What Will Google's Project Glass Mean for Adventure?

At this week's first keynote at Google I/O 2012, Sergey Brin unveiled a live adventure-packed demo of Project Glass. J.T. Holmes and crew wingsuited out of a plane, pulled their chutes, and landed on a building. They passed off a package to some mountain bikers, who passed it off to some people who rappelled down the side of a building and delivered the package to Brin. Much of the video of this hand-off came live to the audience at Google I/O via the athletes' Google Glasses. In the package were three pairs of new Google Glasses, specs with all sorts of tech and multimedia features you'd expect to find in a cell phone. Here's a round-up of some of the product's features from engadget.com.

There's a "powerful" CPU and "lots" of RAM (though, there was no mention of specifics) alongside an accelerometer, gyroscope and wireless radios for pulling in data. There's a mic for voice commands, a speaker and a camera, which can also be controlled by the touchpad that lines the side of the wearable device. All of those components sit off to one side, though Google says they're still well-balanced and actually lighter than some pairs of sunglasses. The tiny transparent display doesn't actually sit directly in front of your eye. It's slightly above your line of vision, so that it shouldn't interfere with your normal life.

The product is all about sharing information in real time at eye level, without all of the handholding that goes with using a cell phone. Here's the thing, Project Glass is by no means done yet.

Back in April, Google released the below video of how someone in the city might use the glasses. It's an interesting look at where things might be going, but it's not a guarantee of how the glasses will eventually work.

After this video was released, Wired published a story that looked at some of the hurdles Project Glass might face. It included a string of quotes about possible issues with the display from Blair MacIntyre, the director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech.

“You could not do AR with a display like this. The small field of view, and placement off to the side, would result in an experience where the content is rarely on the display and hard to discover and interact with. But it’s a fine size and structure for a small head-up display.”

Mistry does point out that the Project Glass demo is a concept video. But MacIntyre believes Google may have set the bar too high for itself. “In one simple fake video,” MacIntyre told Wired, “Google has created a level of over-hype and over-expectation that their hardware cannot possibly live up to.”

Still, it's fun to speculate. If Google can somehow build a product like their demo, how might these glasses be used on future adventures? Could they somehow be hooked up to a satellite feed so that data from a remote location can be transferred direct to your computer or Google Glasses? Could you see a climber check the weather forecast and elevation while scaling K2? Could you see a Pacific Ocean rescue through the eyes of a rower stranded during a storm and listen to them talk? Could you see the speed of a surfer as he throttles down the face of a 60-foot wave after paddling in? How shaky would that footage be? Could you follow along online while an adventurer makes a life or death decision in real time?  Would you? Should you?

For now, Google has told developers at the event they can pre-order the glasses for $1,500, and expect delivery sometime in early 2013. The general public doesn't have an invite—yet.

—Joe Spring

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