Google points to an augmented reality metaverse

Google points to an augmented reality metaverse

Google points to an augmented reality metaverse

Google CEO Sundar Pichai (bottom left) unveils new Glass prototype at Google I / O 2022 on May 11

In the final minutes of a two-hour talk that opened the Google I / O conference on May 11, the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, briefly presented the proposal for a new version of a product that went very wrong a few years ago: Google Glasses. Despite taking up much less space than the other products on display, the fact that the presentation ends is emblematic.

Google often uses its annual developer event as a space to showcase concepts that will stay in people’s imagination and eventually become products. This time, the ad offers an alternative to metavers, an idea that has been branded by Mark Zuckerberg, who even changed the name of his Facebook company to Meta.

We are moving towards a more immersive digital life. The “new Google Glass” is still a prototype, closer to a wish than a commercial. Still, it opens up incredible technological possibilities. It remains to be seen whether the company will be able to circumvent the problems of the unfortunate original version, especially those related to the invasion of privacy.

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Google Glass was launched in 2013, taking advantage of the technology industry movement at the time in favor of buttonless smart products. It was a personal project of Sergey Brin, co-founder of the company, which proposed the possibility of making phone calls without a smartphone, taking photos and videos easily and browsing web pages, which were projected on a small screen in front of the right eye.

Technological innovations and the expectation created around Google Glass indicated that it would be another great success for the company. But a series of problems turned it into a resounding failure, and it was suspended in 2015.

For starters, why pay $ 1,500 for something no one really knew what it was for, and its battery only lasted three hours? The little that Glass offered could be done with advantages even with smartphones. In addition, the product was considered ugly or at least not adapted to the way people dress.

But one of the biggest problems was the problems of invading privacy. A camera pointing at you constantly annoyed your interlocutors, especially when the user could take pictures and even record videos without the other party knowing. There was still fear that the computer would be invaded by hackers.

It may have been an advanced product in its day, but it was more likely to be launched with a technological euphoria that did not take into account the impacts it could have on people’s lives. Google is now much more technologically mature to launch a more useful and consistent product. But the question that needs to be asked about any new technology is: Do the benefits outweigh the problems?

The company seems to have learned from the mistakes of the original Glass. Contrary to this questionable utility, the new version introduced was focused on solving a real need. “Language is the key to connecting with each other. However, understanding someone who speaks a different language or trying to converse if you are deaf or hard of hearing can be a real challenge, “Pichai said in the presentation.” So the new Glass captures the audio from the speaker. and features subtitles with the translation projected on the lens of the glasses.

Augmented reality and metavers

There is a fundamental difference between the concepts of metavers, such as Meta, and augmented reality, such as Google Glass. The first means being immersed in a reality that does not exist, in a fully digital environment. It’s like being inside a game, and not interacting with it “from the outside”. Augmented reality, on the other hand, projects digital elements into our reality, allowing us to interact with them as if they really existed.

The metavers is easier to understand, as there are products that drink from this source for two decades. The best known of these is Second Life, launched in 2003 and still in existence, despite having a proportionately few users today.

Zuckerberg’s proposal now adds immersion in this digital environment, thanks to devices such as virtual reality glasses. Given the billions of dollars the company has invested in the technology, it’s not a “yes”, but a “when” will be offered with everything presented. Perhaps the biggest barrier is the popularization of virtual reality devices, which are still too expensive for the masses.

Augmented reality, in turn, has an even greater impact, as it is not we who “enter” the digital world, but virtual elements that “invade” our world, allowing it to be manipulated. Movies and series have abused this resource to demonstrate futurism.

This is the case with the interface used by the character Tony Stark in some of Marvel’s “Iron Man” movies. Many people leave the cinemas wanting to be able to use the feature! But there are also bold proposals in the real world, such as those presented by Microsoft a few years ago, around its products such as HoloLens glasses.

Many other companies are also trying to plant their flag in this field, such as Snapchat, which offers its Spectacles glasses, created so that people can share photos and videos, with a new version that also offers augmented reality features. And we can not forget Apple, which soon promises its own glasses with this feature.

The original Google Glass may have been a commercial failure, but it did allow us to think about possible issues with a technology like this. This paved the way for better augmented reality services and metavers itself. Which is not to say that they have all been resolved.

The issue of privacy remains on the agenda, awaiting corporate regulation and even legislation to prevent abuse. In addition, some experts fear that with digital worlds becoming more and more immersive and customizable, many people are turning to them as an escape from their real problems, almost as if they were a new kind of drug.

There is no doubt that we are on the path to this. Virtual and augmented reality offer incredible opportunities to improve our lives, and despite these concerns, the more immersive they are, the more powerful and fun they will be.

So it doesn’t make much sense to want to “resist”. What we need is to understand and approach all its benefits and control its risks.

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