Google Has a 'Killer App' Waiting in the Wings
Google employees received some form of demo in conjunction with this video.
The potential uses for augmented-reality eyeglasses are almost endless. Some of them are depicted in the video, and they are all praiseworthy. One can assume that our military already is using glasses with some of these capabilities, presumably at an astronomical cost that is still well worth it.
That said, I believe there will be a killer app that lifts these glasses to must-have prominence.
The key will be people. Things are just that: things. In contrast, for most people, there is nothing as interesting as ... other people. Ultimately, it is people who make and lose money, people who are heroes or villains, and people who are either bystanders or prime movers in advancing humanity. People are nosier about other people than they are about things.
A person's ID contains a treasure trove of useful information when connected to the relevant databases, and the first link to those databases often occurs through a Google search. Every time we see a person, the amount of obtainable data is enormous. This works well if we already know how to ID this person. Everyone can do some decent research if simply given a little bit of time in front of a computer of some sort.
The problem is that in the real world we meet new people all the time, but we don't have time to research them before we need to decide how, if at all, we should spend time with them.
Whether in business or social situations, it happens to people almost every day. It might be someone trying to sell you something or someone you meet in a bar. You will want to know what this person's business reputation is, or whether this person has spent time behind bars for doing something creepy.
When you don't have a person's name, the key to identifying them becomes becomes facial recognition. We all know how facial recognition works at Web sites such as Picasa and Facebook.
Every day, millions of people tag photos, voluntarily building a gold mine of information for anyone who needs to quickly identify everyone in society.
We often think of the FBI or CIA as being the organizations that need to have such information. But now we are only small step away from empowering everyone who can afford a pair of Google augmented-reality eyeglasses tied via Bluetooth to a smartphone.
There are three main steps for Google to make these eyeglasses into the must-have gadget of all time:
- The glasses must be available in a wide variety of styles so that it's not apparent they're augmented-reality devices. If people recognized them as such, a societal panic would ensue: "Hey, stop looking at me with those glasses, or I will smack you to the ground!"
Coming up with multiple attractive styles is not easy. These glasses must contain a decent battery and Bluetooth connection. This is a key area where I fear Google may fail, by being overeager to bring a not fully realized product to market. Witness Google TV 1.0 two years ago.
- Facial recognition must be good. It is obviously impossible to get very close to a 100% match in a mobile setting. Capturing someone's face from an angle, when that person is wearing a hat, talking or moving his or her head, is not easy.
Nobody will demand or require a 99% match in fluid conditions. However, if you're sitting across the table from someone in a job interview, in a bar or at a cafe and you have a fairly stationary "fix" you should expect a fairly fast "match" that will yield whatever information is available on the Internet about that person.
- There must be some useful and immediate information available as a result of the facial recognition. I think Google already has a good start here today. All you need to do is to click on "Images" in your Google search toolbar, and you will have a match, depending on how famous the person is and how common the name is. I imagine that we remain in the infancy of matching faces to database information. It is in perfecting this nexus of databases (the hard info with the faces) where Google should excel.