We in the Draw & Code office love a good gadget, so Google Glass has been intriguing us. This technology promises a revolution in the way we see the world, but it is a big step for us to take socially as well as technically. Meanwhile, the application of augmented reality technology continues apace, but will it only truly flourish when Google Glass proliferates?
Right now we stand at a point where Google Glass is in the advanced ‘beta’ stage of development where both developers and non-developers are paying to play with the revolutionary device that sees a camera riding side-saddle on a pair of ‘glasses’ (or the frames for them, at least) that carry a small, translucent display across one eye. Meanwhile, augmented reality appears on the verge of cracking the mainstream as more and more businesses realise the potential it holds.
It is clear that Google Glass is built with augmented reality in mind, but that isn’t the whole story. A great many of the uses of Google Glass appear to be rooted in quite a basic concept of the head-mounted camera. The videos and photos shown so far don’t appear to show anything that truly interacts with the physical world; cameras, video calling and sat navs are simply overlaid rather than applications that really engage with the world around us. These abilities that have been demonstrated so far are limited when compared to the range of apps on the humble iPhone, although we are clearly at the very start of the journey, so who knows what will happen along the way?
There are some people who think that holding up a device such as a phone or a tablet is too cumbersome, but there are clever people who have already figured this out. This video of work done on iOS at MIT shows that the iPad is primarily used to configure controls so that when you come to use the physical controls, you will not even realise that you are using anything more complex than a switch or a nob. However, as the settings only need to be configured once, there is no need for the iPad to be used again. This is how augmented reality can have incredible real-world uses.
Our latest creation is an overhead puzzle platformer, if that is a genre, which features a very mysterious wolf as the main character. We will have to wait a little longer for some screenshots, as there is barely anything to see yet. But it all plays well enough and the level-generating feature works perfectly. We even have a few crude sounds in there, so it’s not far away from being a fully-formed game; a game that has only taken a couple of working days for one person and a couple of hours for two more of us. Remarkable.
Right now Google Glass appears to be such a radical step that it is a chicken-and-the-egg-situation. This is not a new app for a phone; we are talking about a technology that is likely to re-write privacy laws and maybe even the way we interact with each other. In a similar way to how carrying a phone every where we go has revolutionised the way we communicate, glasses containing screens and cameras could have wider impacts on society than an incremental improvement in technology.
It could be smart watches that catch on first; we have got ourselves a Pebble here in the office and so far we like it. While this wrist-watch-meets-your-smartphone is hardly a revolution, it is a more satisfactory way to check the time or to be alerted to new communications.
The reality is that we are still years from Google Glass or competing technologies being common place and it is clear that augmented reality development is too far along the road to wait for this revolutionary tech to catch up. This means there are still years of innovative development ahead for smartphone and tablet apps. Meanwhile, the brightest minds in the industry will be trying to unlock the potential that is so clearly present in Google Glass. To a large extent, the success of this exciting new technology lies in the hands of software developers.