Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Coming up: Eye glasses linked to Internet for clearer browsing

PHOTO | FILE A hawker displays his merchandise.

PHOTO | FILE A hawker displays his merchandise. Goggles with the ability to connect to the Internet could just be the next hot thing if efforts by tech giants bear fruit.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ESMOND SHAHONYA shahonya76@gmail.com

One of the latest technologies exhibited by Google involves the use of augmented reality to place data and pictures in front of a user’s eyes using wearable glasses. In essence, this is a step into futuristic wearable technology aimed at bringing most of the content from mobile devices and computers right into the user’s field of vision. The principle sounds like sci-fi, but is now a reality with Google Glass.

Google’s Internet-connected glasses are a pointer to a future in mobile computing where smart wearable technology might be a trend that will complement ubiquitous smartphones. In this eyewear technology, Google is joined by several other tech firms.

Recon Instruments has a gadget similar to Google Glass called Jet Headset, which features a pair of spectacles that augment a small monitor in the user’s field of vision. The eyewear runs on Android 4.2 OS and has all the features of a smartphone.

Telepathy One brand of glasses from Japan is also similar to Google Glass. The Internet-linked glasses are equipped with communication functions, an on-board camera, and a duo core processor.

This eyewear creates a virtual five-inch display with video and computer content right in front of your eyes. The wireless gadget tethers to your smartphone for extra access to multimedia content.

The list of companies and start-ups experimenting with this technology is growing longer with time. Camera company, Olympus, is working on augmented reality glasses called MEG4.0 which work like Google Glass. There is also a strong contender in this field called Vuzix Company with its M 100 Glasses.

Vuzix’s product has a built-in HD camera and runs apps for texting, video, email, and multimedia content. It can also be tethered wirelessly to an Android or iOS mobile gadget.

The race in high-tech gear is taking shape as firms experiment with both eyewear and wristwear.

In the case of wristwear, companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple have exhibited plans of unleashing smart watches into the market.

Behind the eyewear

Essentially, the augmented reality glasses are an attempt to put computing power in eyewear so that these gadgets can perch a display in the user’s field of vision while performing a wide range of mobile computing functions.

The “heads-up display” of the glasses is designed not to obstruct normal vision. For Google Glass, the display resolution is 640 x 480, which is similar to a 25-inch HD screen viewed from eight feet away.

A closer look at Google’s high-tech spectacles reveals a device that combines the computing power of a smartphone with marvels of display associated with augmented reality techniques. The glasses take pictures and video, search the Web, run apps, and perform video chat.

Overlaying data into a user’s vision is yet to gather substantial momentum among consumers despite the race in this field, as noticed from tech firms’ experiments. The benefits are crystal clear, though. For instance, photography with such glasses is easy from a first person perspective. There is also ease of controlling data and content when we consider the current prototypes available on the market.

When the gadgets are synched with other mobile devices like phones, they ease the urge of frequently checking your device for notifications, messages, and other communication-related data. Google Glass has the MyGlass app, which pairs the eyewear with an Android phone.

Ultimately, it seems technology is bringing much of computing and communication closer to the eye.

Like any new technology, there is a flip side with this innovation. The augmented reality eyewear is still in the early stages of development with some teething problems quite visible in terms of privacy and medical issues.

In some instances, the glasses can be a tool for breaching human privacy. In a bid to defend its product as regards privacy drawbacks, Google has announced that it will not allow facial recognition technology on the gadgets.

However, privacy fears loom large as the device prepare to go mainstream. The built-in camera can sneakily take photos and videos.

The writer is an ICT analyst and a telecommunication engineer