Google Glass: A Future Cool Tool for the Data Center?

June 28, 2012 1 Comment »
Google Glass: A Future Cool Tool for the Data Center?

The recent demonstration (if that’s what you really call it) of Google Glass at the search giant’s I/O conference could really fire up the imagination of someone in the data center industry (or any industry) looking for a cool tool of the future. Imagine a “heads up” display with data, schematics, instructions and other information that acts like a “second monitor” to your normal vision. Google’s high-tech glasses are a ways from commercial availability, and prototypes are expensive: currently $1,500. But could this new device be a herald of what’s to come?

Not to Chill the Exuberance, But…

One can easily conceive of various ways in which a new gadget (like Google Glass) could be beneficial at home or on the job, but the question is does it offer sufficient benefits to make it an appealing alternative to smartphones and tablets—two types of mobile device that are already nearly ubiquitous. Google’s new eyewear bears closer resemblance to low-profile, relatively unobtrusive virtual-reality glasses: cool effects, but uncertain usefulness. The means of input may be somewhat of a turn-off, depending on your preference. A tablet or smartphone have touchscreens or buttons, but how does one interact with glasses? Movements are one possibility. For instance, an SFGate blog (“Hands on with Google Glass (for 30 seconds)”) notes, “The more interesting thing is that, as I toggled my head, the video panned from side to side, revealing more of the scene on the right, then the left side of the frame. It was clearly taking advantage of sensors that could detect the position of the glasses in space.” Voice commands could also provide a means of input for such a device. And a Bluetooth or similar connection (Wi-Fi or cellular) could enable input through a host of other devices.

“The chief advantage here is that the Internet can be suspended before your eyeballs, saving you the lifting of an arm when you receive an email or text, or want to click a picture or video… But I’m just not convinced that wearing a camera, computer and display on your head isn’t more disruptive by definition.” Google Glass—and similar devices—may simply not be the kind of universal smash that smartphones and, increasingly, tablets have been. Such gadgets may find specific uses in, say, medical scenarios, whereby a doctor could have access to relevant information during surgery without needing to look away from a patient. More relevant to data centers, a heads up display could aid any number of installation, repair or maintenance tasks in the facility.

Google, however, might not continue to pursue such a device that lacks broader consumer appeal. A tool that mainly serves industrial or research applications seems to be more the province of a host of other technology providers, not the search engine giant.

The Really Troublesome Part

Did you notice someone on the road speeding up and slowing down erratically, or otherwise failing to go with the flow of traffic? Or did someone obliviously walk in front of your car, forcing you to slam on your brakes, and still not notice your existence? Chances are that person was talking or texting on a cell phone. Just talking is bad enough—texting is generally worse. A first-blush assessment of a gadget like Google Glass could lead one to think that the problem is (at least partially) solved: visual and auditory information is passed to the user without the need for hands and without greatly obstructing one’s view. But does a heads up display improve matters or make them worse? Interacting with a gadget—whatever it is—with an audio or video source that demands a person’s attention almost invariably results in zombification: turning an individual into a walking (or driving) drone with little ability to notice what’s going on in the rest of the world. Potentially, a screen hanging in front of a person’s eyes would be an even greater distraction than a smartphone.

Google and the Data Center

For the second time this week, a Google project has been featured at the Data Center Journal (“Will the Data Center of the Future Be a Learning Computer?”). Although the projects themselves may or may not be revolutionary in the long term, they are nonetheless interesting for their potential applications. Google Glass may never be a commercial hit, but it could be one of the first in a line of new gadgets with application in industry—and just maybe everyday life.

Photo courtesy of zugaldia

About Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark is editor for the Data Center Journal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Richmond, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech. An author and aspiring renaissance man, his interests range from quantum mechanics and processor technology to drawing and philosophy.

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