Even though I followed Google’s I/O Conference from across the country, the event made it obvious that a company created with a strict focus on search has become an omnivorous factory of tech products both hard and soft. Google now regards its developers conference as a launch pad for a shotgun spread of announcements, almost like a CES springing from a single company. (Whatever happened to “more wood behind fewer arrows”?)
But the Google product that threatened to steal the entire show probably won’t be sold to the public until 2014. This is the prosthetic eye-based display computer called Project Glass, which is coming out of the company’s experimental unit, Google[x]. Announced last April, it was dropped into the conference in dramatic fashion: An extravagant demo hosted by Google co-founder Sergey Brin involved skydivers, stunt cyclists, and a death-defying Google+ hangout. It quickly attained legendary status.
Even before people got to sample Glass, it was popping their eyes out.
Google wouldn’t provide a date or product details for Glass’ eventual appearance as a consumer product — and in fact made it clear that the team was still figuring out the key details of what that product would be. But Google made waves by announcing that it would take orders for a $1,500 “explorer’s version,” sold only to I/O attendees and shipped sometime early next year. Hungry to get their hands on what seemed to be groundbreaking new technology, developers lined up to put their money down.
Meanwhile, I just as hungrily bit at the opportunity to do a phone interview with two of the leaders of Glass. Google originally hired project head Babak Parviz from the University of Washington, where he was the McMorrow Innovation Associate Professor, specializing in the interface between biology and technology. (One relevant piece of work: a paper called “Augmented Reality in a Contact Lens.”)
The other Glass honcho, product manager Steve Lee, is a longtime Google product manager, specializing in location and mapping areas. Here is the edited conversation...