The Next Google GIS Advent: Google Glasses

Google is set to announce a new technology that should have wide GIS technology implications.

Widespread published reports indicate Google will launch “Google Glasses” by the end of the year. The Terminator-style glasses will stream information to the goggle wearers and would be Android-based with a 3G or 4G connection. It will also have motion and GPS sensors. The glasses will project entertainment and advertisements onto the lenses.

According to this New York Times article, the glasses are not for constant wear.

There is reportedly location information and built-in cameras. If the reports about the Google Glasses are true, a person could be looking at the Eiffel Tower and historical information would pop up in the glasses. So, they could see the landmark in real life while reading about its history.

However, one GIS technology professional says the one conversation nobody is having is about geography.

“What I found missing from this conversation and subsequent conversations around the web was the perspective on how geospatial developers would be able to exploit the power of this new medium through an API,” wrote Alex Mahrou, author of RockyMountainGeo.com.

Mahrou, a career GIS professional, argued on his blog that Google Glasses would be beneficial to help public safety officials visualize geospatial datasets.

“Imagine a first responder, ambulance driver, police officer being able to know for sure that the address they pulled up is indeed the right one? What kind of information or data about this property would be useful for this first responder? Given the fact that we already have these E911 datasets, we could take it a step further by integrating them with this tool,” Mahrou wrote. “Imagine integrating this tool with a BIM, and arming a firefighter with the ability to navigate through an area with poor to no visibility– safely.”

Mahrou admits many of these tools already exist, but they are strapped inside a vehicle or a PDA. The Google Glasses could essentially untether a police officer, for example, from the car to look up information and allow him to view datasets on the Google Goggles.

“One would assume that these glasses would integrate with the Maps API, which happens to be the most popular Google API in the world right now– for which many organizations have already confidently embraced,” Mahrou wrote. “The tools to exploit these datasets might change form factors one day; and I believe these Google Glasses are a good tool to bridge the gap between augmented reality and GIS.”

The fact is we really don’t know much about the Google Glasses or how widely they will be used. But one thing is for sure: Many of today’s new technologies are adding GIS capabilities. Whether it’s for military use or personal use, GIS technology is a hot add-on to cool new gadgets like the Google Goggles.

What that means for an online GIS degree student is more opportunity. And more fun gadgets to play with.

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