Perhaps you’ve read about Google’s Project Glass – a set of augmented reality glasses that will provide users with real-time information right before their eyes. Literally.
After waiting awhile for an appending “April Fool’s” announcement that never came, we can now safely call your attention to this project’s unique testing challenges. Before we do that, however, here’s a good description of the project from TechCrunch:
To call these things glasses may be a bit of a stretch — early rumors noted that glasses bore a striking resemblance to a pair of Oakley Thumps, but the demo images on Project Glass’s Google+ page don’t look a thing like them. Rather, they appear to be constructed of a solid metal band that runs across the brow line, with a small heads-up display mounted on the right side.
The New York Times‘ Nick Bilton, who broke the Project Glass story today, went on to say that the prototype model seen in the images is just one of the potential designs currently in testing. Among others, one of the potential designs for Project Glass is (thankfully) meant to be attached to a person’s existing pair of glasses.
It’s also worth noting that as downright magical as these things could be, there’s still very little insight into how they would actually work. Bilton’s early write-up notes that the glasses will be capable of establishing a 3G or 4G wireless connection, but how exactly Google will shoehorn those components (just to name a few) into a comfortable headset is still up the air.
After watching the demo/concept video below, it’s clear that in-the-wild testing will have to play a major part in the quality of this product (should it ever come to fruition). And judging from the comments on their Google+ page, finding real-world beta testers will not be an issue. But that’s the easy part. Here’s a look at some heavy testing challenges they are likely to encounter:
- Functionality: How will this product function with limited or imperfect connectivity? This is particularly important with regard to the location-based features of the product, but also true of the search functionality, video chatting and others. Google will also have to consider a wide-range of use cases. As commenter Aaron Lozano wrote: “Would love to see it tested in a school setting…particularly a medical setting or something research based where hands-free photos, internet searching, consultation, and general info would improve everything. A medical student dissecting a cadaver, a surgeon operating or performing a simple procedure that requires the use of both hands. Unlimited potential in a field like this or any other. Very excited and can’t wait to test/buy a pair!”
- Security: If cellphones are a distraction, we expect augmented reality glasses to doubly so. Not only must Google make this product safe to wear, but they must make it safe to use. Whatever threats exist in the world of web and mobile apps – threats like viruses, malware, identity theft, etc. - will also be present in the world of augmented reality.
- Usability: Will the product be easy to use and interact with? There’s really nothing to benchmark this product against (unless you count Minority Report) so usability will be an enormous challenge. Said one user: “While this looks like a fantastic project, I do have a concern This probably won’t be deaf user-friendly. Perhaps you could incorporate some kind of hand gesture recognition – ie a virtual keyboard overlay (usable with eye tracking OR hand tracking) etc… I’m deaf and would be happy to work with you guys to figure this out.”
- Performance: As one commented noted: “Batteries would have to go almost all day, and the notifications popping up in the center of your field of view could lead to pedestrian and bike accidents. There should be a mode that never puts anything in the center of your vision. In the future, eye tracking for things like camera focus could be helpful. Integration with the self driving cars to see where you are in your route would be cool, but it’s a bit far off. I hope the glasses use bone conduction for audio both ways or else a crowded area or loud car could really mess with you. (not to mention random trolls on the street giving your glasses commands you don’t want.) I would absolutely love to try a pair of these out!”
What other testing challneges is Google likely to encounter with this project? Let us know in the comments section.