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Google reveals Project Glass: video preview of augmented reality sunglasses

Wearable heads-up display glasses could be how we navigate in the future

Google X labs today released a video demonstration and photographs of Project Glass, an experimental development that aims to integrate online services with wearable sunglasses.

The video shows what life may be like for a person living in New York wearing a pair of the glasses. As the person walks around the city they send and receive messages (using Siri-like voice technology), use Google Maps to find directions, and take notes.

Icons and notifications flash into the wearer's field of vision, and all the time without having to reach for a mobile device.

Google portrays the glasses as a white band that clips over the top of the eye, although this is sure to be a mock-up rather than any form of device prototype (which - if it does exist - we imagine is rather bulkier and less visually attractive).

Although the technology seems somewhat futuristic, it isn't beyond the realms of possibility. Augemented reality apps first started appearing in 2009. Apps like Heads-Up Navigator and SunSeaker currently provide this sort of functionality using an iPhone's camera and display, although having to hold your phone in front of you limits the fun somewhat.

And apps like Word Lens (which translates text in front of you in real-time) show how genuinely powerful this sort of technology can be.

Ever since augmented reality apps arrived on mobile devices there has been rumour and speculation as to how long somebody would take before making a pair of glasses using this type of feature. Google has been rumoured to working on this technology for a while now.

Whether people will embrace en-masse a Terminator-style life where their field of vision is interrupted by icons, messages, and maps is another matter. It may be that this technology (no matter how impressive) goes the way of Virtual Reality, and is rejected; or becomes like Bluetooth headsets (used by some people but disliked as cumbersome and unnecessary by many).

There's also a big difference between imagining a world with a video demonstration, and building a product that people will actually buy. We note that Apple (which is almost certainly at least testing out a similar idea in its labs) doesn't show off imaginary ideas but builds physical products.

Either way it's an interesting (if slightly disconcerting) look at the future.

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