Maybe Google Glasses aren't as far away as we thought.
An enterprising developer named Will Powell has apparently made his own pair of augmented reality spectacles, with an operating system that closely resembles the one in Google's hugely popular Project Glass concept video, as first spotted by Chris Davies at SlashGear.
Powell, who has a strong background in augmented reality and web development, cobbled together a pair of Vuzix Video Glasses, a couple of high-definition webcams, and a microphone headset, and designed an application using Adobe Air that looks similar to the operating system presented by Google in its video.
The result (if the video is real; given Powell's credentials, however, we have no reason to doubt it) is a DIY-set of Augmented Reality eyeglasses that function very similarly to the ones imagined by Google (though without the stylish look).
Some tech writers were skeptical that Google will be able to create something like the glasses shown in its Project Glass concept video; if Powell's creation is legit, however, the talk will shift from the feasibility of the operating system to Google's ability to fit all of that technology in such a small, attractive package. You will note that the Vuzix glasses used in Powell's video look like sunglasses your great-grandfather down in Tampa might wear; Google's version looks more like a slimmer model of the headband worn by Levar Burton in Star Trek.
Here's Google co-founder Sergey Brin, for example, modeling a prototype of the Google Glasses at a recent event in San Francisco:
Again, augmented reality glasses like Google's do already exist, but are much clunkier, less attractive, and offer less functionality than the ones posited by Apple. The trick for Google will be to pack all of this technology and functionality into an attractive design that does not interfere with the wearer's line of vision.
Powell's version offers some interesting ideas about how this might work. For example, speaking the command "Close Menu" makes the app icons disappear completely. (The ability to easily turn on and off the display on Google's Glasses will be key to their appeal, and their success.) Interestingly, the menu on Powell's glasses looks like it pops up at first speech, rather than with an "Open Menu" command. Xbox Kinect owners know that if you want to command your machine to do anything, you have to say "Xbox!" first; that functionality might find its way on to Google's glasses, as well, in order to avoid accidental voice commands.
One other thing to notice: Powell's model uses rather Siri-esque natural language commands. ("Play me some abbey music1" "What's the weather like?") For several months, Google has been rumored to be working on a response to Siri -- code-named Majel -- that would be able to understand and respond to normal, everyday language, questions, and prompts. Supposedly launching at the end of 2012, Majel could be another huge boon for Google Glasses.
Of course, Google will have to actually release a product for anything to be a boon for it. Google reps have told HuffPost that 2012 is unlikely for a release date, despite what Nick Bilton of the New York Times said he'd heard; we do know that there is at least one working prototype of Google glasses in the secretive Google[x] lab, though we don't know how close it is to its public unveiling. It could be next year, or it could be 2015. Google isn't saying.
Until then, we'll have to feast on DIY AR glasses -- and the inevitable flood of parody videos -- for our Project Glass appetite.
Take a look at the slideshow (below) to see Google's "Project Glasses," as unveiled by the company last week.