Google’s Project Glass And Other Head-mounted Displays

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, Google announced Project Glass, a real life head-mounted computer that’s actually useful. Glass is one of the projects being developed by Google X, the super-cool R&D department inside Google. On board are [Babak Parviz], [Steve Lee] and [Sebastian Thrun] (a.k.a. the guy you learned AI from last year).

Apart from an awesome video put up by the Google Glass team, there’s not much to go on. No hardware descriptions apart from concept pics, and nothing about software, the speech input, or even a complete list of features. Until that info is finalized it’s up to all the makers, hackers, and builders out there to figure out how to use a head-mounted display in public without getting strange looks. Here’s a few wearable computers and head mounted displays we’ve seen over the years:

DIY Monocular displays

The first one comes from 2009, when all images on Hack a Day were black and white, with little bits of tape around the edge. [Xenonjon] had an old Olympus Eye-Trek and used half of it to make a monocular display. Eye-Treks maxed out at VGA resolution; enough for something an inch from your eye, but good luck finding one used.

We hope Project Glass will allow a little bit of extrasensory perception like Predator’s heat vision or [Geordi LaForge]’s VISOR capable of seeing the electromagnetic spectrum from 1 Hz to 100,000 THz (The Masterpiece SocietyS05E13, and probably impossible even with TNG tech). Seeing in the dark has already been accomplished with a camcorder CRT, a low light security camera, and a bunch of IR LEDs.

Extremely portable computing

Part of the challenge behind Google Glass is making computers nearly invisible. Cell phones are small, but even the smallest is much to bulky to wear on your face all day. The big hardware manufactures have a leg up on us normal folk, but that didn’t stop [Brad] from making an HUD for real-life capture the flag games.

Since you’ll be wearing a computer all the time, it only makes sense that you could capture a bunch of biometric data all the time. Heart rate, glucose and hormone levels, blood alcohol content, and even EEG readings. It’s been done and it generated a huge amount of data. We can’t wait to max out our cell data caps in the first 10 minutes of the month.

That’s a short list of what may be possible in 10 years with the commoditized hardware Google and others may be putting out. We’re sure we’ll see some interesting uses for these portable computers, and hopefully we’ll be around to show them to you.

Check out the Project Glass video and all the other title pics we could have used for this post below.



70 thoughts on “Google’s Project Glass And Other Head-mounted Displays

    1. It more reminds me of those television commercials from the 80s from AT&T showing what your future life will be like, powered by AT&T. In other words, feel good marketing cementing their image of innovation. Wake me up when there’s more than pictures and videos of what amounts to a movie prop.

    1. *yawn*
      Please get some new lines, you can make anything look dangerous if you set out to make it so.

      Oh, look, MP3 players will prevent people from hearing traffic and get run over! Noes!!!!

      Its perfectly possible to have unintrusive extra information fade on/off when you need it.
      And its probably less dangerious to walk and talk using this vs a phone because at least you have your handsfree.

      1. some people DO get ran over because they can’t hear traffic because of their mp3 players.
        and of course listening to music, talking on the phone, or being otherwise engaged while driving is shown to be dangerous.
        but i think more of it had to do with advertisements popping up constantly (including while driving) and the UI potentially obscuring important to see things.
        something they will have to consider.

  1. It’s really cool, but if this project sees the light, we are going to give Google a lot more personal information than they already have.

    A really dangerous technology from a privacy point of view.

    1. How much is more than everything? If you are one of those people that use android&store and gmail and google docs and everything then they know all really.
      The only thing missing is a DNA sample, so I’m waiting for ‘google bloodworks – send your samples and we test it for you’

      1. Android can be useful even without using Google Apps, without enabling tracking applications and withoug having an always enabled 3G/4G data connection. Even using all these things, Google can’t know I have visited a friend of bought a book unless I explicitly write it down in the phone. But with that googles, they can know in real time everything you see, everything you buy, everyone you meet… And be sure they will collect that information and use it at least for targeted Ads.

      1. That’s why I said &store since once you tied android to your creditcard/name then basically it’s over with the privacy, I’m sure everything uses some hardware ID and google once it knows that uses it to track.

        But as said, if you don’t register it then android should be manageable.

  2. The Google Glass video is a nice fantasy but that’s all it is, a hollywood look at future possible tech.

    Google R&D are going to have to cram the hardware of a smartphone into a pair of glasses to pull that off.

