Smart glasses next big thing

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:30 19/03/2013

While existing technology continues to advance in incremental - boring - steps, the next wave is on its way, promising to turn us all into friendlier, more-adventurous versions of the Terminator.

I welcome our new google overlords. Technology has started to bore me. Everything is getting a little too predictable.

For example, Google recently unveiled its new "Chromebook", its name for a laptop which, instead of running an operating system like Windows, Linux, or OS X, runs only its browser Chrome.

Their rationale for the device is that an increasing number of us only use a browser anyway - we listen to our music in YouTube, Pandora or Rdio, we do our word processing in Google Documents, and we send our email in Gmail.

Notice the use of Google products in that previous sentence - this is the reason the company wants us using Chromebooks.

The more time we spend searching or using Google products like Gmail, the more money the company can make from selling ads.

This new model is called the Chromebook Pixel, so-named due to its ridiculously high-resolution screen, similar to Apple's Retina MacBooks.

This screen is also a touch-screen, meaning as well as navigating using the keyboard and touchpad, you can tap on the screen.

By all accounts the laptop is gorgeous, sleek and speedy, but most reviews have come with the advice not to buy it. That's because the price for the laptop is ridiculously high - more than $1500 - a huge cost for a device that can only run a web browser.

If you need to open Photoshop to quickly crop a photo - too bad.

But, the tech press has also been quick to point out that such a device is an inevitable evolution for the laptop sector.

Eventually we'll be able to run the equivalent of Photo shop in a web browser, and proper computers with heavy operating systems will be too much grunt for the average person.

They're probably right. But the word evolution is important here - I do not expect such advances to truly revolutionise laptop or desktop computers. That sector is essentially done, as far as I can tell.

Smart phones, too, are hardly improving in leaps and bounds. I read a story the other day which suggested a bigger battery would be a revolutionary advance. Thrilling.

Perhaps gestural control, using devices like Microsoft's Kinect or Leap Motion's controller to make moves in space, with your computer interpreting those gestures on-screen, will take traditional computing to the next level.

Yes, I think the next big thing will come from somewhere else. But perhaps not from that far away.

A few weeks ago the company released the latest advertisement for its next big project, Google Glass.

These are a set of smart glasses that include a camera, a microphone, and a small screen which sits on the top-right corner of your vision.

Wearing them basically endows you with Terminator-vision, a prospect which will cause any male who was a child when those films were released to wet themselves. To operate them, you say "OK Glass", then ask it to do something, in a similar manner to using a voice-activated app like Siri.

The video shows people using the devices to: record a video in a hot-air balloon, dictate a text message before they begin their ballet show, start a "Google Hangout" while flying a plane, display photos of tiger heads as a reference for carving a block of ice, take a picture of a girl standing inside a massive bubble, record more video while twirling a girl, video-chat while holding a snake, record a video on a rollercoaster, use Google Maps while driving and skiing (not at the same time), checking their flight details while running late at an airport, video-chatting while at a birthday party, googling how to pronounce "delicious" in Thai, and google "jellyfish" while looking at, well, a jellyfish.

So if it is a Terminator, it is a friendly, adventurous Terminator.

Seeing the video for the glasses, and reading the accompanying reviews and commentary, I'm struck with how huge this new device could be.

Just as smart phones, tablets, and modern computing devices are essentially magic wands compared to what existed even a decade ago, these new wearable computers will leave this generation in the dust.

Imagine running into someone and having your Google Glass pop up and helpfully remind you of their name.

Or being able to run a cooking tutorial while cooking, without having to thumb through a recipe book or dirty your tablet's screen swiping to the next step.

I want to be able to tap a tricky word in the book I'm reading with my pen and have my glasses come up with a definition on the screen.

Or being able to identify the biker whose clothes, boots and motorcycle are the correct size for you. Hasta la vista, baby.

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