Beyond Google Glass

Media rounded up the currently available technology and future of wearable AR glasses for the 2015 report.

Wearable tech is more popular now than ever before thanks in large part to the recent unveiling of the Apple Watch (with the ability to “keep time” among other miraculous features). The price point made for the watch an easy target for punchlines but I think wearable tech is no joke. Also, there’s plenty of alternative watches on the market already, including the kickstarted Pebble.

The first piece of wearable tech to get my attention was the possibly ill-fated Google Glass. The project has been recalled for now due to a Shakespearean tale of artistry, innovation, lust and pride but to my surprise there are many other AR glasses in every stage of development according to 2015 Smart Glasses Market Report.

For $1,000 you could get a pair of the Vuzix M100‘s right now . The Recon Jet comes in at $699 but the website warns the orders are filled on a first-come-first-served basis. The Optinvent Ora costs $949 and their website has a chart with slightly dubious categories going after their competitors directly.


Optinvent wants you to know that none of the other AR glasses have “Flip-Vu,” a feature they made up themselves. Not that it doesn’t actually seem like a great idea. If I understand correctly, you can adjust the display depending if you want the HUD directly in your field of vision or if you want it in a less obtrusive position lower in your field of vision.

After how revolutionary the iPhone and its smartphone ilk were I’m hesitant to understate the potential of wearable technology of both the wrist and face based variety. If I was Fitbit I would be weary about the future. There’s not a lot of reason for a stand-alone activity tracking device in the near future once wearables take hold.

Besides activity tracking and traditional media viewing, I think wearable tech has a lot to offer. AR comic books already exist and the experience would be even more immersive if you didn’t have to hold your phone in front of the page.

While wearable tech in the mainstream is still in the near future, the concept as we now know it has been in development since at least the early ’90s. One story on the sixth episode of the incredible podcast from NPR “Invisibillia” tells the story of Thad Starner, who has been experimenting with his own custom made wearables since 1993.   Wearables are going to be stuck on our bodies from here on out. And I think that’s pretty cool.


Reality Capture vs Reality Construction


When it comes it comes to 3D media, the difference between reality capture and reality construction is akin to the difference between a photographer and an illustrator. But the stakes are higher for 3D because a reader is much more likely to view a 3D construction as factual reality than they would assume a sketch is a photo.

Right now, media outlets are experimenting with reality capture and reality construction in different ways. In Columbia, Missouri the Missourian the Structure Scanners to capture masked attendees to the True/False Film Festival.

This kind of “pull you into the experience” example is a perfect test case for the technology. There is little chance the 3D scans in the story will mislead the reader, hopefully no one assumes there were floating torsos hanging around central Missouri.

So while reality capture has the advantage of being easier to manage ethically as we’re following photo ethics we’re used to, reality construction has the huge advantage of being basically limitless to what you can show. Whether it’s the Lincoln assassination or a supernova, a skilled user could create experiences that weren’t captured on film or currently aren’t physically able to be shared on film.

But that’s were the tough ethical questions come. If you create something and present it as reality, you’re taking a lot of responsibility for that model.

Bimal (the architectural professor speaking in the above video) explained that at some architecture firms, they purposefully don’t render their designs in the highest detail they’re capable of. There is software being used right now that makes photo realistic 3D possible. But because it is near impossible to match reality exactly with a 3D model, the firms will scale down the detail or add fantasy elements to the model so the client isn’t disappointed when their real building doesn’t perfectly match the 3D.

Both reality capture and reality construction can be powerful story telling tools, and the technology required is only getting cheaper and more accessible. As we enter into a new era of story presentation, it’s important to begin making ethical considerations and having debates and discussions on use cases.

I think there is a bright future for this technology. In many ways it’s already here. I believe we can bring similar standard practices like we have for photos and videos in order to ensure exciting new tech designed to better share the world and ideas doesn’t obscure the truth in the process.