As my colleague Keith Wagstaff has blogged, Google’s secret augmented-reality glasses project is no longer secret. It’s called Project Glass, and the company has made it public with a blog post and this slick video:
Google’s video would very nearly be a remake of this 2009 Nokia video if it weren’t for the fact that Nokia’s protagonist is a girl who’s happy to lounge around at home, and Google’s one stars a more active guy:
(Note: Nokia has not brought such goggles to market to date. It just made a video about them.)
Both of these movies fall into a genre I wrote about last week: corporate future-vision movies. Such films have been around for at least seventy years, and while they often depict things that come to be, in one form or another, I don’t see any evidence that they actually help the companies involved to do great things.
If they did, we’d be living in a world full of high-tech gadgetry made by the likes of Monsanto, Philco and Sun — all of which made films of this sort and then either got out of the businesses depicted or ceased to be, period.
Having thought about these films and watched scads of them while I researched my story, I’ve emerged from the experience a pretty cynical guy. And Google’s video makes me less excited about Project Glass than I was when it was a mysterious rumor. After all, nobody releases these movies about products that are very nearly here.
Or did Apple release a video about the future of phones a year or two before the iPhone came out, and I’m just forgetting it?
Then again, Project Glass isn’t just about pie-in-the-sky mini-movies: the New York Times‘ Nick Bilton is reporting that Google is testing actual prototypes in public. They’re presumably nowhere near as fully-realized a version of the concept as the specs in the video. They might even be basically unappealing. Especially for those of us who don’t find the idea of having Google pumped into our eyeballs inherently attractive.
But you know what? Even if the glasses that Google is testing are rudimentary, even if they’re annoying, even if they just plain stink — they’ll still be far more interesting than the Fantasyland version in the Project Glass video. Because they’ll be real.