MARSHALL - If you see someone walking around town wearing a device that looks like a cyborg eye, don't worry, it's just a wearable computer.
It's also much more than that. How much more, we don't even know yet. A new term had to be invented to describe what it does, "augmented reality."
It's called "Google Glass," and Darrin Brownlee, owner of Versatile Solutions, Inc. is one of a handful of people in Minnesota to get the first model.
Photo by Steve Browne
Darrin Brownlee, owner of Versatile Solutions, Inc demonstrates how to take a picture with his Google Glass, an augmented reality device.
"There's an invite process where they invited 8,000 people to buy what's called a Glass Explorer," Brownlee said. "In order to get the device, I had to pick it up, they wouldn't ship it. I had a choice of New York, L.A. or San Francisco."
When Brownlee got to San Francisco he was led through a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff to an old shipyard where Google had set up a reception for early adopters of its newest technology. Brownlee was invited to choose his color and was shown how to use the device.
The device looks like glasses frames with a display about an inch long mounted just above eye level on one side.
Brownlee demonstrated one capability. He tilted his head back 30 degrees and said, "OK Glass, take a picture."
Once the photo is taken, Brownlee can share it, email it, or download it to social media. It also takes videos.
This has already caused some concerns about privacy, with some people agitating to have such devices banned even before the commercial models have hit the market. But this only scratches the surface of what the Glass can do, or might be able to do very soon.
"I can say, 'OK Glass, get me directions to the coffee shop in Marshall, Minnesota and change it to walking, riding a bike or driving," Brownlee said. "Or I can say, what's the temperature outside or what's the stock price of Google today."
If you're in a foreign country, no problem. Brownlee demonstrated by asking Glass how to say, "How are you?" in Portuguese.
The possibilities are staggering. With only a few thousand in use, people are already creating new apps for the device.
A doctor created an app called, "Staying alive."
"So if you're wearing the device, and somebody collapses, you can say, 'OK Glass, CPR' and get directions," Brownlee said.
Some people are less enthusiastic about the capabilities of the device and fear for their privacy. Google has avoided developing a facial recognition app for Glass, but others are going ahead with it. Soon, it will be possible to look at someone and see what public records are available attached to the face in the photo.
"There's a list of people who are coming up with Glass etiquette," Brownlee said, "Put it away when you go to a public restroom and don't wear it into a movie theater."
Glass Explorer is not available for eyeglass wearers, but the first commercial models are expected to have glasses options available when they come out, which might be in 2014. The Explorer cost Brownlee $1,000 plus expenses but is expected to come down by the time mass production starts.
Brownlee got the first model because he is in the business of adapting technology to solve problems. He agreed that while a handful of users of the device is not going to have much effect on society, all bets are off when the device becomes common.