Four ways augmented reality technology could change the way you work.
Google recently announced the ambitious Project Glass, which was met with a tepid response by bloggers and promptly panned in severalhilariousparodies. The project is an offshoot of the Google Goggles app, which uses augmented reality technology to show you a pop-up with information when you point your camera phone at an object, such as a book or even foreign currency.
Now, with Project Glass, Google is showing how this augmented reality might work using a sleek and stylish pair of glasses. A pop-up display shows you incoming messages, details about a nearby shop, and can even record video and hold a chat session with your spouse.
Most of the complaints have been about how the glasses would distract people into total absenteeism and could even be dangerous.
I'm undecided about whether pop-up displays like this will actually work. I've used the heads-up display in several recent cars, like the Buick Lucerne, which shows your current music track and speed in a floating display that hovers just above the hood. (I usually turn it off.) There's a hovering HUD on many sports cars as well.
Project Glass might be one of those technologies that we learn to accept. For many years, even though texting was widely available, the concept of sending short messages by phone did not catch on until several years later when it became a cultural norm (one that is now almost completely out of hand). Maybe we'll adjust to using augmented reality glasses.
To that end, here are four ways the augmented reality pop-up display could change how we work. In most cases, these ideas are already possible using existing technology and online storage, but to make these work we'd all need to use pop-up glasses at work.
1. Virtual meetings
I like the idea of virtual meetings. Since I tend to work alone, I can imagine walking into an empty conference room wearing the glasses and seeing a video projection of each virtual participant. I could record conversations, look up information, and even let everyone else know when I walk out of the room to grab a snack. I like how the glasses could become almost like a personal assistant that communicates with those around me automatically - say, sending my location. (I don't like how we'll all look like total nerds.)
2. Doc scanner
We still live in a paper-centric world - forms, contracts, manuals, and even memos are still widely circulated around most small offices. There's something about holding a piece of paper that adds credibility and credence, even if we all know the document exists online. The glasses could be used as an immediate scanner for any item we want to archive. This could include much more than documents. We could set the glasses to snap photos silently every few seconds - a kind of life repository device. Whether this leads to some insane privacy issues and folks running into each other constantly is TBD.
3. Fact checker
Augmented reality glasses could help me in my research. They could be like a real-time Wikipedia: When I speak, I could glance at a side display with information about the topic at hand. Say you are meeting with a client to talk about a new product. Maybe you would see a faint side display of the major bullet points about the project. Even better, if you say something that is slightly off, the glasses could show you a small note to add some clarification. Google will need to figure out how to avoid the trap of virtual reality, though. The glasses could work for quick glances for facts, but nothing too immersive.
4. Travel aid
The Project Glass video did a good job of showing how the glasses would work when someone is walking around a city. I can imagine how they would also help a business traveller. I'd love to have a pop-up display that guides me to my rental car or shows me a pop-up that my flight is delayed. Even better, I could hold ad hoc chat sessions with colleagues, even on a plane. When would this become really cool? Google Contacts.