NEW YORK — If you think texting while walking is dangerous, just wait until everyone starts wearing Google’s futuristic, Internet-connected glasses.
Directions to your destination appear literally before your eyes. You can talk to friends over video chat, take a photo or even buy a few things online as you walk around.
These glasses can do anything a smartphone or tablet computer does now – and then some.
Google gave a glimpse of “Project Glass” in a video and blog post this week. Still in an early prototype stage, the glasses open up endless possibilities – as well as challenges to safety, privacy and fashion sensibility.
If it takes off, it could bring reality another step closer to science fiction, where the line between human and machine blurs.
“My son is 4 years old and this is going to be his generation’s reality,” said Guy Bailey, who works as a social media supervisor for Kennesaw State University outside Atlanta. He expects it might even be followed by body implants, so that in 10 years or so you’ll be able to get such a “heads-up” display inside your head.
At its best, the goal is to make your life easier by putting the tools now at your fingertips in front of your eyes.
“There is a lot of data about the world that would be great if more people had access to as they are walking down the street,” said Jason Tester, research director at the nonprofit Institute For the Future in Palo Alto, California.
That said, “once that information is not only at our fingertips but literally in our field of view, it may become too much.”
Still, it doesn’t take much to imagine the possibilities. What if you could instantly see the Facebook profile of the person sitting next to you on the bus? Read the ingredient list and calorie count of a sandwich by looking at it? Snap a photo with a blink? Look through your wall to find out where electrical leads are, so you know where to drill?
“Not paint your house, because the people who looked at your house could see whatever color they wanted it in?” pondered veteran technology analyst Rob Enderle.
In Google’s video, a man wearing the spectacles is shown getting subway information, arranging to meet a friend for coffee and navigating the inside of a bookstore, all with the help of the glasses. It ends with playing the ukulele for a woman and showing her the sunset through a video chat.
Google posted the video and short blog post about Project Glass on Wednesday, asking people to offer feedback through its Google Plus social network.
By Thursday, about 500 people did, voicing a mix of amazement and concern about the new technology. What if people used it in cars and got distracted? What about the effect on your vision of having a screen so close to your eye?
Some asked for prototypes, but Google isn’t giving those out just yet. The company didn’t say when regular people can expect to get their hands on a piece of Project Glass, but going by how quickly Google tends to come out with new products, it may not be long.
Enderle estimates it could be about six months to a year before broader tests are coming, and a year or more for the first version of the product.