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The excitement surrounding Google Glass is unlike any product since the iPad, especially when you consider that it’s most likely we’re still nearly a year away from a commercial release. The hardware is an incredible concept made real, but Google has taken every opportunity to remind everyone that Glass as we see it now is far from its final form. A recent patent application gives us a peek into what that might look like, and if the designs are any indicator of the future you’ll likely be replacing your glasses with generation two. The biggest complaint about Glass as it exists right now is probably the least useful, as the criticism contributes very little to the actual product. Many potential future users are concerned about how the slight plastic bulge on the one side of your head would look, especially with the metallic band across the head. There’s been a few mentions of a design adjustment that allows the wearable computer to be somehow clipped onto regular glasses, but the details regarding this have been sparse. So far all of the Googlers seen wearing Glass in public have been wearing them in the “stock” configuration, though several have made mention to Glass needing to be fitted to their head. The design for this first generation of Glass supports a quick glance at available data, but there’s still plenty of reasons to take it off when you’re not using it. Google clearly wants to offer no reasons for you to remove Glass, which is why it is likely that generation two will be all about replacing your glasses altogether.
Replacing your glasses isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. You can’t just inject Glass into a pair of prescription lenses and send someone on their way. The way the information Google presents is displayed on the screen, even in direct sunlight, relies on the projected image being caught by your eye at just the right angle. Glass isn’t projected straight into your eye for a variety of reasons, and the headband included with the current iteration is there to make sure you are able to see the display even while jogging.
Prescription frame are often sold to fit as many heads as possible, and more often than not the user adjusts their frames a couple dozen times a day. Glass won’t work particularly well if you’ve got to push your frames back onto the bridge of your nose every half hour through the day, so the glasses have to be specially designed to stay on your head without changing the look and feel users are already accustomed to.
As explained in a breakdown by Patent Bolt, Google’s recently awarded patent for a binocular wearable computer addresses the concerns raised in trying to fit a computer into a “regular” pair of glasses and still have them fully serve both purposes. The design includes a pair of mechanical actuators across the nose bridge, as well as a flexing design in the arms to provide holding force wherever its necessary. This design seem to be geared towards making sure the glasses don’t more around on your head at all, which is what is needed in order for the displays to do their job. Since you’ve got glasses, there’s now two different displays worth of real estate to work with. You can’t really display two different objects on two different displays so close to your eyes, but you can display two different parts of the same image and let the brain stitch them together. This process is mechanically similar to how the Oculus Rift uses displays to create the immersive feel generated when you put their goggles on. The biggest difference here would be the kind of information displayed.
It’s a little early to be looking forward to Google releasing a sequel to a product that is still months and months from being on the shelves, but it is clear that Google has plans to continue evolving Glass just like they have been promising from the beginning. As we continue to blur the lines between what seems like science fiction and reality, wearable computers will grow to be an increasingly important part of how wee interact with the digital world.