    Oh and don’t forget the scaremongering that kicked up when people started to get headaches from using mobile phones for hours every day. Imagine what they’ll think when you can buy a mobile phone that you wear on your head all day…

    1. I honestly don’t think that making it small will be an issue. Like a 3G USB dongle has most of the tech in it that is required for a mobile phone. A friend in work had a phone that was slightly smaller than the size of a matchbox, her main issue with it was that she kept on loosing it. Phone companies can make smaller and smaller devices but people want something that fits in their hand.

      If google could pull off the hardware and software (probably via data compression and a very evil backend cloud) the real issue will be getting joe public to wear glasses if they do not already wear glasses. That and getting the ads/information ratio low enough not to effect uptake. I can see them starting out with no ads and adding them with firmware updates.

    2. “Google R&D are going to have to cram the hardware of a smartphone into a pair of glasses to pull that off”

      Have you ever held in your hand the motherboard from an iPhone4? It’s slightly larger than a mere stick of gum….

  3. Anyone who has hacked on existing consumer level (albeit pricey) HMDs like Sony’s HMZ-T1 know just how **in difficult it is to actually get a projection that doesn’t cause extreme eye strain/fatigue, is properly focused, remains stable under heavy movement, etc. even if yupi would remove all the typical Sony junk (crappy headphones, large piece of LED infused plastic junk with horrible ergonomics, proprietary cable formats, HDCP decoding box etc. etc.) — There’s pretty much no chance the technology is out there to solve things the way that the google vid shows (not counting medical/military grade), but I love to be proven wrong ..

    1. Sheer rumor mill that Google has perfected this, but it could be a Virtual Retina Display (VRD). It uses low power lasers to create the image. There are existing color versions in research that use the same lasers that project the image to track the eye. And the tracking allows them to adjust the focus mirror to keep the image clear. Also makes the image bright no matter how bright the ambient light.

      But the idea Google has a commercially viable VRD at consumer price… Yeah, that may be more vapor than that nasty interface.

  4. I can see all the tech working in a pretty small package save for the battery.

    How you’d get an always listening piece of hardware that can still work fast and last a day without charging would be a piece of tech that changes a lot of things.

  5. I doubt Google will be cramming much processing into the glasses themselves, they’ll probably be Bluetooth linked to an Android device which does all the processing. The glasses themselves will probably be a microphone, one or two earpieces, the display and a battery. Plus a USB plus for charging and possibly a hardwired connection.

  6. I hate that video. It isn’t really Augmented reality either, well not like I want it. That was more a point and click type of interface. I want “Checker pattern recognized graphic inlays!”

    Books with animated pages, you could use any magazine or a piece of card board as your new Tablet, interactive 3D creatures (zombies, aliens ?¿) peeking around corners of my house, and me armed with a laser pistol. THEN you can add a traditional HUD.

    The phone in my pocket is the PC that talks to the Ordinary looking Glasses. The glasses have transparent OLED High Def screens, dual forward cameras, 2 way radio, and a Battery.

    Get your Audio from Ear buds connected to your Phone.

    The Real STAR of the show and something I can’t wait for are Innovega’s iOptik ™ contact Lens.
    These are Clear Polarized contact lenses that let you FOCUS on extremely close polarized Screens. It’s that simple folks… 240 inch screen 10 feet away ? , 120 deg FOV.

    The best video that describes it.!

    Now we need glasses made from transparent OLED HD Screens, (instant SUNglasses)A man can dream right….

  7. I think my favorite potential use for this technology would be automatic detection and translation of foreign languages. Walk up to a taco truck or look over a chinese vendor parts list, it’ll give you an English translation right before your eyes. Awesome.

  8. Never mind paying for the bandwidth. Where is all the actual physical RF bandwidth going to come from? Going to be an expensive pile of crap if one ends up seeing something like the YouTube buffering thingamajig all the time. Are those who wear prescription eyeglass going to be left out, or will they pay a premium to play? Sometime newborns will be fitted with hardware to start the shaping their growing sculls to accommodate wearing electronic devices.

    1. The Google prototype appears to literally be an android phone with a small projection rig (so,the glasses Brin is wearing may well be prescription, and these units cannot be expected to be any worse in terms of clogging up the airwaves than smartphones already are). It clearly is not a head mounted display proper, but is instead a heads-up display. This is safer (you cannot easily block vision — even the brightest projected image is translucent) but it’s more irritating (your display will be unreadable on sunny days).

