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Our ambient computing future

I noticed this week that Google has started to overlay augmented reality-type place markers onto Street View. The markers are designed to help surface the kind of local business information that you might otherwise find in search — phone number, hours of operation, and so on. Apparently not everyone is seeing them, but the feature is starting to roll out in certain cities. Above is a photo of Dundas Street West in the Junction.

This transforms Street View into even more of a wayfinding tool, but it also offers up a glimpse of how the world might look with augmented reality. But to make this ultimately happen, you really do need to figure out how to get people to start wearing smart glasses. Lots of companies, including Google and Snap, have been trying. None of their products have really stuck — though Snap’s Spectacles are easily the best looking ones.

However, last month Google did announce that it had acquired Canadian smart glasses company, North. I was invited to try out a pair of North Focals 1.0 glasses, which I wrote about over here. They were exceedingly cool, but definitely not ready for mainstream and daily usage. The sides were thick and you had to wear a ring joystick in order to navigate through its menus. Too much work. Too nerdy.

But that’s okay because Google didn’t buy North for the Focals product. They bought them for talent, patents, and for probably a bunch of other things. They bought them to help Google invest in its “hardware efforts and ambient computing future.” The little markers you might now be seeing on Google Street View are likely part of that.

1 Comment so far

  1. georgeemerson

    Thanks, Brandon – I haven’t seen that yet in my Google usage. Years ago Yelp was pioneering AR, viewed live in real time, in their app – walk down a block with the app opened and it surfaced adjacent business names and reviews. Yelp pioneered a great deal of usability in local geography/search apps. They won a $3 billion antitrust lawsuit against Google but… innovative company like Yelp is slowly strangled to death while we wait for the guilty monopolist to “innovate.”

    Liked by 1 person

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