Augmented Reality Glasses: Hot Technology or just Hot Air?

By Evyan Gainey

Ever wish you could pack the functions and apps of your smartphone into a convenient accessory that lies right in front of your eyes—literally? Well, the gradually increasing lines of augmented reality (AR) eyeglasses available from various brands may just be for you. Stylish, useful, and apparently revolutionary, the glasses have the potential to change the shape of today’s technologically evolving world—or maybe not.

Augmented reality glasses oakley

Oakley Augmented Reality Glasses

What Exactly Are Augmented Reality Eyeglasses?

Augmented reality head-mounted displays (HMDs) were popularized early this year when Google launched their Project Glass campaign, which is part of the Google X Lab. The campaign aimed to develop and eventually manufacture the world’s first widely used augmented reality eye displays. Similar in some aspects to Apple’s integration of the hands-free voice assistant Siri, such glasses would allow for the voice-controlled and hands-free management of smartphone information and data, only adding the hands-free display of information currently available to many smartphone users.

Before the technological advancements of Google’s Project Glass, Motorola and eyeglass-giant Oakley began testing and patenting their own interpretations of the augmented reality functionality through glasses, the latter currently claiming they have been exploring the technological possibilities of head mounted displays similar to the Google Glasses for well over a decade, holding over 600 patents in technology and design, according to BBC World News outlets.

However, differing from Google’s Project Glass endeavor, Oakley has clearly marketed their version of augmented reality glasses toward athletes and other sportsmen and women. Oakley’s mission was originally to create an eyewear device capable of communicating with smartphones, while also being entirely self-contained. Interestingly enough, such a project was not the first technological endeavor for the company in regards to technologically advanced eyeglasses since Oakley’s Thump Pro line includes a digital music player built into the eye set.

Google project glass Augmented Reality Glasses

Google project glass

What Do Critics And Skeptics Have To Say About Augmented Reality Eyeglass Technology?

Competition and criticism of the concept has increased recently as Google released its much anticipated concept video, depicting a man who uses Google’s version of the glasses to schedule a meeting, answer a phone call, and even view a comprehensive GPS feature to meet a friend at the local bookstore.

It would appear as if the concept and ideal purpose of head mounted displays would have been achieved through the Google Glasses, however critics believe the ideas expressed in the concept video are mere pipe dreams at best, and that Google cannot possibly hope to deliver the features displayed. Many experts, such as MIT media lab researcher Pranav Mistry, cite the fact that the small screens implemented for augmented reality eyeglasses are, without a doubt, incapable of providing the experience the video seems to depict. As one of the primary creators of SixthSense, a wearable computing system, Mistry considers himself informed. He stated in a recent PC World interview that the advanced technology represented in Google’s concept video will not be available for at least two years.

Adding to this, although the constant flow of data and information certainly provides a level of convenience and likeability, critics trained in the medical and social fields are not as enthusiastic. PC World provided testimony from experts who point out that, if data is being constantly fed into one’s line of vision, this may have a negative impact on long-term vision quality and eyesight. Also, a certain level of distraction and isolation is sure to result especially if someone is constantly busy processing information directly in front of their eyes. Indeed, the troubles associated with chronic texting and other distractions, especially while driving, seem like minute issues when compared to constantly analyzing data through augmented reality glasses. The continuous flow of data and reminders also has the potential effect of limiting a person’s social interactions drastically. Imagine for a moment how annoying alerts on a smartphone can be distracting and overwhelming at times. Now imagine those alerts cannot be avoided by the direct transference to your vision field.

In the end, critics and developers alike agree that initially augmented reality eyeglass displays, whether released now or in the near future, will very likely prove to be expensive, while only functioning as a beta version at best.

So, do augmented reality glasses and head mounted displays live up to the hype currently surrounding the technology? The answer is, as of right now, open to interpretation. And, ultimately, few can truly be certain simply given the fact that only a small fraction of lucky individuals have been given the opportunity to test the full functionality of augmented reality technology. Head mounted display technology, such as Google’s much anticipated Google Glasses, may one day revolutionize the way in which we interact with technology on a daily basis, but for now the concept is composed of little more than disputed facts, rumors and hope-filled speculation.

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