June 28, 2012 — -- "We don't want to put something in front of you that will distract you," Google's Isabelle Olsson says as she looks at me through what many would consider to be a peculiar pair of glasses.
But, of course, I'm distracted. Not only is she wearing a pair of glasses with a camera and transparent cube above her eye but those glasses are the Google Glasses. And I've wanted to see the Google Glasses since they were previewed a few months ago, and Google showed off its vision of the future: A future where it can overlay digital information right in front of your eyes.
Olsson is the senior industrial designer on the Google Glass project and has spent the last year working at Google's X Lab to design a piece of technology that will sit in front of people's eyes. The glasses, according to Google's video, will be able to do everything from search the Internet and show you maps right in front of your eyes.
"We have been working to make these wearable. They won't be done until we have removed everything we can possibly remove," she says.
The glasses surely aren't done, Olsson and every other Google exec has made that very clear here at the Google I/O conference. But the prototype is one of the most interesting gadgets I've ever seen.
They are about the same weight as my pair of Ray Ban sunglasses. (Olsson wouldn't let me put them on, but I was able to feel them and take a look at the buttons.) And it's hard to believe that in the spectacles lives a tiny computer. She explains that they have taken the parts of a smartphone -- the processor, battery, etc. -- and put it in the left leg (or right depending on which way you view them) of the glasses.
On the front of the glasses, in the top left (or right depending on which way you view them) corner is a small camera and a small glass-looking box, which is a tiny display. On the top of the glasses is a power button and a camera button. You control the screen's interface with the touchpad on the leg of the glasses.
"The touchpad is all hidden. There's no texture, it extends all over," Olsson describes. She explains that when she adjusts it sometimes it looks like she is deep in thought.
Olsson's glasses weren't powered on, but she explained to me that she typically takes pictures with the camera and then uploads them using the WiFi or Bluetooth in the glasses. You can connect the glasses to a phone via Bluetooth and use the phone's 3G or 4G connection. Olsson and the others wearing the glasses at the conference wouldn't discuss battery life.
Olsson also wouldn't discuss what the display looked like from the other side -- the interface and what it looks like overlaid in the real world. However, she did come back to that distraction point and emphasized that her and her team made sure to put the display above the eye. "We placed the display above the eye not in front of it; I want this to be immersive, but not distracting."
And that makes two of us. By the conversation's end, I'm no longer distracted by the peculiar glasses. I'm just dying to see what is on the other side of the lens.