You walk down an ordinary drab aisle in a supermarket, but you see grocery items stand up and dance a jig, below them are prices, special offers, and nutrition profiles. In the corner of your eye a counter keeps track of the total bill for items already chosen, taxes included, and flashes red when it reaches a predetermined value. A neighbor speaks to you in Mandarin, but text scrolls past your field of vision, maybe a tiny speaker whispers the english translation in your ear. Oh, and if the power goes out, no matter. You can see in the dark.
This may sound like the future, but if Google’s new project succeeds, the future starts now.
TPM– It’s unclear just what features the first editions of Google’s computerized glasses, Google Glass, will include when mailed out to a selected crop of software developers in early 2013.
But a recent update to Google’s “Search by Image,” service, as well as open statements by Google researchers working on the hi-tech specs, point to a future in which people wearing Google Glass will be able to look at just about anything and receive a wealth of information about the objects and subjects in their view.
We have monkey eyes, recently evolved to make instant life and death decisions about grabbing that tree branch or spotting ripe fruit before your rivals see it, then hastily tweaked by a million years of natural selection to serve us as both predator and prey on the ground. Our eyes, more accurately the fat connections they have to the visual processing centers in the brain, are amazing. Humans are incredibly visual creatures, which is why, in this modern world, eyes could be so much more.
There’s a reason we developed lanterns and radar, there’s a reason we use x-rays and infrared goggles, there’s a reason we lug around paper books and Kindles. It’s all done so that vast amounts of data canbe stored organized, and presented to our brains on cue. What if, instead of peering into radar portholes and flat screens, or groping around in the dark, we could see in those respective wavelengths and have the data arrayed however we wish? The latter is key: the visual cortex has considerable bandwidth, but it’s not infinte. Applications managing what we want to focus on versus what we want in the background or on call, being able to parse data six ways from Sunday, are as important as the hardware.
Revolutionary advances in visual software and hardware could be the next gift technology puts under mankind’s Christmas tree. What form it will take is unclear. It could be a pair of glasses, that sounds like a good way to start, maybe the bionic contact lens shown right will become a viable product, perhaps the visual prosthesis now being crudely mapped onto the visual cortex in the blind will be vastly improved. Imagine a world where the visually impaired have an edge of some kind or another over people with normal vision!
We’ll see what all the Google Glasses do and don’t over the next year or two — the features in the grafs above are speculation on my part, they’re not meant to be a review of the GG prototype. These partcular glasses may turn out to be mere curiosities, or bugged out pieces of shit, they could even prove to be dangerous. But Augmented Vision is coming. And the visual-sensorial enhancement technology Google’s glasses represent could change our world more than cell phones and the Internet combined.