Project Glass

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I want Project Glass to succeed. Because this is basically what I am looking for. A small screen for doing augmented reality and data display, mounted onto or embedded into my glasses. I want this for web browsing. I want this for writing code. For all the ambient data I use during the day. Weather, RSS feeds, calendars.

See the frame, with the screen on the side? That frame is gonna be an accessory for people who don’t wear glasses. Mark my words, you will be able to attach this to glasses you already own.

Will this be a standalone appliance? Probably. Based on the communication-centric nature of the video, my guess is that it’s a phone. But just like I can use my phone for 95% of what I want to do, so do I suspect I could with this. Including SSH/Remote Desktop.

I am not worried that Google is going to turn this into a walking billboard, and frankly I’m a little disappointed in the futurists and tech folk that are speaking about that as inevitable. It’s fine to talk about it – after all, it’s one of Google’s cash crops – but Android is no more an advertising mess than any other smartphone OS. Free iPhone apps (at least the ones I like) are full of ads. Pages in safari ask for my location all the time. But Android never had ads built into the notification. I wasn’t autosending texts telling my friends to buy a Nexus or anything. Heck, the iPhone’s default email signature is “Sent from my iPhone.” Elegant, but advertising nonetheless.

I do wonder what the data entry will look like. Maybe some eye-based control (although after writing that, I sort of doubt it), probably a few on-device hardware buttons, and almost certainly a Bluetooth keyboard (just because why wouldn’t you?). I know it’s a sign of crusty, maladjusted nerd to want a Twiddler (soon with Bluetooth!), but I do.

Sadly, I am cynical about what the current “alpha testing” actually looks like. I mean, true, Sergei himself was spotted wearing them in public. But who knows if it was an actual working version or not? My guess is that the current state of it is something woefully unsexy, like an emulator on a phone or a pair of Vuzix glasses connected to a webcam and a computer. Which makes me kind of sad – I was never buying the idea that these would go on sale in 2012, no matter how wide I open my wallet. But I am so. tired. of not being able to buy these awesome concepts.

I mean, I understand that hype is important. But it sometimes feels like designers are operating in a different dimension, content to see an object as “created” as soon as it’s featured on Yanko. Bruce Sterling calls it “design fiction.” And it’s awesome and terrible all at once. It shows us how awesome the world could become while reminding us how our current experiences are still lacking. Which is the nerd’s lot in life.

I doubt even Gruber would say that the iPhone is the best it will ever be. Apple’s gonna keep innovating, sculpting it, molding the experience. And when I’m 50, I’m going to look back at smartphones and laugh, the way I laugh now when I think about the Atari 800 I had when I was 7.

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi project is really interesting. It’s an attempt to make a low-cost, (mostly) fully-featured ARM box in a format roughly the size of an Arduino. The computer itself has some impressive specs:

  • 700 MHz ARM processor
  • 128 MB RAM
  • SD card reader
  • 2 USB ports
  • HDMI out
All this for $25 (another $10 doubles the RAM and adds an Ethernet port)! Here’s a video of the Raspberry Pi playing Quake 3:

I could see a device similar to this being used as a “clean computer,” deployed in situations where security is important and there is a risk of existing computer systems being compromised (such as voting, or maybe for test-taking, or computer forensics?). In addition, I would absolutely love to take one of these around with me to use as a swiss army knife (server, router, streaming radio, office, etc.) once it’s got a nice case. Perhaps 3D-printed for a buck?

The other thing that interests me about these computers is their low power consumption. They use less than a watt of power, and while they’re currently limited to an AC adapter (included with the device, I believe), I’m sure that in no time people will make battery packs for them. Include a wireless USB dongle, a Twiddler (currently USB, hopefully soon a Bluetooth version will come out), and some kind of display, and you’re looking at a wearable computer that might actually be wearable.

I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

Thad Starner is one of the patron saints of the wearable computing movement. He uses a display that mounts onto his glasses and a Twiddler to operate a box running Linux. Check out the videos to see what he looks like from the outside, and what he’s seeing.

While I would personally prefer a solution slightly less intrusive (there’s got to be a better display available, and Mr. Starner carries a messenger bag full of batteries for his computer), I would love to see this sort of thing take off. I don’t see why a display embedded into my glasses couldn’t connect wirelessly to my smartphone, which is in turn connected to a Bluetooth Twiddler.

From the outside, it’s a guy playing with a small device. From the inside, it’s everything I need.