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Google Glass finds fellow traveler in Field Trip

The Field Trip app for exploring and learning about your surroundings launches a Glassware app for a more hands-free approach to real-world discovery.

Self-guided smartphone tours just got a lot more hands-free, as the Field Trip app that overlays interesting and cool facts about your immediate surroundings scoots over to Google Glass.

Already on Android and iOS, Field Trip's Glassware app offers a stripped-down version of the app, but with the benefit of freeing you from having to look at your phone.

"If you've ever tried to use your smartphone with a group of people, it's socially awkward," said John Hanke, who runs Niantic, the quasi-independent shop inside Google that builds Field Trip. "Or with my kids," he said with a smile, "they're likely to step in front of traffic."

Cards from Field Trip appear, letting you know when you've encountered a place of interest, in the upper right corner of Glass, and you can have them read to you. They also let you peer into a building and do some rudimentary exploring before you commit to going inside.

"The long-term vision is the real version of augmented reality, this deep knowledge of your environment without having to do any work," Hanke said.

You can toggle from the phone app more detailed settings, such as how often you want to be alerted to places of potential interest, or if you only want historical sites or locations with discounts.

Hanke has a long professional interest in geolocation. He founded Keyhole, which became Google Earth when the company bought it. After running Google's geolocation interests for several years, including Earth, Local, Maps, Panoramio, SketchUp, and StreetView, he started Niantic, which makes Field Trip and the massively multiplayer geolocation game Ingress.

The Field Trip Glassware app lets you explore facts about your location without having to pick up your smartphone. Google/Niantic

The Glass app, he said, makes it easier to get information from the app without having to interact with the phone. "The product was conceived with Glass in mind, but Glass wasn't ready." Last September, Field Trip launched on Android, and was followed earlier this year with its iOS version.

One thing that's not in the cards yet for Field Trip is integration with other Google services. For now, it's an independent project. "We may converge with Google Now at some point," Hanke said.

Field Trip and Ingress may not present immediately obvious paths from which Google can make money off of them, but that appears to suit the company just fine. As mapping outfits such as Waze and Locationary get swallowed up, Google might be content to keep its digital cartographers around, and figure out how to integrate and make money off of them later.