For all those who can't wait until augmented reality arrives, here's the good news: Google's augmented-reality glasses, the company's visionary headset that overlays endless data on top of what you see in plain old reality, is now available in a special "Explorer's Edition."
The bad news: it will cost $1,500, and will only be available early next year to those U.S. developers who attended this year's Google I/O developers conference.
Sky Divers, Bicyclists
But don't despair. The fact that the heads-up display is available at all, even at a high price and to a very limited group, signals that the company believes it has a product that could be, well, looking good.
On Wednesday, Google Chief Executive Sergey Brin showed the prototype headset to attendees of the Google I/O conference, taking place in San Francisco's Moscone West conference center. The limitation on U.S.-only developers is apparently because of various countries' rules about radio-frequency devices.
In addition to layering data on reality, the glasses also offer a built-in video camera. To illustrate the possibilities, Brin introduced a stunt in which four sky divers, wearing the headsets, proceeded to jump from a blimp over San Francisco and land on the roof of the convention center where the conference was being held. The conference goers watched the jump through the parachuters' eyes via the glasses' video transmissions.
As if that wasn't enough to get your "I want one" juices going, video streams were also being transmitted from climbers who rappelled down the side of the conference center, all of whom were similarly fashionable in the new eyewear.
'500 Different Ways' To Go Wrong
"This could go wrong in about 500 different ways," Brin cautioned before the stunt took place, but there were no perceived hitches in the demonstration.
For those concerned about how to match such a headset with their outfit, Brin pointed out that the prototype glasses come in several colors -- blue, black and silver.
Google designer Isabelle Olson told news media the display was designed to be slightly above a user's eyeline, so users could still see an unadulterated world. She also pointed out that they weigh less than many brands of sunglasses.
Uses include taking family home movies without having to search for and position the camera, all from the point of view of a doting parent -- or a glasses-wearing child.
While Google was mum on many technical details, we do know that the glasses have a side touch panel and a button on top for taking photos and video. Functions include video chat, photo sharing, overlay display of data, and shopping.
The glasses are the first products from the company's Project Glass, whose aim is to create various kinds of networked glasses. At the moment, Brin said, the prototype is not a consumer product but is intended for enthusiasts.