In the beginning of Mission Impossible 2, Ethan Hunt receives his next assignment while rock climbing. The assignment comes via sunglasses showing him a screen directly in his field of vision giving him the necessary mission details.

Cool, but out-of-reach technology for most people. Maybe possible for the military but not for the average person, right?

When the series first began over a decade ago, sunglasses projecting move-like images and talking to you seemed unrealistic or at least simply out of reach for civilians. But not anymore.

Instead of impossible, think Google Glass.

What is Google Glass?

Currently in use mostly by software developers and early adopters at a cost of $1,500 for an Explorer Edition pair, Google Glass does what we see Ethan Hunt’s sunglasses do in Mission Impossible 2 plus a lot more.

Google Glass, part of what’s being called wearable computers, are eyewear with a range of capabilities and features including;

  • Touchpad
  • Camera
  • Display
  • Voice activation
  • Wifi
  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • Ambient light sensing & proximity sensor (ability to approximate human eye response to light and distance)
  • Bone conduction audio transducer (ability for sound conduction to the inner ear through vibrations in the bones of the skull)
  • Thermometer
  • Altimeter
  • Barometer

While Google Glass is not quite available for everyday use like we currently use smart phones, it’s coming. Not only that, but it’s already in use in a range of applications.

Current Google Glass Applications

Current application for Google Glass exists in a variety of settings including healthcare fields and the military with plans for use on safety glasses.

Within healthcare, Google Glass allows students to watch procedures, for documentation of procedures, and for tele-consulting with experts. Its uses also include communicating with families during a procedure as well as calming patients during procedures where physicians guide devices into the body (balloons to expand blood vessels and catheters to break up clots, for example).

Not new to the military, Google Glass technology, integrated with its Q-Warrior technology, appeals to military personnel who like its low use of power, its quick access to information, and that it doesn’t interfere with a soldier’s field of vision. Even though the technology has been in use within the military for a while, how it’s done is constantly improving.

Military application for Google Glass technology includes aiding in search and rescue missions and helping air traffic controllers in forward areas. The devices help in these and other situations by measuring distances, displaying 3D building layouts, and transmitting video from drones. Google Glass technology also allows for live streaming of data to soldiers on the ground including enemy position, position of fellow soldiers, maps of buildings and videos of what to expect around the corner or over the hill.

Another developing application for Google Glass technology involves integrating it with safety glasses. XOne is currently working on such devices, which would cost $400-$600 for the device plus $199/month for service. This seems like a lot but think of the money-saving potential from reduced down time needed for repairs as well as in its possibility for accelerating training programs.

In addition, through tele-consulting and real-time training, Google Glass presents a unique opportunity in the areas of production, safety, and beyond. Not only that, but technology is being developed to track individual worker’s statistics, such as how much they lift and the repetitive tasks they perform, to aid in preventing injuries and thus reducing production downtime.

Certainly, these current applications open the door to imagining even more wide-spread use such as for teams working in different locations, police officers working crowd control or trying to catch a fleeing criminal, and even ordinary citizens reporting news or other events in real-time. What seemed impossible a decade ago seems nearly endless now, doesn’t it?

Safety & Privacy Concerns

Along with any new technology, concerns abound, mostly those involving safety and privacy.

Privacy concerns include the increased ease and ability to record video and audio without someone knowing they’re being recorded. This surveillance potential unnerves a lot of people, especially those already regularly concerned with privacy violations as well as with the ease of use without someone’s knowledge. Evidence of such concerns comes from casinos that are banning the technology and current legislation in Russia and the Ukraine that prohibits use of spy gadgets that can record video, audio or take photographs in an inconspicuous manner. (See Smartglasses in Wikipedia.)

In addition to these privacy concerns are concerns over safety not unlike those that exist already with texting while driving. Distractions while using Google Glass along with the potential for an increasingly overwhelming amount of information all at once certainly gives merit to concerns over safety.

Everyday Consumer Use

While Google Glass isn’t quite at the everyday consumer-use level, it’s getting close. Google is currently collaborating with Loxottica, makers of Oakley and Ray-Ban, to get more stylish with frame designs that appeal to a wider audience and that are less conspicuous in public. Google is also working on making the technology available for those needing prescription lenses.

Making the devices even more appealing also involves Google adding its own apps along with the addition of a wide-range of additional apps being developed for this and other wearable computers. Those apps include Evernote, Skitch, The New York Times and a variety of other third party apps. In addition, the technology also involves data storage and integration with other devices like smart phones.

On a practical level everyone can relate to, Google Glass will allow you to do much of what you already do with your smart phone and then some. This includes:

  • Recording videos and take pictures hands free.
  • Receiving directions in front of you while driving
  • Texting truly hands free.
  • Sharing videos and photographs socially just by seeing and then talking.

And while Google may be slightly more visible in this field than anyone else, that doesn’t mean they’re the only name in the game. In fact, a plethora of other companies including Samsung, Microsoft and Apple are also working on their own versions of wearable computers. What do you see Google Glass technology doing for you?