tech sporting goggles and glasses that can display useful information right on the lens in front of a wearer’s eyes.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and at a recent Fashion Week Show in New York, Google co-founder Sergey Brin
showed off a pair of high-tech goggles at designer Diane von Furstenberg’s runway show that Mr. Brin obviously thought looked pretty good on him. Although the goggles worn by the Google executive may have looked rather strange and unattractive to most casual viewers, they are the first generation of a new product that the giant tech firm is calling “Glass by Google.”
The Glass by Google product is actually a new pair of sports goggles that combines a smart phone with a monocle for a screen. The new high-tech goggles/glasses are part of an ongoing effort to develop wearable GPS-and-4G-enabled smart phones that display useful data in the wearer’s field of vision.
Heads-up display (HUD) technology is not necessarily new, as it goes as far back as World War II when early HUD systems displayed data on small glass screens inside the fighter planes of the day. The more elaborate HUD systems like the one shown in the cockpit of the jet fighter plane used in the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun,” have been slow to develop. The biggest development problem has always been the difficulty of making the technology small and sturdy enough to be reliable and portable in real world situations. Google is not the only player in the field of making the technology available and useful to the general public today either, as many different tech companies have given it a shot in recent years.
Advancements useful to the public have generally been focused on sports-type goggles so far, like the system developed by Recon Instruments, of Vancouver, British Columbia, which first introduced its version of HUD in a pair of ski goggles back in 2007. The Recon firm’s HUD technology has evolved to the point that its current version called “Mod Live” has been successfully fitted to the new Airwave goggles from the Oakley protective eyewear.company. The Recon Instruments HUD system is smaller and a bit less strange looking than the Google Glass version at the moment, but that is expected to change going forward as the critical components get smaller and easier to fit and conceal within a standard pair of sports or ski-type goggles.
So far, the Recon technology has given us goggles fitted with computers that allow third-party app development, but on their own, the displays are currently limited to information like speed and airtime. Another useful feature is the ability to display preloaded trail maps of ski trails on a mountain, and with a connection to a smart phone via Bluetooth, they will soon be able to receive and display text messages too. The march of HUD technology may be unstoppable, but the practicality of the devices is not guaranteed yet as users may find it difficult to read goggle-lens displays while they are hurtling down a mountainside at breakneck speed. The there is also the question of just how many skiers will actually be willing to part with $500 to $1000 for one pair of uber-tech ski goggles. Most industry observers think the widespread use of HUD-equipped goggles in sporting events will probably not really catch on until the components get smaller and the prices come down. Until then, we will have Glass by Google and Mod Live to experiment with.
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