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Google: Yep, we're testing augmented-reality glasses

After months of leaks, Google posts a video showing how this futuristic technology might work in someone's daily life.

Google finally acknowledged that it's testing a prototype set of eyeglasses that can stream data to the wearer's eyes in real time.

A video of this augmented-reality experiment was posted by Google on YouTube showing someone wearing the glasses as he made his way around variety of Manhattan venues, receiving up-to-the-minute updates as information streamed into his glasses.

Let's not be too cynical about an idea that, at first blush, seems delightful but not very relevant. Also, given that the authorities take a dim view of driving while texting, you can image how they'll react to someone behind the wheel of a car with yet another distraction.

But this is fun stuff, and if it works as advertised could prove useful to a lot of people. What's more, this isn't a static project. The New York Times reports that one of the researchers on the project, Babak Parviz, is a University of Washington specialist in bionanotechnology who developed a contact lens with embedded electronics that can show pixels to someone's eye.

Word of the special glasses project, which reportedly has been something of an open secret on the Google campus, began to spread into the media in December.

Now Google's touting it as Project Glass. Parviz and his collaborators, Steve Lee and Sebastian Thrun, wrote up a brief post to accompany the video and solicited feedback, asking people what they'd like to see in the glasses.

A group of us from Google[x] started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment. We're sharing this information now because we want to start a conversation and learn from your valuable input. So we took a few design photos to show what this technology could look like and created a video to demonstrate what it might enable you to do.

The New York Times said that, in theory, this sort of augmented reality could come in the form of contact lenses. Parvis, an associate professor from the University of Washington, is an expert in bionanotechnology and built a contact lens with embedded electronics. Thrun was also instrumental in developing Google's self-driving cars. (From the CNET archives, here's a Q&A that CNET did with Thrun about the future of consumer robotics.)

In photos made available from the company, Google's glasses seem to be made from an Oakley-like metallic glasses frame without lenses, which curves across a person's forehead and is held up with nose pads. On the right of the frame is a thin device, presumably a small computer, and translucent screen just above and to the right of the right eye.

The video shows how Google Glasses would work from the point of view of a person wearing them. As the owner eats a sandwich, a message pops up from a friend inviting him to meet. The Glasses wearer responds by voice and a message is sent.

As he walks through the city, the glasses help him out in various ways, such as telling him the number 6 subway line is delayed and how he can get to his rendezvous on foot. In the end, he is able to turn off the music that the headset plays and he has a videoconference with a friend.

Early comments on the Google+ page are gushing about how cool the technology concept is and about people expecting the software for Google Glasses to be Android-based.