Google Glass Patent Papers Reveal Wealth of Details About Eyewear Computer

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2012-07-16

Google Glass Patent Papers Reveal Wealth of Details About Eyewear Computer

All of the fascinating details about the futuristic, intricate technology behind Google's Project Glass eyewear-mounted computer may not be splashed all over the Internet by the company, but if you know where to look, some answers are waiting to be found.

Google's patent application, which is listed online, reveals plenty of enticing details about the inner workings of Google Glass, which will first be offered for sale to a small group of Google developers early in 2013.

Google demonstrated a prototype of the special eyeglasses at its I/O Conference in June that focused on the basic components of Google Glass, including an Android-powered display, a tiny webcam, a GPS locator and Internet connection node built into one side of a pair of glasses. The glasses are lightweight and may or may not have lenses—sunglass-type or otherwise.

But underneath the surface, there's a lot more potential to the whole Google Glass concept, according to the patent application.

The glasses use a side-mounted touch-pad that allows users to control its various functions according to the patent paperwork. The glasses will be able to display a wide range of views, depending on user needs and interests. One potential view is a real-time image on the see-through display on the glasses, the patent application states.

"Displaying the visual representation may include showing an image or graphic. However, the display may also allow a wearer to see through the image or graphic to provide the visual representation superimposed over or in conjunction with a real-world view as perceived by the wearer."

What's really fascinating about the patent application is that many of the ideas described include multiple ways of performing the same tasks, which show just how much the Project Glass effort is still evolving even as the project continues.

One description details how the side-mounted touch-pad could be a physical or virtual component and that it could include a heads-up display on the glasses with lights that get brighter as the user's finger nears the proper touch-pad button.

On the heads-up display viewed by the user on the glasses, the side-mounted touch-pad buttons would be represented as a series of dots so they can operate them by feel, the applications states. "The dots may be displayed in different colors. It should be understood that the symbols may appear in other shapes such as squares, rectangles, diamonds or other symbols. "

Developers to Receive First Google Glass Explorer Editions

Also described in the patent application are potential uses of a microphone, a camera, a keyboard and a touch-pad either one at a time or together. The device could even include capabilities to understand and show just what the user wants to see, according to the patent application. "In the absence of an explicit instruction to display certain content, the exemplary system may intelligently and automatically determine content for the multimode input field that is believed to be desired by the wearer."

"For example, a person's name may be detected in speech during a wearer's conversation with a friend, and, if available, the contact information for this person may be displayed in the multimode input field," the application states.

Another possibility is that the glasses "may detect a data pattern in incoming audio data that is characteristic of car engine noise (and possibly characteristic of a particular type of car, such as the type of car owned or registered to the wearer)," the application states. That information could be interpreted by the device "as an indication that the wearer is in a car and responsively launch a navigation system or mapping application in the multimode input field."

While early versions of Google Glass mount the controls and hardware on the right side of the glasses within the range of the wearer's right eye, other possible configurations are included in the patent application.

"The on-board computing system is shown to be positioned on the extending side-arm of the eyeglasses; however, the on-board computing system may be provided on other parts of the eyeglasses," the application states. "The video camera is shown to be positioned on the extending side-arm of the eyeglasses; however, the video camera may be provided on other parts of the eyeglasses."

A lot is still not known about Google Glass and what specific features the device will have when it eventually moves from prototype to a real product sold to consumers.

What is known is that Google expects to ship the first versions of Google Glass, an Explorer Edition, in early 2013. But those devices will only be sold to U.S.-based developers who were at this year's Google I/O Conference. The first devices will sell for $1,500, according to Google. Consumer versions are expected at least a year later.

A demonstration video of Google Glass was posted by the company on YouTube.

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