Play It Again, Samsung

Samsung has launched an ad campaign for their smart watch, the Galaxy Gear. And from the ad, you might think this watch is about to make your dreams come true.

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3qeJKax2CU&w=420&h=315]

Yes, fictional character have used this technology for decades. A watch that can display information beyond time, act as a communication device, and, if you’re James Bond, a laser, is a nice idea. But one that was really fulfilled by the smartphone.

Much as we look back at television shows like Seinfeld, which existed before the cellphone became commonplace, and discover plot holes that would easily be solved with a call or text while on-the-go, the futuristic watches from TV turned into smartphones in reality.

On TV, no one has a problem talking to their devices in front of, well, whoever is around. Characters have no qualms about their conversations being audible for anyone close by.

All the interactions a user has with a smart watch are out in the open. We have a communication device that works this way: the walkie-talkie.

Having used Glass for a few months, having a wearable device replace my phone definitely feels like something that could happen in the next few years. Especially with a device like the iPad Mini or Nexus 7 as a “main” portable machine that could be around for tasks that currently fall to a 4 inch or greater phone.

Google Glass Is Not the Next Segway

Since it was first revealed in early 2012, Google Glass has been met with equal parts excitement, skepticism, and mockery. While Google itself had an underwhelming specialized gadget almost-launch with the Nexus Q, the comparison that leaps to people’s mind is the Segway, Dean Kamen’s futuristic…scooter. This is a somewhat fair comparison to make but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Leading up to the fall 2001 unveiling, Segway, codenamed “IT” and “Ginger” was surrounded by secrecy. While a who’s who of celebrities and thinkers, including the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, were granted a private audience with Kamen and his invention, the rest of the world had only leaks and quotes to pass the time. Hearing only comments about how cities would change when IT was released, minds began to wander. Everything from a new Stirling engine to hovercraft technology was discussed about possible breakthroughs. Fantastic looking sketches began to surface in patent filings.

But at the end of the day, which incidentally was a morning (I know, I skipped school to see the big reveal) the Segway was just a standup scooter with a gyroscope so it wouldn’t tip over.

At $1500 for the Explorer Edition, Glass is not an impulse buy, world-changing gadget. But it is known. Right now Glass has very limited capabilities: taking photos and videos, using the headset in a Hangout, turn-by-turn navigation, and reading text messages/making phone calls by tethering to a smartphone to name a few. All of these features have been shown off since the initial unveiling.

The Segway? Hidden in a shroud of mystery to all but a few who could not say anything of substance about the unreleased device. Will Glass be a failure? Maybe. Will it find as much success as the Segway, a niche product that can find a home on city tours or a few other specialized uses? No reason it can’t. But no matter what the outcome, Glass is not the next Segway.

Glass Or Transparant Aluminum?

When Google first showed off Project Glass last year the first reaction on the internet was “Geordi La Forge!” Well, maybe not the entire internet, but a good part of it. After the skydiving stunt at Google I/O, Glass might have been mistaken for the new, action-packed J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” than the eyes of the humble (or miracle working) engineer from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But social media has a way of keeping interesting conversations around:

Keep up the good work Mr. La Forge.

And when you get a chance, check out the phase inducers.

If I Had Glass

Every once in a while, there’s an event so encompassing, only Storify really serves it justice in coverage. Today, that is the expansion of the Glass Explorers.

