Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Glass? Life With & Beyond Google’s AR Future [Stuff to Watch]

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Google’s Project Glass is making headlines again as the company continues testing, publicising and finalising their $1500 augmented reality device, and many are already casting judgement over the technology. Basic things like practicality, cost and the implications of having your own personal HUD all raise some interesting questions, and the only way we’ll answer them is by waiting and finding out.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take the potential for a test drive though, and there are plenty of futuristic display technologies having their concepts tested in videos which assume a lot about the technology, how humans will interact and of course what the future may hold.

This week’s videos are all about AR and the future of visual devices, the first of which is just around the corner.

How it Feels

Because not everyone is able to test, afford or visualise life with Google Glass, the team have produced a video designed to sum up the technology doing what it does best. This is more recent than the initial proof of concept video which generated a storm online when the project was first announced.

Instead this mirrors a lot of what The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky found when he tested the technology for the first time, and that’s quite reassuring. Whether or not you’ll like having lensless glasses, a HUD and a wallet that’s considerably lighter in exchange for these bonuses is entirely subjective, but at least us regular folks get a look at what the near future holds.

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Project Glass: The Parody

There have been a number of parodies of Google’s project, but none so valid as this one. Rather than taking an overly lighthearted approach in their questioning, the team instead applies some of the most frustrating features modern handheld technology offers and applies them to the Glass concept.

The result is exactly what most of us hope Google avoids, while many people quietly subscribe to the idea that this is how the technology will end up. Voice commands not being heard, a constant barrage of Google+ notifications, security and privacy worries – it’s all happened before, so what’s so different this time?


The best paranoid short I’ve seen on the Web in a long, long time, Sight takes a completely sinister spin on wearable computing technology and applies it liberally over this concept. Among the evils herein is the concept of gamification, something that we’ve rolled out on this very site, but applied to real life situations, in this case dating.

Of course it’s all to be taken with a pinch of salt, our technology is nowhere near this level yet, but the concepts and ideas are those we’ve already created. The idea of “gaming” life, the notion of selling our remaining privacy to a megacorporation, the idea of someone knowing more than we’d like. It’s already science-fact, though not on this scale.

Bionic Eye Transplant Patient Speaks

For balance it wouldn’t be right to leave out a video such as this, where quality of life has been immeasurably improved using computer-aided vision, and better yet help those who have lost their vision see once more.

Many of us who don’t have 20/20 vision have to wear glasses, which is at times a bit of a drag, but nothing compares to having lost your sight and regaining it again. The fact that it’s a bionic, man-made eye is proof that even with Project Glass, the many clones we’re expecting to see and the conspiracist sci-fi overtones, we can still do a lot of good with computer aided vision technology.

LED-Mounted in a Contact Lens

A spectacular video on a very proof-of-concept level, Ben Krasnow shows us something he’s been working on – an LED mounted in a contact lens. Of course the big picture here is the potential for display technology to be scaled down and included in contacts, a concept that’s not a million miles away from the Sight video above.

Ben manages to come up with a solution worthy of McGyver’s finest hour by coiling wire, mounting an LED, overcoming an inability to seal the contraption and finally wearing it. The fact that an (admittedly very intelligent) individual on YouTube thought about it, made it, then wore it is incredible from concept to final product and the whole thing has a delightful homemade charm to it.

Conceptual Visions of the Future

Finally there are the “A Day Made Of Glass” style videos which have been doing the rounds for many years by now. If you’ve not seen the original then check it out here, but perhaps more interesting than that is the evolution of a concept we’ve just gotten used to – going beyond Augmented Reality.

The video below introduces another overly-complicated sounding concept called Articulated Naturality Web, or AN for short. It looks beyond the “flatness” of AR and introduces the concept of dynamic, aware devices that can tell more about what you’re looking at than you can. Train times, the layout for an office – that kind of thing. How far off we are is anyone’s guess, and while the examples are overwhelmingly “useful” the realities could be just as sinister as your favourite dystopian novel.

From the same YouTube channel is another concept, this time developed by the Microsoft Office team, which makes some pretty bold suggestions. To me it seemed quite obnoxious in its execution, assuming we all want to be surrounded by cluttered interfaces with real-time statistics popping out of every available space, but make of it what you will.

TEDx: Augmented Reality, the 8th Mass Medium

Finally what better way to finish off than with a TEDx talk on the subject of AR itself, from a leading mobile expert. Tomi Ahonen has written most of the books on mobile technology, and now he’s breaking the next big step down into an accessible concept.

This is a great video to show someone who isn’t too familiar with the latest and greatest. Tomi’s approach to the subject and ability to explain in detail make this one of the best TEDx talks out there.

What do you think of Google Glass? Will AR glasses be on your Christmas list? Are you paranoid about such developments? Did you enjoy “Sight” a little too much? Have your say in the comments below.

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