Google's smart glasses: 'Project Glass' for travellers

For a few months the tech world has been buzzing about Google's work on Terminator-style smart glasses. Today, Google released a video (see below) showing their vision of the potential of such a product, which they're currently calling 'Project Glass': taking photos, getting directions, checking the weather and making a phone call all while having your hands free to eat a bagelwich, high five your bro and awkwardly serenade your girlfriend with a ukelele.

According to Google, Project Glass 'helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment'. While the application is novel here, augmented reality isn't a new concept and the same criticisms still apply: while additional information can be useful, does artificially superimposing new layers on top of reality by its very nature distance you from reality?

When does augmented reality truly help, and when does it make you overly reliant on technology to think for you? Having a hands-free way to see directions has obvious advantages, particularly if you're driving somewhere unfamiliar or, say, flying a Black Hawk helicopter at night in a war zone - but do you really need a pair of smart glasses to tell you how to find the the Teen Paranormal Romance section in a bookstore?

While we've experimented with augmented reality in our Android City Guide apps, we also poked some fun at this very concept with our mock product release of the Lonely Planet iPatch (a fictional strap for affixing your smart phone directly to your face). Google's version clearly deserves to be taken more seriously, and while the style may not be to everyone's liking at the moment, they look more or less like a realistic pair of glasses an average non-ukelele-playing person might wear.

From a traveller's perspective, knowing how to get from Athens to Zagreb is useful, and staying touch is often desirable, but getting lost and being unreachable are equally important and enjoyable parts of the travel experience.

When these glasses become reality, will you give them a shot?

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