Google Glass out. Google Lens in.4/1/2016
Visit any major tech website this week, and there’s a good chance its top story has to do with virtual reality. Once a ’90s geek pipe, virtual reality seems to be ready for primetime in all avenues of home entertainment. Gaming, movies, concerts, sports, pornography — every type of media diversion you can imagine — is one or two years away from providing a fire hose of V.R. content. However, Google is secretly making a play at a different type of altered reality, and its headset can barely be identified by the naked eye.
For about five years now, the unfulfilled promise of Google Glass has been a rather annoying stick in the company’s innovative craw. Unlike the burgeoning V.R. field, Google Glass was all about A.R., or augmented reality. Whereas virtual reality transports you to another world via a headset that is nothing more than a blinder when powered down, augmented reality takes the world around us and adds a digital layer of information and content by way of a high-tech lens such as Google Glass.
Sadly, we all know what happened to Google Glass when it was ramping up marketing for consumer release. First it was called ugly, next it was labeled a massive privacy concern (how do you know “Glassholes” aren’t surreptitiously filming you?), and last, its use while driving or working was questioned legally. So with mix of technorati sorrow and Luddite celebration, in 2014 Google Glass’ wide release was shelved for product retooling.
Fast Forward to 2016 and Google Glass is back, having remedied a few major concerns while amping up its capabilities. The primary complaint against glass was its “Star Trek: the Original Series” style. Looking like a normal set of glasses with a 9-volt battery attached to the frame, only the biggest tech geeks in the world would consider wearing them. Well, Glass version 2 has completely removed that concern. In fact it is no longer a pair of glasses. Coming in November 2016, Google will officially release Google Lens to the A.R. market.
Nothing is sleeker in fashion than a contact lens, and that is exactly what Google has built — a supercomputer that sits virtually invisible on your eye. While Lens is roughly 1/20 the size of Glass, it has retained all of its tech features, offering pop-up display notifications, picture and video taking, gaming, social network updates, contact look up and messaging and real-time web search and information recall. On top of its technical features, its means of gathering power is even more astounding. By having immediate contact with the human eye, a micron-thick layer of fiber optics actually collects and repurposes body heat to power each lens.
Another innovation that has allowed Google Glass to reduce its facial footprint is employing second-generation NFC data transfer, or near-field communication. NFC has been used for years to transfer credit card data and newer communication features on smartphones. The latest advance in the technology allows Lens to broadcast real time data to and from a nearby web-enabled device. So without an onboard battery or storage system, Lens is the perfect system to engage with the digital world without creeping out your peers.
Of course, covert filming and general device use is a remaining fear with Lens. Hoping to assuage those concerns, Google has included a rather eerie feature. Now when Lens users record video, their contacts pulsate neon red, alerting bystanders that something unexpected is occurring. Undoubtedly this eerie feature won’t be enough for the future fearing crowd. But for the forthcoming, always-on generation, Lens is the perfect device. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media stalker. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.