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Google's augmented-reality glasses: Is it all PR?

Experts in augmented reality, on seeing Google's Project Glass, suggest it's a vast overpromise of what can be delivered. So, is it all to make Google seem more interesting?

Is Google's Sergey Brin about to get 10 percent off a new carpet?
Thomas Hawk

I know many people will be out this weekend, practicing walking down the streets and not looking where they're going.

This is in preparation for Google's new augmented-reality glasses -- code name Project Glass -- which were teased this week.

I use the word "teased" advisedly. Always.

For though the sight of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wearing the glasses in public might offer credibility to the high-tech specs, it might also reveal a desire on Google's part for outpourings of love.

You see, those who have spent much of their lives working in augmented reality are offering that Google's lenses are very far-sighted.

As Wired reports, Pranav Mistry, of MIT Labs, and Blair MacIntyre, director of the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech, are both squinting with misgivings.

Mistry is less than misty-eyed at Google's revelation. "The small screen seen in the photos cannot give the experience the video is showing," he told Wired.

MacIntyre suggested that with the small screen placed to the side, it would be very hard to see and interact with the actual content on display.

Some may imagine that there might be a helping of envy in such comments. But MacIntyre is more than forceful in his view that Google's glasses are half-empty: "In one simple fake video, Google has created a level of overhype and overexpectation that their hardware cannot possibly live up to."

The most touching and telling word here might be "hype." The company that once eschewed hype as if it was an especially retrograde plague is now embracing it like a long-lost (and wealthy) uncle.

Whether it's for Google+ or for Chrome, Google's strategy with respect to real human beings has taken a mightily radical turn that even its own self-driving car might balk at.

Larry, Sergey, and friends have come to realize that people have feelings, and if you can make those feelings about your company positive, then you can persuade them to buy far more of your products.

Yes, that's what Apple does -- though it also manages to make its products appeal to those human feelings too, something around which Google still struggles to get its vast head.

Project Glass might well, in the future, prove to be more than a little amusement. We might all be wearing these things and even learning how not to barge into each other on Fifth Avenue. Currently, though, Google's putting this out there to make you like the company more.

Which, in its way, is a refreshing change.