[<a href=”//storify.com/mikecarlucci/if-i-had-glass” target=”_blank”>View the story “If I Had Glass” on Storify</a>]<h1>If I Had Glass</h1><h2>Today, Google released another video of people using Glass and announced a contest: say (and show) what you would do with Glass and you might get a pair early. Following the Foundry events earlier this month the news shows Glass is getting closer to release. What are people anxious to do with Glass?</h2><p>Storified by <a href=”http://storify.com/mikecarlucci”>Mike Carlucci</a>· Wed, Feb 20 2013 15:12:57</p><div>Com</div><div>In the US & want to test Glass? RT @projectglass Seeking Explorers to help shape the future of Glass #ifihadglass http://goo.gl/zCknoLife at Google</div><div>How It Feels [through Glass]google</div><div>Google Glass UI previewed in new video http://vrge.co/YFOK81The Verge</div><div>Enjoy Google Glass, muggles. It’s probably the closest you’re going to get to magic.The Dark Lord</div><div>RT @LukefromDuke: #ifihadglass I would see more of the world and remember it more clearly. Use tech to expand yourself. @projectglass http://pic.twitter.com/DwCWv71X5IJean Bezivin</div><div>#ifihadglass I would document things around NYC. And build an app that identifies people people near me, so I know who to meet at events.Alex Barbara</div><div>#ifihadglass I would probably run into things frequently #justbeinghonestBrielle Ellsworth</div><div>#ifihadglass I would record a video and take pictures of the awesome experience of being at a Pirate game http://pic.twitter.com/9XNoU2KsORTendai Mwenda™</div><div>#ifihadglass I would definitely pretend to be Iron Man ALL THE TIMEJoy Crelin</div><div>#ifihadglass to make me better looking in everyone else’s ifihadglasses. Also a holographic Gary Busey 10 steps ahead of me at all times.Collective Exile</div><div>@projectglass #ifihadglass I would use glass as phase 1 in becoming a cyborg.Coonan O’Brien</div><div>#ifihadglass I could speak to dogproject_glass_</div><div>Probably not just yet…</div><div>#ifihadglass I’d document street art from Dogpatch to Ocean Beach, from the Silicon Valley to the Marin Headlands… http://pic.twitter.com/R9J5jxJ2EJNick Jones</div><div>#ifihadglass every mountain would be geo tagged with historical dataMEDLette</div><div>Hmm.. best augmented Astronomy reality app ever.. #ifihadglassJohn @ CraicDesign</div><div>I’d wear my Star Trek: The Next Generation outfit #ifihadglassNetSafe NZ</div><div>Geordi? Is that you?</div><div>#ifihadglass it would help me evolve my bowling skills with precision training on the lanes. Record. Search. Improve. http://pic.twitter.com/LjHur919DJBurgers by the Beach</div><div>Show retail wine prices on wine menus in restaurants. #ifihadglassJustin Thomas</div><div>Using the Wizard app no doubt. Also includes a tip calculator.</div><div>#IfiHadGlass i would rename the system "Jarvis"Terr</div><div>#ifihadglass, I would use it in my work place as a server in a restaurant and test its practicality as well as its influence.Jeff Locher</div><div>#ifihadglass I would try to find every fun house in the USA that had a hall of mirrors and moving floors. http://pic.twitter.com/imIoEqE4z6Scott Jones</div><div>Ok, that would look cool.</div><div>RT @scottux: #ifihadglass I’d finally become Geordi La Forge http://pic.twitter.com/VqjFEbOYN9Mark Sheffield</div><div>Now we’re talking. Something about the phase inducers…</div><div>#ifihadglass I would look for undiscovered areas of Pompeii http://pic.twitter.com/Qh0n9hZzddScott Jones</div><div>Or somedaybuild an overlay in Glass of shops, houses, etc. that used to exist in the city. The ruins already feel like new tenants could move in and continue living.<div><br></div><div>The possibilities are endless.</div></div>

To Boldly Go-ogle

Technology and science fiction have a relationship that is both practical and whimsical. The works of Jules Verne influenced the first rocket scientists. Those scientists then influenced writers like Gene Roddenberry who created Star Trek. People who grew up watching Star Trek (or being exposed to other sci-fi of the day in books, film, and radio) entered the workplace and tried to capture the vision of the future by advancing what the resources we have today.

Cell phones (and more directly to Trek, flip phones), tablet computers, holographic projectors, lasers, different type metal alloys – the list can go on and on – have all been brought to the real world after being dreamed in fiction.

