This image released by Google shows eyewear that meshes the online world with the real world. AFP/Google
The discovery of a patent application has revealed another potential use for Google Glass -- managing a connected home.
The application, filed on September 21, 2011, published on March 21 and first discovered by Engadget, details how the headset could be used to identify an appliance or gadget in the home and when it does, overlay a control interface or a list of relevant information in the headset wearer's screen. This would give the wearer the sense that the information or control buttons are floating in mid-air in front of that person's eyes.
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Google also details how this type of interaction would only be possible if Glass could identify the device in question -- either through Bluetooth connection, wi-fi, RFID tags or a QR code -- and if the object -- be it the lighting system, an oven or TV -- was connected to the internet.
Google founder Sergey Brin (L) adjusts a pair of Project Glass glasses on designer Diane von Furstenberg before the rehearsal for von Furstenberg's Spring/Summer 2013 collection show during New York Fashion Week September 9, 2012. Reuters/Carlo Allegri
Although some writers have already dismissed Google Glass as ‘jetpack technology' (that is, something that sounds amazing in theory but is pretty much useless in practice), the patent application actually outlines a valid use case for the headset. As every device in the modern home starts to suffer from feature creep, understanding what they do and how to make them do what they are supposed to do, often requires reverting to an internet search or an online forum.
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Google has made no secret of its plans regarding home automation. At its 2011 Google I/O developer conference, the company demonstrated Android@Home, which showed how it imagined the Android operating system becoming a central component of the home of the future. More recently code was discovered in the 4.2.2 Android operating system update that alluded to delivering or supporting this sort of integration.
Diane Von Furstenberg watches a practice run of her Spring 2013 show with Google co-founder Sergey Brin during Fashion Week in New York, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. Both are wearing Google Glass, headwear that contains electronics such as a computer processor and a camera. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Although it is a market very much in its infancy, the latest research from Frost & Sullivan, published on January 30, estimates that in Europe alone home automation products and services will be worth €348.2 million by 2017.
Frost & Sullivan believes that the premium market -- such as bespoke integrated systems -- will continue to drive the market growth but that new innovations and technologies, such as standalone and modular systems will also help to bring home automation to a wider market and reduce overall installation costs.
A Google employee wears Glass at Google's Developers Conference on June 27, 2012 in San Francisco, California. Google Glass, available for pre-orders to developers at $1,500, feeds the user information and uploads data and images from and to the web. Mathew Sumner/Getty Images/AFP
A real touch of glass
Since the introduction of tablet computers in 2010, the market has changed drastically. For example, home automation user interface (UI) prices have fallen considerably. This means one of the key differentiating factors between the luxury and mass home automation systems has almost disappeared. In the past, intuitive UIs and a tailor-made tablet-like remote control were essentially exclusive to luxury home automation systems.
"Currently, even the most simple home automation system includes an intuitive UI through an application on a tablet computer, at a fraction of the price of a luxury propitiatory UI," explained Frost & Sullivan Environment and Building Technologies Senior Industry Analyst Hammam Ahmed. "This has helped home automation in appealing to a wider customer base and providing the market with a compelling offering at a relatively low price."
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Isabelle Olsson, lead designer of Google's Project Glass, talks about the design of the Google Glass during the keynote at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco on June 27, 2012. Photo: AFP/Kimihiro Hoshino