Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 22, 2013

How Lasers will Allow Interaction with Google Glass

Easily one of the biggest developments in wearable technology, and probably one of the biggest overall, is Google Glass, that ultra-portable set of glasses that allows for a wide variety of functions through a combination of augmented reality and smartphone connectivity. But how is a user supposed to actually tell Google Glass to do something? It's not as though there's a keyboard hooked to the whole thing, and interfacing with a smartphone could get cumbersome. A new patent has recently emerged that may provide the necessary control scheme, and it can be reduced to one word: lasers.

The patent in question discusses a set of projectors and cameras working together in a larger overall system that's still sufficiently small to be mounted onto a set of glasses. Dubbed "Methods and Systems for a Virtual Input Device," the projector and camera system in question actually allows for a keyboard to be projected outward from the glasses, where the user can then interact with the keyboard, and the camera records what interactions the user has with the projected keyboard. From there, the recorded interactions are translated into instructions for the device to follow.

The size of the projected keyboard measures 295mm by 95mm--approximately 11.6 inches by 3.74 inches--so while it's no full ergonomic keyboard, it should at least prove accessible enough for short commands. There are also plans to expand the keyboard out from there as needed via the use of hand gestures, like tilt and rotation, which correspond to certain commands.

It's clear that Google's X Lab is taking this whole thing very seriously, which points to a likely future release of Google Glass at some point as opposed to just being some kind of "sizzle reel" project to get Google face time throughout the blogosphere. But it's still unclear as to just what these glasses will actually do, and recent word from the head of the Google Glass project, Babak Parviz, said that the features involved with Google Glass are still very much "in flux."

At this stage of the game, Google Glass is still very much about possibilities rather than actual uses. But the more that's found out about this system, the more likely it is that they'll bring out something that's too impressive to ignore. The idea of a wearable Maps system, for example, is a great one indeed, and if augmented reality is incorporated it could be the king of devices for tourists and similar light-grade adventurers everywhere. Many of these possibilities, however, can already be done on a smartphone, so where's the impetus to get hands on a piece of Google Glass when the smartphone's already doing the job?

Google's going to need to put a little more heat into this project and get it past the "gee whiz" factor if they want to make it a real contender in the heavily saturated mobile device market.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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