Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's brewing in Google's secret lab?


An integrated circuit on a contact lens.
Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to admit that Google has done some pretty remarkable things. I mean, who doesn't love the idea of a driverless car? I saw that in Popular Science magazine in the 1950s -- and in a lot of science fiction movies ever since. I'm also impressed by Google's Loon project. It would use a fleet of high-altitude balloons to bring Internet access to remote areas. 

And then there's Google Glass, the high-tech specs that incorporate a computer, a digital camera and a floating heads-up display. It's Glass that's getting lots of media coverage - and cranking up a public debate over privacy and safety issues. Reports last week said Britain is about to outlaw driving while wearing Glass.

I was thinking about how difficult it could be for the Brits to determine who is wearing the glasses. After all, they don't look big and clunky like the eyewear LeVar Burton wore in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Then I ran across a column by Louisville consultant (and a long-time friend) Stephen Arnold. It suggests that, at some point, Google's wearable computer might close to invisible. Here's what Arnold wrote about Google's long-term goal for a website called CitizenTekk:  

"The goal is not glasses. Glasses, clearly, are just a bridge to the goal. And that goal may be to embed a computer in your eyeball."
Well, beam me up, Scotty. That's a warp-speed jump from today's Glassholes. I started picturing a world where the London coppers would be equipped with a Voight-Kampff machine, the eyeball scanner Harrison Ford used in "Blade Runner" to detect replicants.

How did Arnold come to that conclusion? The trail he followed started with some of the scientists and engineers that Google has hired to work at the R&D lab Google calls Google X - or sometimes Google[x]. The head of the Glass project is (or was) a scientist named Babak Amirparviz who wrote a paper for a scientific conference that described how electronic devices might be embedded in a contact lens.

He also quoted a newspaper article that said one of the other X scientists met Google co-founder Larry Page in 1998 "and they talked about how cool it would be to have a computer in your eyeball."

Those are intriguing connections, but they don't exactly prove that Google is working on an eyeball computer. I'm hoping Arnold keep digging and find out more about what's going on behind the X.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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