So it’s a big tech show-annouce-press-everything-thing right now. Just past? CES maybe? MWC? I don’t actually know. Stuff’s going on, things have been announced, some of them look shiny.
Some of those things don’t look shiny.
One of the not shiny-things that big company extraordinare Sony announced is their Google Glass-alike augmented reality glasses thing. It’s $840 US dollars. You can look at a video about it and everything, and really, this can only be seen to be believed. Giant, bulky frames complemented by a giant, bulky hockey puck prominently clipped to your jacket.
In spite of that, I’d still wear and use them if they were any good. Augmented reality is cool, it’s the future, it’s things that I want to see come about in real life. I want my heads-up goggles that integrate the Internet, providing useful passive information about the real spaces that I’m in.
What I don’t want is to have notifications popping up before my eyes, because there’s no integration of the virtual with the physical. I don’t want to try to reply to a text message with dodgy voice detection or terrible in-my-glasses UI.
Directions being overlaid on the world would be useful, but Google Glass got there years ago.
What Would Be Cool
If you watch the video, the puck-glasses have to be paired with your phone, so they’re obviously being treated as an extension of the phone. Why not take advantage of that?
Say, when the user looks at their phone their glasses could detect and turn the phone on, or maybe draw a simple UI over of the phone with the current notifications. A phone placed on a flat surface and turned on, could be used to project a larger display across that surface.
Imagine, placing your phone on a surface and the phone becomes the surface, but just for you! Adding a second camera for binocular vision and you could easily provide Kinect-style depth mapping, letting the user drag elements around or type on a virtual keyboard. This would be the promise of the Ubuntu Edge without the necessity of a full HDMI monitor, keyboard and mouse to dock with. Any surface could become a simple, usable computer system.
If the company wasn’t privacy-invadingly malicious or in a malicious legal environment, another useful overlay would be letting users have a pop-up beside their head with a small blurb about who they are. Add a name! Or don’t! By having the device itself advertise who is the owner, we avoid the considerable unpleasantness around early versions of such technologies requiring constantly-active facial recognition technology.
What Isn’t Cool
This device is a Pebble, only strapped to your face. It doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to what we already have, and doesn’t make use of any of the powers that augmented reality or the powerful pocket computers can provide.
Ugliness can be forgiven for magical, and from the video Sony’s glasses aren’t magical. There’s no there there, just a scrolling banner of text remaining divorced from the contextual world.