Google Glass dominates wearable tech session at DEMO Fall 2013

Three of the four demonstrators in the wearable technology session employed Google Glass, even though none of them know when it will be commercially available.

Despite the uncertainty regarding when Google Glass will be made available to the public, entrepreneurs are betting their livelihood on the head-worn device.

Three of the four demonstrators that composed the wearable technology session at the DEMO Fall 2013 conference displayed technology based on Glass.

Pristine joined the growing market for Glass in the healthcare field, introducing a streaming video solution that allowed remote users to watch and interact via audio during healthcare procedures. Surgery was the example given on-stage, and the technology allowed for a remote user to call in, watch the surgery in real time, and consult the surgeon as he conducted it.

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The company claimed the technology is HIPAA-compliant, and aims to replace expensive, unwieldy solutions that enable streaming video for medical procedures. The cost for current technology can run into the tens of thousands, whereas Google has suggested a $300 to $500 price range for Glass when it becomes available to consumers.

Aside from the uncertainty around Glass’ release date, Pristine CEO Kyle Samani told panelists that the company has had trouble finding real-life settings in which it can test the technology. Testing in a hospital setting would require collaboration from across the facility – from physicians to patients to IT.

Fortunately, Pristine may have plenty of opportunities to find testing environments as Google bides its time developing the technology.

Another demonstrator, GlassPay, may also benefit from some extra time to develop its technology – a Glass-based technology that allows shoppers to make purchases by scanning barcodes on products.

The only catch, so far, is that GlassPay only allows purchases to be made with the digital currency Bitcoin. Although the demonstration functioned as intended, one noticeable flaw was that the display only showed the price for retail items in Bitcoin value. So a set of towels were shown to retail for 0.1 BTC, leaving the user to calculate the equivalent in USD. Not only will users need to have a Bitcoin Wallet in order to use GlassPay, they’ll need to keep up with the exchange rate on their own if they want to know the dollar-value of their expenses.

Later on in the Glass Pay demonstration, though, GlassPay CEO Guy Paddock explained that GlassPay is currently limited to Bitcoin only because it’s much easier to make quick online payments with Bitcoin than with cash. He expressed interest in integrated Google Wallet later on, which would open up a larger market.

In retrospect, the Bitcoin integration worked to Glass Pay’s advantage, for the purposes of DEMO at least. The company was only given a four-minute window in which to demonstrate its product, and Bitcoin involved much less risk of a verification issue on-stage. Similarly, Paddock also explained that a GlassPay app is already available for Android devices. Google Glass, however, attracts much more publicity than smartphone payment apps, landing GlassPay in the highly publicized wearable technology category.

Another Glass-based app, People+, relies more on the Glass technology. Calling the product a combination of LinkedIn and Wikipedia, the demonstrators showed how People+ could browse through information on a given person, drawing from multiple online source, while focusing the Glass camera on him.

It’s an early iteration of an app that seems perfect for facial recognition technology, depending on how well that might work on Glass in the future. When that might happen, and how such technology will be received by the general public, still remains to be seen.

Only one demonstrator in the wearable technology session didn’t employ Google Glass, but may have had the most impressive demonstration. Skully showed off its high-tech motorcycle helmet, which is equipped with a heads-up display that projects GPS navigation and playback from the rear-view camera and voice commands for phone calls or controlling music.

The rear-view camera may have been the most impressive, giving a panoramic view of everything located behind a motorcyclist and eliminating the need to check blind spots. The rear-view camera’s technology recognizes the horizon behind the driver, meaning that the road will always be in view, and flattens the video playback to provide depth in the video playback.

Unlike Google Glass, the Skully Helmet has a spring 2014 estimated release date, and the company is preparing an SDK on which developers could build their own apps for the device.

The only potential competition it may face could be when Glass becomes available and users could simply wear it underneath traditional motorcycle helmets. Fortunately for Skully, that likely won’t be an issue for a few years.

Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter @ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is cneagle@nww.com.

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