Augmented Reality Glasses

Google and Oakley are currently going head to head in the race to develop Augmented Reality glasses. The technology is relatively new, and one beloved of video game and sci fi writers – see Mass Effect’s weapons aim visors, Firefly’s medical interfaces and author William Gibson’s ‘geo-hacking’ concept. The idea is, rather than full virtual reality, the system would superimpose graphics and audio onto real world objects – for example projecting a keypad onto your hand, or creating overlays from satellite information and geo-location, which could be invaluable to the military. Artists like Mariko Mori have also included the tech in their installation art.

Project Glass & Privacy

Project Glass is attempting to create a lightweight, attractive, head mounted augmented reality system, for fun and practical applications. Sergey Brin piloted a prototype at a Foundation Fighting Blindness charity event, drawing mass interest from the technical press. Google say they want the system to be compatible with prescription glasses, making it accessible to everyone.

The invention has the power to transform what we know about freedom of information and privacy, as well as opening up dangerous issues, such as those raised by ‘Girls Around Me’. This is an infamous app that amounts to superbly efficient stalking – seriously dangerous for women targeted by sexual predators or trying to evade domestic abusers and at best, a degrading and humiliating invasion of privacy. Some are also concerned that being able to view someone and instantly ‘see’ their online profiles, could be disconcerting and unpleasant.

Oakley AR & Sports Ethics

The more fashionable (and arguably more ethical) sunglasses manufacturer Oakley has been working on its own augmented reality glasses since 1997. As usual, they plan to target the sports market first, perhaps aiming the product at high level athletes before it is refined enough to allow for mass production, and have also discussed projects for the American military. Oakley have previously created sunglasses incorporating an MP3 player, which have been a qualified success, but the tech involved in augmented reality is so high that this may be a long term project.

Handheld GPS (a very basic form of augmented reality) was a huge deal in golf before becoming widely accepted – would this new technological marvel also be banned and scoffed at by this fun yet conservative sport? Yet older courses were notably reticent about allowing GPS devices of any kind to be used – giving an unfair advantage to golfers who could afford the top caddies. Both companies are being quiet about planned release dates, but the fact that this is in the works at all is very exciting.

Guest post by techno geek and Oakleyenthusiast Helen Gallagher.

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