"One thing that we're really excited about and working hard on is transforming the way that people interact with Google." The words of Scott Huffman, Google's vice president of engineering for Search, echoed through my head as I watched a video demonstrating the search engine giant's latest sensation, Project Glass. "From the stilted one-keyword-at-a-time conversation, to more of a natural conversation ... like a human assistant."
Make no mistake, Huffman isn't talking about a virtual assistant along the lines of Apple's Siri, which responds to your questions. He's talking about a way to interact with a search engine -- and all its associated products -- that includes it gathering so much data about your life and habits, it will start anticipating your needs. Cool? Yes. Creepy? Maybe that, too.
"If you think about a good assistant," Huffman told me, pausing to correct himself, "a great assistant ... they don't interrupt you every few minutes." He described his own assistant, someone who doesn't interrupt him often, but certainly knows when she should give him a gentle reminder or a sharp kick.
"It's the opposite of the experience on your phone today," Huffman pointed out, referencing how disruptive our smartphones can be. Not only are they not capable of prioritizing our notifications, but they're mostly incapable of anticipating how the priorities themselves change depending on where we are -- or what time it is.
Though Google's improved experience will span all manner of devices -- "We're trying to think of it as ... your assistant is ubiquitously with you," said Huffman -- it's Google Glass that has everyone talking.
Under development in the Google X Lab -- that mysterious skunkworks where self-driving cars, neural networks, and other quirky yet ambitious projects are being dreamed up -- Glass is the most provocative way in which this assistant, your main touchpoint with Google, might interact with you.
A small display lives on a frame that resembles eyeglasses. It is connected to a camera, microphone, bone-conducting speaker, and more. Thanks to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, the device communicates with other gadgets, such as your smartphone, as well as the good ol' Web.
Google's intent with Glass is to provide you with all the information you need, before you even think of a question, but without being a nag. Sound too crazy? Not for Google, says ... Google.
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