You're in a new city, and, through a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, you view data overlaid onto your view of buildings, streets, fellow travelers, and more. This vision of a Terminator-like accessory is looking more likely, following new reports that such a device will be released by the end of this year by -- who else? -- Google.
According to a report in Tuesday's New York Times and elsewhere, the Android-based device will have a front-facing low-resolution camera, a small screen placed a few inches in front of someone's eye, a 3G or 4G data connection, flash for illumination, an ability to take photos, and a variety of sensors, including GPS and motion detection. The device is expected to sell for a price equivalent to unsubsidized smartphones -- $250 to $600.
This heads-up display, or HUD, takes place over only one eye. There have been reports that the display could be transparent with overlay, while others state the display is not transparent, although the other eyepiece is. There is reportedly a unique gestural navigation, where the user's head motions control scrolling and clicking.
Some rumors have indicated the device is an Android-based peripheral to an Android phone, while others have suggested it talks directly with Google's through IP. The displayed information will be location-based, and will pull from Google Maps, Google Latitude for location sharing, and Google Goggles for searching images. The kind of information displayed will be governed by the user's preferences, location and Google's available data.
The glasses are expected to have some degree of voice recognition and generated speech response, and the device might also be able to function as a smartphone.
Augmented reality, or AR, glasses have long been a staple of science fiction. With early adopters looking for the Next Big Thing in devices and with a deluge of available location-based data, there have been various reports of comparable devices being developed by other companies, such as the Golden Eye head-mounted prototype PC from Motorola. Apple, the M.I.T. Media Lab, and others have been exploring wearable computers for some time.
According to the reports, Google is not expecting the glasses will be worn constantly, except by Terminator wannabees, but instead used occasionally, as are smartphones.
The glasses are a project of Google's secretive Google X labs, and the company is expected to release them as an experiment-in-progress, to assess reaction, rather than as a product line or vehicle for a new stream of Google data offerings. Co-founder Sergey Brin is said to be involved as a project leader.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said the Google AR glasses were "absolutely" a solution in search of a problem. He added that it wasn't clear yet what the value proposition of such a device might be for the average consumer or business user.
Nevertheless, Greengart said he "definitely want one."