Google Goggles will Spur Geospatial Development

by Matt Ball on February 22, 2012

There’s long been a rumor that Google has been hard at work on eye glasses that will stream information to the user. With a story in the New York Times today, that rumor has been verified, with details that the product will be released by the end of this year at a price point between $250 and $600. This new data visualization capability is said to be coupled with motion sensors, a forward facing camera, and GPS in order to provide an ideal platform for augmented reality with information overlayed about location in real-time. Users will navigate the menus through head tilting, which has been said to be intuitive and easy to learn, and not too visible to those around the users.

Location information is the primary focus of the new device to date, with the lead on the project being Sergey Brin, and a key developer being Steve Lee who developed mapping software Latitude. Given this location focus, and the open architecture of the device being built upon the Android platform, we can expect a groundswell of geospatial development upon this new platform for traditional geospatial data collection and navigation applications.

The heads-up display of information based on location has a whole host of commercial possibilities that tie in nicely with existing applications and information systems.  The applications of this technology to such fieldwork as utility work, construction of underground infrastructure, and various mapping purposes within the natural resources realm seems a given. However, the military application will likely be a huge driver as there has been previous news that the U.S. military scrapped development of their own mobile device in favor of the Android platform.

Since the device is being touted as just another form factor of a mobile phone, with full network connectivity included, and the same menus and applications ecosystem as Android phones, the re-tooling of existing geospatial applications for this new interface should be rather seamless. There are a growing number of custom applications that can be built too, especially since their is an ArcGIS API for the Android platform now available. Players in the geospatial applications for the Android space also include TerraGo, Northrop Grumman, Intergraph, Ubisense, the Carbon Project, AgTerraGeoloqi and many others.

There are a host of educational applications for the devices for field exploration and learning about the landscape in such disciplines as geology, landscape architecture, and architectural tours of urban areas. Museums and nature preserves could certainly also adopt the technology to give visitors a richer sense of historical context and other details about what they are viewing.

Another interesting application of the technology is in the research and recording of the actions of seasoned workers so that their knowledge set can be passed along. Existing work being done with eye tracking of geologists has has the express purpose of discovering how the expert makes sense of complex features. One can think of a number of similar applications to speed training and improve performance and knowledge retention.

The geospatial industry has long been a first-adopter of new platforms, with some of the first tablet applications appearing years ahead of the iPad revolution. With these Google Goggles comes a whole new business case for custom location-based applications to extend existing applications of the technology, and to create whole new opportunities.

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