The big news out of Google's I/O conference in San Francisco was, of course, the $199 Nexus 7 Tablet. We all knew it was coming, though. For me, the real surprise was Project Glass. We'd heard about Google's computer-infused glasses already, too. Google co-founder Sergey Brin had even been spotted wearing a pair at dinner. However, we'd never seen them quite like this:
That's really just a teaser. The Google keynote that showed off the glasses was even more impressive. (CNet TV has the video footage if you want to watch it for yourself.) A pair of the glasses were delivered to Brin by a relay of Red Bull-worthy stunts, starting with a skydive onto the roof of the Moscone Center where I/O was held. A team of mountain bikers took over from there, kicking out a few tricks before the glasses were rappelled down the side of the building. Next, a final ride onto the main stage.
The entire trip was streamed live from Project Glass units worn by the extreme delivery team.
Dude, that is so awesome.
And it got better. Although the final Google Glass product won't be on the market until 2014, attendees of the conference were given the opportunity to get in on the action early. For $1,500, they can order a pair of "Explorer Edition" specs for delivery early next year. Brin told Bloomberg that Google has received a lot of input on Glass already, and that it wants to bring others into the project's development. He wants to "make science fiction real," and there's apparently been plenty of interest. Brin noted that Google may run out of the swanky packages it put together for those taking advantage of the Explorer offer.
No wonder. Google Glass may be hugely geeky and perhaps even mildly contraceptive, but it's the most convincing wearable computer I've seen. The reality isn't far removed from science fiction. Sooner or later, we're going to be cyborgs.
To be fair, Google's Glasses won't shoot laser beams, see through walls, or allow us to leap over tall buildings. They will jack us into the Internet, though, and it's that infusion of information that bestows superhuman powers.
We're pretty much there already. Quick, grab your smartphone. Bet that didn't take long. If you weren't sitting on the thing, it was probably within arm's reach. Odds are that pocket-sized piece of technology has barely left your side since it woke you up this morning. It's your link to The Matrix—a conduit to your digital life, the people in it, and the ever-expanding wealth of information available online.
Smartphones are increasingly taking in information from our surroundings, too. Regrettable Facebook snapshots are captured on wild nights out. QR readers decode URLs from digital hieroglyps. Devices talk to each other via NFC transmissions. Foreign languages are translated from pictures alone. We speak questions to Siri, sometimes even getting the right answer. And, most appropriately for Glass, real-time camera streams feed applications that augment our reality.
Pocketable computers are becoming smarter about anticipating our needs, too. The freshly announced Google Now promises to check traffic reports and prepare an alternate route automatically when it knows you're heading out for the morning commute. Imagine what would be possible with the feed from a camera mounted on the auxiliary brain resting on the bridge of your nose.
<Simpsons comic book guy voice>Um, excuse me, we're still a ways off from being true cyborgs. Nothing remotely resembling a smartphone is going to be integrated into our biology anytime soon.</lisp> True, but we're better off for it. We can switch between multiple augmenting devices with ease; who wants to go under the knife for a hardware upgrade?
More importantly, we can turn our devices off, leave them in the next room, or otherwise separate ourselves when we choose. We control when, where, and how we immerse ourselves in the spoils of our growing virtual world. At the very least, we're becoming virtual cyborgs.
Some of us are better at cutting the cord than others. A stubborn few seem to find it difficult to put their devices into silent mode, let alone sever their connection to the Borg collective. Those folks are probably going to both love Google Glass and lament the fact that the battery likely won't last through an entire day of lifestreaming. I dread the wave of narcissistic over-sharing to come.
Even so, I can't help but be excited by Google Glass. While I can't see myself wearing a pair of computerized glasses regularly, I can already envision a few neat applications. The fact that Google is engaging with interested developers so early makes me even more intrigued by the project's potential.
Pocketable computers are commonplace now. Wearable ones are the next step in our cyborg evolution, bringing us ever deeper into the increasingly real world of science fiction. Now, where's my flying car?