Earlier this week Google's futuristic video glasses were granted three design patents. Yet the bigger story is that they were also granted a patent detailing some of the possible futuristic features associated with these glasses. Contrary to what the naysayers think about Google's video glasses, Google's patent actually details a very aggressive vision for this next generation device. Firstly, Google's video glasses will double as a smartphone at some point in time and secondly, be able to work with customizable hand gesturing. Interestingly, the associated hand gesturing will be operable day or night due to advanced wearable markers in the form of rings and invisible digital tattooing. At the end of the day, I think that Google's video glasses may have some surprising twists along the way that might be a lot of fun for consumers. This could be Google's shining moment and chance to break away from Apple's shadow – if they don't drop the ball, that is. Only time will tell.
Google's Head-Mounted Display, Rings & High-Tech Invisible Tattoos
Google states that their patented invention relates to a wearable marker to be used for passive interaction with a wearable computing device. A wearable marker may take the form of a ring, a bracelet, an artificial fingernail configured to be affixed to a fingernail, a decal configured to be affixed to a fingernail, or a glove, among other possible wearable items.
A wearable marker may further include an infrared (IR) reflective surface in the form of a surface pattern, the IR reflective surface being substantially optically invisible. The surface pattern could include a number, a pattern of lines, a pattern of shapes, an image, or other pictorial design rendering, for example. Being part of the IR reflective surface, the surface pattern may also be substantially optically invisible. Both the IR reflective surface and the included surface pattern may be configured to be visible to (or detectable by) an IR detection device, such as an IR camera or other IR detector via reflected IR radiation.
By way of example and without limitation, an IR reflective material could be composed of an IR reflective paint, and an IR absorptive material could be composed of an IR absorptive paint. The IR reflective surface and/or the surface pattern could be formed, created, or manufactured in such a manner as to be visible, detectable, or recognizable in IR light by an IR detector (such as an IR camera device). For example, the surface pattern could be a pattern of highly IR reflective and highly IR absorptive regions painted or layered onto a surface of a ring (or other hand-wearable item). Additionally or alternatively, the pattern could include regions of varying degrees of IR reflectivity and IR absorptivity.
The pattern could be visible to an IR camera (or other IR detection device) viewing radiation reflected from the surface. However, the pattern would be substantially or totally invisible as viewed in visible light, for example by a human eye.
About Google's Patent Figures: FIG. 5 illustrates a wearable marker for passive interaction with a wearable computing device; FIG. 6 illustrates triangulation of a wearable marker by a wearable computing device; FIG. 7 illustrates tracking of a wearable marker by a wearable computing device (and yes, we had a little fun with the added Super Hero graphic as we just couldn't pass on that opportunity – Ha!); and patent FIG. 8 shown below illustrates example wearable markers.
Google states that a library of hand gestures could be created by generating each hand gesture through a "learning" or recording process. More particularly, a wearable HMD could be placed into a recording mode during which a wearable IR marker is moved in a desired pattern of motion in the FOV of the IR camera device.
Also in accordance with example embodiments, a wearable computing device may include a head-mounted display (HMD) having eyeglasses or goggles that could combine computer-generated images displayed on the eye-facing surfaces of lens elements with an actual field of view observable through the lens elements.
Google's Video Glasses & Hand Gesturing
Google states that various functions and applications, as well as various forms of user input and sensory data from ancillary wearable computing components could provide rich and varied experiences and utility for a wearer of the HMD.
In an example embodiment, an HMD could be further equipped with an IR camera device capable of detecting IR radiation, and in particular, capable of detecting and recognizing the IR reflective surface pattern on a hand-wearable item (such as a ring) via reflected IR radiation. In addition, the HMD and the IR camera device could function together to track position and motion of the hand-wearable item within a FOV of the HMD, and by doing so could recognize known patterns of motion that correspond to known hand gestures. Recognition of a known pattern of motion could accordingly be used to identify a known hand gesture, which in turn could form a basis for user input to the HMD. For example, a particular gesture could be associated with a particular command, application, or other invokable action on the HMD.
In further accordance with example embodiments, an HMD could be communicatively connected with a communication network, and could exchange data with a server or server system (other device) in the network. In still further accordance with example embodiments, applications and/or commands invoked by hand gestures could involve communication with a server or server system in the communication network. For example, a hand gesture could cause a program running on the wearable HMD to upload and/or download content (e.g., media data) to/from the server.
Complex Gesturing & the Social Fashionista
Google further states that the hand-wearable item bearing the IR reflective surface pattern could be configured as multiple items bearing multiple, corresponding pattern components. For example, the hand-wearable item could include multiple rings, multiple artificial fingernails, or multiple fingernail decals. Multiple pattern components could be used to support complex gestures, for example ones involving two or more fingers and associated motion. Moreover, the hand-wearable item could take the form of a fashionable or stylish adornment having potential marketing value beyond its function in passive interaction.
