Imagine you're wearing a fancy wristwatch with a hinged bezel that can be raised or lowered over the timepiece display. Now imagine that this shatter-resistent, flip-up top can also display all manner of digital information. It's not a James Bond fantasy; it's a concept that may have been created by the Google Glass team.
Google recently was granted a patent on designs for a smartwatch that would hypothetically let the user open the watch's transparent cover and view content on the augmented reality screen.
Much like Google's famous Project Glass headpiece (which quickly gained the nickname “Google Glasses”, due to the fact that they...look like glasses) that positions a postage stamp-sized display over the wearer's right eye and lets him interact with media and other content, the wristwatch concept will apparently also let you film, photograph, follow directions or learn where the best coffee house is located in your immediate surroundings.
The patent and its accompanying images give precious hints to Google's eventual vision for its enigmatic Glass project, a Google initiative to create augmented reality devices that might someday replace smartphones. The initiative has thus far produced the much-hyped headpiece, but Google has been tight-lipped about its next moves.
Drawings for the timepiece concept show the watch's flip-up portion being used as a transparent glass "screen", much like the "lenses" in Google Glasses. In the illustrations, the display is shown overlaying arrows onto the user's immediate location, steering the wearer through his own surroundings. The illustrations also show the wearer looking at nearby buildings through the lens of the flip-up glass, locating a coffee shop and buying coffee -- all without entering the building.
Google also patented several programs and algorithms to go with the watch, which the patent makes clear they plan to use in other media as well -- so you can look forward to your Google Glasses letting you buy from a distance too.
The watch design may be a response to users who say they would be "uncomfortable" with the intense augmented reality experience of Google Glasses, as well as to reports that the glasses, last week tested by the Wall Street Journal's Spencer Ante, were "disorienting." It also fits nicely with Google's newly released Field Trip app, which displays text bubbles for nearby points of interest. (Indeed, pop-up factoids seem perfect for augmented reality displays, but could be less disruptive to the wearer if they are appearing on a device attached to the wrist, rather than on a device worn over the eyes.) Even Google's newly-patented Smart Gloves seem like they could be augmented reality peripherals, allowing users to "simulate typing, or perform touchscreen-style gestures in the air" to control a display.
And with Project Glass getting ever more glamorous publicity (like the Diane Von Furstenburg documentary shot entirely on a Google Glass device), it seems like Google may be truly committed to making "augmented reality" a part of everyday life.