Google points to an alternative to augmented reality virtual worlds

Google CEO Sundar Pichai (bottom left) shows off a prototype of the new Glass at Google I/O 2022 on May 11

In the final minutes of a two-hour speech that kicked off the Google I/O conference on May 11, the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, outlined a proposal for a new version of a product that went terribly wrong a few years ago: Google Glass. Although it takes up far less space than the other products shown there, the fact that it ends the demo is symbolic.

Google often uses its annual developer event as a space to showcase concepts that will stay in people’s imaginations and eventually become products. This time around, the ad offers an alternative to the virtual world, and Mark Zuckerberg has nailed the idea, even changing his company name from Facebook to Meta.

We are moving towards a more immersive digital life. The “new Google Glass” is still a prototype, closer to aspiration than a commercial product. Still, it opens up incredible technological possibilities. It remains to be seen whether the company can circumvent the problems of the ill-fated original, especially those related to invasion of privacy.

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Launched in 2013, Google Glass capitalized on a trend in the tech industry at the time, enabling smart products without buttons. It’s the personal project of the company’s co-founder Sergey Brin, and it proposes the ability to make phone calls without a smartphone, easily take photos and videos, and browse the web, all projected on a small screen projected in front. right eye.

Technological innovations and expectations surrounding Google Glass suggest this will be another big success for the company. But a series of problems made it a complete failure, and production was discontinued in 2015.

For starters, why pay $1,500 for something no one really knows what it’s for, and the battery only lasts three hours? Even a smartphone can do it with the little advantage that Glass offers. Also, the product is considered ugly, or at least not suitable for the way people wear it.

But one of the biggest problems is that of invasion of privacy. Constantly looking at your camera annoys the interlocutor, especially when users can take pictures or even record videos without the other person knowing. Still worried about the device being hacked.

Maybe it’s a product that’s ahead of its time, but more likely, it’s being launched with a technology excitement that doesn’t take into account the impact it might have on people’s lives. Now, Google is more technologically mature and can launch more useful and consistent products. But the question that must be asked in the face of any new technology remains: Do its benefits outweigh any problems it poses?

The company appears to have learned from the mistakes of the original Glass. Contrary to questionable utility, the new version focuses on addressing real needs. “Language is the key to connecting one person to another. Still, understanding someone who speaks a different language, or if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, trying to talk to can be a real challenge,” Pi said. Chai said in his speech. So the new Glass captures the speaker’s audio and renders the subtitles with translation projected on the glasses’ lenses.

Augmented reality and virtual worlds

There is a fundamental difference between Metaverse concepts (such as Meta) and augmented reality (such as Google Glass). The first means being immersed in a reality that does not exist in a fully digital environment. It’s like being in the game, rather than interacting with it “from the outside”. Augmented reality, on the other hand, projects digital elements into our reality, allowing us to interact with them as if they were actually there.

The metaverse is easier to understand because there are two decades of drinking products from this source. The most famous of these is Second Life, which launched in 2003 and is still around despite relatively few users today.

With devices like virtual reality glasses, Zuckerberg’s proposal now adds to the immersion in this digital environment. Given that the company has invested billions in the technology, it’s not a question of “if” but “when” to deliver everything presented. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the proliferation of virtual reality devices, which are still too expensive for the masses.

Augmented reality, in turn, has an even bigger impact, as we are not the ones who “enter” the digital world, but the virtual elements that “invade” our world and allow it to be manipulated. Movies and series abuse this resource to showcase futurism.

This is the interface used by character Tony Stark in some of Marvel’s “Iron Man” movies. A lot of people leave theaters wanting to be able to use this feature! But there are also very bold proposals in the real world, like the one Microsoft made a few years ago around its products like the HoloLens glasses.

Many other companies are also trying to set their own banners in this space, such as Snapchat, which offers glasses glasses, created for people to share photos and videos, and the new version also offers augmented reality. We can’t forget Apple, which promised to have its own glasses with this feature soon.

Maybe the original Google Glass was a commercial failure, but it allows us to think about the possible problems with such a technology. This paves the way for better augmented reality services and the metaverse itself. That’s not to say they’re all resolved.

Privacy concerns are still on the agenda, awaiting corporate regulation and even legislation to prevent abuse. Additionally, some experts worry that as the digital world becomes more immersive and customizable, many will use them as a means of escaping real-world problems, as if they were a new type of drug.

There is no doubt that we are moving towards this goal. Virtual and augmented reality hold incredible possibilities for improving our lives, and despite these concerns, the more immersive they become, the more powerful and interesting they become.

So it doesn’t make much sense to want to “resist” it. What we need is to understand and master all its benefits and control its risks.

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