Details behind Multiple Versions of Google's Video Glasses
The extending side-arms of Google's video glasses could formed of a solid structure of plastic or metal, or may be formed of a hollow structure of similar material so as to allow wiring and component interconnects to be internally routed through the eyeglasses. Each of the lens elements may include a material on which an image or graphic can be displayed. In addition, at least a portion of each lens elements may be sufficiently transparent so as to allow a user to see through the lens element. These two features of the lens elements could be combined; for example, to provide an augmented reality or heads-up display where the projected image or graphic could be superimposed over or provided in conjunction with a real-world view as perceived by the user through the lens elements.
The on-board computing system (118) may be configured to receive and analyze data from the video camera (120), the sensor (122), the finger-operable touch pad (124), and the wireless communication interface (126 - and possibly from other sensory devices and/or user interfaces) to generate images for output to the lenses.
Video cameras with a small form factor, such as those used in cell phones or webcams, for example, may be incorporated into an example of the wearable system. Google states that the camera could be placed anywhere on their video glasses. The forward facing image captured by the video camera may be used to generate an augmented reality where computer generated images appear to interact with the real-world view perceived by the user.
The video camera may also include IR detection capability, such that it may present functionality within an IR region of the electromagnetic spectrum. For example, the operational properties of the video camera could apply to infrared (IR) as well as optical light. As such, the video camera could detect IR radiation reflected from an IR reflective surface pattern on a hand-wearable item.
Google states that the sensor noted in FIG. 1 below (122), could include more than one type of sensor device or element. By way of example and without limitation, the sensor could include one or more of a motion detector (e.g., a gyroscope and/or an accelerometer), a location determination device (e.g., a GPS device), a magnetometer, and an orientation sensor (e.g., a theodolite).
The Side-Arm's Mini Touch Pad
Google's invention includes the incorporation of a mini finger-operable touch pad (124) for user input commands. The finger-operable touch pad may sense at least one of a position and a movement of a finger via capacitive sensing, resistance sensing, or a surface acoustic wave process, among other possibilities. The finger-operable touch pad 124 may be capable of sensing finger movement in a direction parallel to the pad surface, in a direction normal to the pad surface, or both, and may also be capable of sensing a level of pressure applied.
The finger-operable touch pad may be formed of one or more translucent or transparent insulating layers and one or more translucent or transparent conducting layers. Edges of the finger-operable touch pad may be formed to have a raised, indented, or roughened surface, so as to provide tactile feedback to a user when the user's finger reaches the edge of the finger-operable touch pad. Google states that they could incorporate more than one touch pad into the design of the glasses.
In Google's patent FIG. 1b we're able to see that the video glasses could include two mini projectors that are located on the side-arms of the glasses that could project imagery on the lenses. The lenses, according to Google, may act as a combiner in a light projection system and may include a coating that reflects the light projected onto them from the projectors (128 and 130). Alternatively, the projectors could be scanning laser devices that interact directly with the user's retinas. The low-power laser or LED source and accompanying scanning system, could draw a raster display directly onto the retina of one or more of the user's eyes. The user could then perceive the raster display based on the light reaching the retina. Okay, that's a little freaky.
In alternative embodiments, other types of display elements may also be used. For example, lens elements may include: a transparent or semi-transparent matrix display, such as an electroluminescent display or a liquid crystal display; one or more waveguides for delivering an image to the user's eyes; and/or other optical elements capable of delivering an in focus near-to-eye image to the user.
The Communication Interface: Smartphone
One of the key attributes associated with Google's video glasses is that they'll double as a smartphone. Google's patent states that the video glasses could include support for wireless communications such as 3G and/or 4G cellular radio technologies (e.g., CDMA, EVDO, GSM, UMTS, LTE, WiMAX), as well as wireless local or personal area network technologies such as a Bluetooth, Zigbee, and WiFi (e.g., 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g). Their freaky patent figure below makes the point that video glasses will double as a smartphone.
Google states that information exchange could support or be part of services and/or applications, including, without limitation, uploading and/or downloading content (e.g., music, video, etc.), and client-server communications, among others.
Google's patent FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating an example embodiment of a method in a wearable computing device for passively interacting with a wearable marker.
Google's patent application was originally filed in Q3 2011 and recently granted to Google by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Google Wins Three Design Patents for Wearable Display Devices
Earlier this week Google was granted three design patents (one, two and three) by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The first patent design that illustrates dual lenses is more in-line with Google's patent that we detailed in our report.
At the end of the day, Google's granted patent detailing the technology behind their video glasses is actually much more advanced than most originally thought. This could be a positive indication that Google may have several detailed versions of their video glasses on the drawing board and that their roadmap for this new device could be much deeper than most could imagine.
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Sites Covering our Original Report
MacSurfer, Digg, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious,TecVilla, 9to5 Google, Android Community, Droid Life, The Verge, Tecmundo Spanish, Neuer Dings Germany, AndroidWorld Italy, Gadzeto Poland, WebNews Italy, Ubergizmo, Google Discovery Portuguese, Android Authority, Gadgetfreak Greece, and more.