      As for other units… I have a head mounted display produced in 2005 by iCuiti Inc., which has an adjustable lens assembly for simulating prescription lenses. It also has the capacity to fit over existing lenses, for people whose vision is significantly more damaged than that of the engineers designing the unit. That said, that rig is not an eyetap; I later modified it into an eyetap rig, which means that I can not only control the focal length through the adjustable lens assemblies, but also through the mounted camera and through video processing software.

  9. If current tech could build a consumer-accepted version of these, it already would have. Though current tech hints at this being entirely possible, in whatever variation – just give it time…

    1. “If current tech could build a consumer-accepted version of these, it already would have.”

      “everything that can be invented has been invented”

      You could have said the exact same thing before the mobile phone was introduced – and they were a hell of a lot less slick at first.

  10. Some remarks on the comments:
    First of all it’s only protection to one eye, that alleviates a lot of issues in keeping it aligned ans also avoid obscuring all of your vision, and secondly the co-founder of google was already spotted wearing a test versions, so all those saying ‘impossible’ are superseded by reality it seems.

  11. Regarding Google Glass: when they began the project, they brought in people from the MIT Media Labs augmented reality projects. I suspect that you can get a general idea of the tech used by looking at the work done there.

    I was a little worried during the first announcements that people would react to this the way they did to Buzz, on account of the work done by the MIT Media Lab on using subliminal messages as a key part of UI design on wearable computers. (The context was that of notifications: when notifications are given in contexts wherein the computer is not sure whether or not it would be safe to distract the user, the notifications are given in such a way as to be only subliminally perceived, with the assumption that the user will behave as though he or she remembered it on his/her own.) While I know (and anyone who has looked into the legitimate research in the field knows) that this is a reasonable and effective use of subliminal messages, and that other uses (like advertising) generally don’t work, the Unwashed Masses are divided generally into two groups on the matter of subliminal perception: the group who believes that subliminal influences do not and cannot work in any situation (usually the group who also believes there is no such thing as hypnosis and that psychiatrists don’t have medical degrees), and the group that believes that subliminal advertising works great and that all Ritz crackers say “sex” on them (and generally, also that the government chemtrails produced by black helicopters contain Tesla-designed transducers for amplifying Venusian mind control beams).

  12. Lol, I must have been that rock for the last week. While I find the concept of google goggles very exciting I really don’t see why everyone thinks the tech so so far away. I don’t think anything in that video would necessarily use any tech which does not already exist. Samsung had the see through LCD a while now:

    I’ve also seen what they can do with high refractive index plastics, big bottle bottom glasses at least as thin as my normal everyday specs.

    High bandwidth short distance wireless to a base station in your pocket (smart phone), couple of supercaps in the sides of the glasses augmented with solar for power.

    For my own part for control I would like some sort of unobtrusive pressure sensitive finger tip covers and have a chording keyboard you can type against anything and still have enough chords left to control the device. Or even use the index finger like a touchscreen on any surface.

  13. now if this projects an image onto ones eye, then by its nature it can only be additive, not subtractive. so the display couldnt show over something white for instance because it can’t add colour to white (though it could make do with higher intensity…) but black is out….unless you can cancel out the light going to the eye at that point (with say an equal amplitude opposite phase photon) but that would be VERY difficult.

  14. Why is everyone convinced by Sergey Brin wearing them in public? All we have to suggest that he wasn’t wearing a non-functional mockup is some blogger saying he just ‘knew’ that the glasses were real.

  15. Even if the video is not complete bollocks as regards the tech
    What I want to know is where is the car battery needed to run all this kit and
    do you really want a powered WIFI connection next to your head for 12 hours a day

  16. My life is nothing like that.

    I don’t see how any of this is better than just looking down at your cell phone every now and then.

    Maybe I’m just not hip or important enough. I don’t need to respond instantly to every call or text that comes my way. Actually, I tend to ignore 90% of them.

    I would like it for video games, though, if it had some sort of augmented reality instead of just being an always on phone screen display.

  17. I could have slept through the Tech Age. Nothing like a re-purposed HUD and NO anti-clutter switch. Nice job getting a consumer HUD several decades later and managing to actually REDUCE situational awareness.

  18. Does the “X” in Google X refer to Xybernaut? They, and others, advertised this pie-in-the-eye stock over a decade ago. Even still, obstacles remain with no solutions offered. It will be a success sometime, and maybe Google will achieve this nifty goal.

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