Move over Google Glass, Google contact lenses are the hot new technology in town.
It is hard to believe it has been almost two years since Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin stunned the world with his “smart glasses,” later dubbed Google Glass.
While Google isn’t the only company venturing into wearable technology with things like smart watches and glasses, Sergey Brin’s Google X division seems to be diving headfirst into the market.
Google contact lenses and Google Glass fall into a category of technology called “augmented reality.” Instead of learning about the world on your smartphone or computer, you simply view the world through your eyes and the device is meant to augment what you’re able to see.
The promise of augmented reality devices like Google contact lenses is that users experience everything the internet can show them about the environment they’re in, without the drawback of having to remove your gaze from it.
Rather than looking up a restaurant on your smartphone’s Yelp (NYSE: YELP) app, a Google Glass user could someday gaze down the street and literally see ratings and reviews for each restaurant around them.
Google Glass is just Step 1
Augmented reality is meant to make using technology seamless. Google Glass is just the first step in Sergey Brin’s quest for this seamless experience with technology.
If you go to the Google Glass website you’ll see it marketed to golfers looking to enhance their game, chefs looking to keep their hands free, athletes looking for real time performance data, and even to smokejumpers fighting wildfires.
Some police departments are experimenting with Google Glass and other wearable devices. And while some privacy advocates worry, some civil rights groups hail this as a way to ensure fair treatment for all citizens.
But Google Glass is not without its critics or drawbacks.
Just this week, a Google Glass user was able to beat a traffic ticket issued by the California Highway Patrol for using electronic equipment while driving. The patrolman pulled the driver over after noticing that she was wearing her Google Glass. The driver insisted the device was not on and, because the patrolman was unable to prove otherwise, the case was dismissed.
Also this week, federal agents questioned a moviegoer wearing Google Glass at a showing of the new movie, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” After theater employees noticed the man wearing a “recording device,” they notified federal agents who accused him of recording the movie. While the man was released without charges, it is no secret that Google Glass users stick out like a sore thumb.
I personally experienced this during a recent visit to San Francisco. No matter where you were or how crowded the room, Google Glass users were easy to spot. Considering how many situations we encounter when recording or the use of electronics is forbidden, this can lead to serious issues.
Don’t get me started on Google Glass in locker rooms and public restrooms…
Step 2: Enter Google Contact Lenses
Google contact lenses are a smart contact lens meant to help those suffering from diabetes.
With two tiny sensors that measure glucose levels from tear fluid on the surface of the eyeball, these smart contact lenses can take a reading every second and deliver it wirelessly and securely to a handheld monitor.
If you have diabetes – or know someone who does – you know that this kind of effortless and real time monitoring can make everyday life significantly easier and can literally save lives.
But the potential of Google contact lenses goes far beyond this very specific application.
The same ‘radio frequency identification device’ – or RFID – technology that powers the glucose-sensing contact could also power a contact lens with the same capabilities as Google Glass or a smartphone.
While this technology isn’t currently available (at least publicly), it doesn’t require a huge leap of the imagination to assume Google is working on it right now.
Step 3: After Google Contact Lenses: Implants
The next step in augmented reality and wearable technology comes straight out of a science-fiction book. But, in all seriousness, it probably isn’t too far away.
Rumors of ‘smart tattoos’ and implantable chips have circulated for years and it finally seems that a mainstream company like Google is using the nanotechnology that would precede such advances.
Imagine wearing Google contact lenses that displayed a screen like a video game’s heads-up-display and was powered by a chip implanted near your brain. Why type when you can think your way through a text message or e-mail?
Of course, we’re nowhere near understanding the ethical or social implications of such an advance. Fortunately, this technology is still just a speck on the horizon of technological breakthroughs.
Even the Google contact lenses, in their current form as a diabetes-monitoring tool, are expected to be about five years away from sale to the general public.
It’s a brave new world of augmented reality devices. And Google contact lenses are the next major stop along the way.
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