One of the most anticipated creations of 2013 is Google Glass. By now the story of the enhanced glasses is almost commonplace. Competitors have even launched a continuation of the mobile device revolution, in anticipation of wearable computing being the next hot trend.

What will Google Glass be able to do? Right now we don’t really know. Based on the limited demos Google has put into the public eye, it should have picture-taking functionality, some degree of voice recognition, GPS awareness, and an internet connection, either built in or through a link to a mobile phone. What strikes me now is not the actual abilities of Google Glass but the big leap that the technology is taking over what has appeared in sci-fi. This is not an exhaustive list, but a look at a segment of the genre that has a special place in my heart: Star Trek.

As something of the standard bearer of sci-fi for almost half a century, Star Trek has shown us many fantastic devices (warp drives, transporters, holodecks, cloaking devices) that can be only hinted at with a modern understanding of technology and physics. Others, like the PADD, personal communicators, and computers that can respond to voice commands, have arrived hundreds of years early without a tremendous drop in capability from their fictional relatives. Even needle-free shots at the doctor’s office are just over the horizon, and there are already medications that can be administered through a patch and glues that replace stitches.

One of the most memorable scenes in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was when Dr. McCoy gave Captain Kirk a pair of reading glasses. Simple, functional, reading glasses. The 1982 vision of 2282 (that’s a new easter egg for me) was the same way things had been done for centuries.

In the context of the movie, the glasses were a symbol that the crew was aging. Kirk, the brash, young captain from the 1960s TV show was now an elder statesman in Starfleet. Because of the impact of Kirk’s aging and stepping back from the day-to-day Starfleet action we don’t know for sure if classic glasses are all that the future has to offer, but it seems like the common solution.

That’s just fine though because Star Trek: The Next Generation takes place nearly a century later. During the time of Captain Picard, replicators are in nearly every room of the ship, holodecks could bring any scenario to life with full interactivity, and one of the bridge officers was an android. At this point, nearly a century later, we should expect that wearable computers, in the form of smart glasses, if they exist, have taken the same technological leap.

However, in The Game, Commander Riker returns from a vacation on Risa with headsets for the crew to play a 24th century video game. The graphics were more Virtual Boy than virtual reality. Geordi LaForge wore a VISOR, but for normal humans, the game headsets were seen as a nifty piece of technology. We’ll forget that the headsets also administered a form of mind control in this analysis.

Deep Space Nine took place at essentially the same time as The Next Generation and tackled the smart glasses yet again. For Captain Sisko and his crew, the glasses acted as a HUD (heads up display) while controlling an alien ship. Again, this is surprisingly limited and also somewhat unnecessary given that they were onboard the ship, full of diagrams, screens, and computer interfaces.

As a collection of science fiction TV shows many episodes consisted of a basic plot of: detect planet or ship, beam to the planet/ship to investigate, and either return to the ship or continue to solve the issues of the day. Every mission brought along the all-powerful Tricorder, a handheld scanner, but not a set of standard-issue glasses providing scanning capabilities, video and photographic functions, communications when the crew splits up. It could be a map, guide book, translator and more! Word Lens, an app for both iOS and Android devices, already lets someone hold a camera up to a sign or text and read the word in their native tongue instead of the language it was printed in.

With an expected developer release of Google Glass in 2013 we should know more about the capabilities of Google’s device within months, but no matter what Glass can do at launch and in the coming years, it will put Star Trek’s vision of the future to shame. Score one for the 21st century.

A Piece of Glass

In the original Google Glass video the protagonist takes a picture of some wall art and shares it with his circles on Google+ with a simple voice command.

Cool, right? Too bad Google Glass isn’t available right now (Ingress players would probably be over the moon) so everyone could do that sort of thing. But wait: Google updated the Search app for Android. It’s not quite the same, but from the Google Now screen, you can just say “Post to Google+” and a voice prompt appears to take your words and send them along. If you think Google Now is looking more and more like the Glass concept without the headwear, you may not be wrong.