Google developing Android-based glasses with heads-up display

The diversity of hardware powered by Android is continuing to grow, with no signs of slowing down. Having started off as a smartphone OS, Android now finds itself used on tablets, netbooks/notebooks, e-readers, media players, in-car computing systems and even – as Google’s Eric Schmidt reminded the world just a few weeks ago at CES – in refrigerators.

A new form factor will soon join the Android family, according to Google employees who spoke with The New York Times this week; they revealed that Google is developing a pair of glasses, powered by Android, and with an integrated heads-up display that allows the user to view the interface and browse content, hands-free.


Spy-wear: the new Google glasses reportedly look like Oakley Thumps

The glasses reportedly have their own 3G or 4G data connection, along with GPS and motion sensors, while the user is able to view a small display that sits within one of the lenses. To navigate around the menu system, a unique method is used that involves tilting one’s head to scroll and click; it sounds fairly ghastly, and somewhat conspicuous in public places, but it is apparently easy to pick up, and “becomes second nature and almost indistinguishable to outside users”.

The device will be tightly integrated with Google services, such as Maps, Goggles and Latitude, and will be heavily cloud-dependent, with sensor data being constantly shared with the servers, while Google constantly feeds back relevant and useful data to the glasses.

The new glasses will also include an integrated low-resolution camera, allowing the device to overlay local information (and presumably ads) onto the real world, as seen through the glasses. Google is reported to be very sensitive to the privacy issues surrounding the built-in camera, and is considering the best way to ensure that the privacy of others is not violated by the wearer of the glasses.

Google is said to be very serious about putting these puppies on sale. Although the project is being developed by the company’s blue-sky ‘Google X’ product lab – which is also working on far-reaching projects such as space elevators and plates that can update Facebook with what you’re eating – Google is reportedly determined to launch the new glasses commercially this year.

While the glasses are expected to cost up to $600 when they go on sale – “around the price of current smartphones”, in the words of the Google sources – the company apparently isn’t all that fussed about making a profit; the project is described as an experiment that will be open to anyone, and that Google will only consider the commercialisation aspects based upon how the glasses work in the real world.

So is this an exciting prospect to be celebrated? Or is this a form factor too far? Should Google at least be congratulated for trying something a bit different? Let us know your thoughts below.  

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