Report: Google is developing 'Terminator' glasses

Apps already use augmented reality technology; glasses would take the concept further.

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) --- Looks like we're all about to get way more familiar with the concept of "augmented reality."

According to a report on The New York Times' Bits blog, Google is developing a set of glasses that will display digital information on top of the real world. Or, for the pop-culture inclined, they're making "Terminator" glasses.

Here are some details from the report, which CNN has not confirmed:

According to several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named, the glasses will go on sale to the public by the end of the year. These people said they are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones,” or $250 to $600.

    The people familiar with the Google glasses said they would be Android-based, and will include a small screen that will sit a few inches from someone’s eye. They will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS.

    A Google spokesman declined to comment on the project.

    The blog 9 to 5 Google has what it says are more details about the functionality of the glasses:

    One really cool bit: The navigation system currently used is a head tilting-to scroll and click. We are told it is very quick to learn and once the user is adept at navigation, it becomes second nature and almost indistinguishable to outside users.

    This is a concept that's been popping up in the world of tech-futurism for years now. There are a number of augmented reality apps -- Layar, Wikitude and plenty of others -- that use a smarphone's camera to overlay an image of the world with digital bits of info. Wikitude, for example, puts information about cultural and historical landmarks on top of camera images to help travelers get a better understanding of their surroundings.

    Perhaps a more seamless way to do this would be with glasses -- since you could get this kind of data all the time, without opening an app and putting your phone in front of your face. Google isn't the first to toy with this concept, but when a big technology player like Google throws its weight behind a new idea, it tends to go from sci-fi to mainstream much more quickly than it would otherwise. For now, the Times says Google doesn't expect people to wear the glasses all the time:

    The glasses will have a low-resolution built-in camera that will be able to monitor the world in real time and overlay information about locations, surrounding buildings and friends who might be nearby, according to the Google employees. The glasses are not designed to be worn constantly — although Google expects some of the nerdiest users will wear them a lot — but will be more like smartphones, used when needed.

    Look for these types of augmented reality projects to continue pushing forward.

    Some researchers are already experimenting with contact lenses that could display digital information. The info would appear to float in the air -- above reality.