As the progression of virtual reality continues to move ahead at a staggering rate such as Oculus Rift, one must begin to wonder, whatever happened to VR’s brother, augmented reality? If you have never heard of augmented reality, here is your chance to learn a little of what it is capable of and one of the leading projects in its push for consumer stardom.
Google, the massive company behind the vastly popular search engine, YouTube, the Android operating system and countless other products, made an announcement back in April of 2012 regarding their newest project, “Project Glass.” Project Glass, later officially changed to Google Glass, was one of the first major steps towards hands-free, augmented reality for everyday use with a mobile device. The purpose of Glass, as it soon became nicknamed, was to reconnect users with their surroundings. As mobile phones became more and more common for the average person to have, countless people began to pay more attention looking down at their phones than what was happening right in front of their eyes. Google set out to stop that by taking everything you do on a phone and putting it in front of your eye. Everything from text messages, and browsing the web to turn by turn directions to your favorite hangout spot, all conveniently placed in front of your right eye and easily accessed with nothing but your voice.
After many months of in house testing by employees, Google officially announces in February of 2013 that, along with the people who pre-ordered at the Google I/O Conference, anyone who wanted to try out Glass could get their chance by competing in the #ifihadglass contest. A few months later on April 16, the Explorer testing phase begins, allowing everyone who pre-ordered to start using Google Glass. This marks the start of a bumpy road full of software issues, broken units, and enacted laws that ban the use of Glass in certain situations.
When Google Glass was first announced, people were completely taken back. Everything Glass could do was possible on the phone but to most people the idea of completely hands-free, wearable technology was a figment of science fiction. The view of amazement and wonder was fueled by the uncanniness of Google Glass. As Tom Gunning states in his essay Re-Newing Old Technologies, “The specific effect of the uncanny comes from the flowering sense of unfamiliarity in the midst of the apparently familiar,” (Thorburn, 47) we can see that even though people understand what they can do with Glass, they are at the same time found in a weird place because they have never experienced something like augmented reality.
Another point that Gunning makes in his essay is that in our day in age, we assimilate new things so quickly that something can seem unfamiliar to us at one moment and then the next thing you know, it’s just another normal part of society. This slowly began happening to Google Glass starting at the beginning of 2014 and reaching its peak when multiple developers announced they were abandoning the Glass version of their apps. Twitter was the first to go while a total of nine out sixteen followed suit, claiming that they and many of the pre-release users have lost interest in the project. From then on Google Glass has slowly been going downhill reaching a point where rumors were popping up stating that Glass was going to be scraped when the Explorer phase was ended.
Thorburn, David. “Re-newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of-the-Century.”Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003. 39-60. Print.
McGee, M. (Ed.). (n.d.). The History of Google Glass – Glass Almanac. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://glassalmanac.com/history-google-glass/