Report: Google Plans To Release Terminator-Style "Heads-Up Display Glasses"

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 22 2012 11:35 AM

Report: Google Plans To Release Terminator-Style "Heads-Up Display Glasses"

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Google's going into the eyewear business.

Photo illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Glasses are about to get even nerdier.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

The New York Times’ Nick Bilton reports that Google is preparing to take its long-rumored augmented-reality glasses to market by the end of the year. The product—known as “heads-up display glasses”—would allow users to get extra information about their surroundings, like, say, reviews of a restaurant. “The people familiar with the Google glasses said they would be Android-based, and will include a small screen that will sit a few inches from someone’s eye. They will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS,” Bilton reports. The screen will appear on only one eye. The plan is to price the glasses about the cost of a smartphone, roughly $250 to $600, and like a smartphone, they will be intended for occasional use, not all-day wear.

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9to5 Google blogger Seth Weintraub, who has been following the story of the “Terminator glasses” for a couple of months, cites sources that claim they will look something like Oakley Thumps. He also reports that users will be able to navigate by a tilt or shake of the head. Remember when Bluetooth headsets first came out, and people on the streets were alarmed by the spate of early adapters seemingly talking to themselves? These twitchy heads will certainly raise eyebrows among the uninitiated.

The display glasses are the work of GoogleX, a special lab that pursues far-out projects—a bit like a commercial DARPA. Motorola and Apple are both examining the wearable computing business, too, as Weintraub and Bilton note. There could be serious privacy concerns with the HUD glasses, and Bilton says that the GoogleX is taking the potential problem very seriously. On Extreme Tech, Sebastian Anthony explores the privacy repercussions of

a wearable computer that a) knows where you are, and b) what you’re looking at. … The phrase “tracking cookie” takes on a whole new meaning when Google also correlates your real-world activities with your online presence. Remember, Google is ultimately an advertising company, where eyeballs directly translate into money — and it’s hard to get any closer to your eyes than a pair of augmented reality glasses. When you look at a car dealership, Google will be able to display ads from a competitor. When you sit in front of a computer, or TV, or stare through a shop window, the glasses will be able to track your head movements and report back on the efficacy of display ads. Perhaps most excitingly, when you read a newspaper or book or other static medium, Google could even overlay its own, interactive ads.

“Exciting” is one way to put it. “Creepy” is another.

Long ago, in 2009, Slate V made a parody video of Twitter that now seems slightly prescient. The fictional “nanoblogging” service Flutter limited users to just 26 characters and offered eyeglasses, called FlutterEyes, that included a constant scroll of status updates.

Read more on the New York Times.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.