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Do Google Glass smartglasses have practical applications?

Is Google Glass simply a new way to do social media, or do smartglasses have some practical applications?

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Although Google Glass smartglasses have been hyped as a way to enable social interaction -- mostly through their ability to constantly photograph what people are doing -- they are actually being developed to facilitate Google's domination of the local search market. Think of it as a location-sensitive way to deliver targeted advertising. But since Google Glass can also "see" Quick Response tags, they can facilitate retail sales by delivering product-specific information, alert consumers to sales and so forth.

Google Glass, along with other wearable heads-up displays, may ultimately be much more valuable as a way to integrate information into everything we do. Applications are being developed to enable the delivery of sales information to sales reps so they can more easily interact with clients, including delivering past order information, potential future needs and competitive offerings. Additionally, apps are already being developed that allow Google Glass to recognize faces and provide information on people one meets.

Ultimately, the development of glasses with integrated video, like Meta's SpaceGlasses, will enable a complete overlay of virtual environments. In terms of health care, imagine a doctor being able to see an MRI scan overlaid on a patient while performing an operation. These applications have been demoed and will be available in the next six months. Devices like Google Glass could almost completely replace most of the interfaces we currently use.

Google Glass is coming under the eye of regulators and lawmakers, however. Google has already had to explain to Congress how it intends to protect people's privacy, and some venues, including high-security areas and gambling establishments, have actually outlawed such devices. While it remains to be seen whether public policy can keep up with the technology advances, it is clear that Google Glass smartglasses and many other wearable devices will be hitting the consumer market in 2014. No doubt Google Glass enterprise use cases won't be far behind.

This was first published in January 2014

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