Sergey Brin's live demonstration of Google Glass at the Google I/O Conference in June clearly showed that wearable, always-on, Web-connected computing technology is here now—and that it works. While such augmented-reality (AR) eyewear is in its early stages of development, future versions of the technology, whether Google's or some other company's, could lead to dramatic changes in the way we work, play, travel, and communicate.
The best killer applications for wearable AR tech involve situations where it's important that users have free use of their hands or be able to walk while using the app. The coolest apps also display data and images in a way that interacts with the real-world imagery that users see. For example a basic AR app might place information bubbles over real-world landmarks within in the frame of the glasses (it might display the name of a movie theater along with the names of movies that are starting within the next hour).
Here are some of the more exciting applications that may be coming.
The coolest games for wearable AR apps will probably involve glasses that cover the whole eye, or a contact-lens-style display that covers one or both eyes. But Google Glass might provide a view that augments a multiplayer “reality game” played on the street or in a forest.
For example, in a team-based game in which players operate at different locations within a given area, the glasses could provide a view from above, showing the exact locations of all team members. The lens could also display an I-see-what-you-see view, allowing one team member—the team leader, perhaps—to see through the eyes of another team member.
The wearable aspect of the glasses would be especially useful in a game where the players have to have their hands free to shoot or tag.
Seeing your friends
You go to an amusement park with a group of friends. People are everywhere. You and your friends decide to split up and go your separate ways, but you all want to meet up again later.
If your friends voluntarily share their locations, AR glasses could use assisted GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular networks to track everyone's location and display each one in the glasses. Those locations could appear on a “view from above” map, or as silhouettes at ground level (if they are separated from the viewer by one or more walls). The glasses could also identify your friends in a crowd.
Another possibility is that you may wonder what your friends are doing as the afternoon progresses, on the chance that they've found something more fun to do than what you're doing. In that case, you could look through the camera view of any of your friends' glasses. If you liked the look of what they were doing, you could head in that direction, guided by directions on a map displayed on the glasses.
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