Inside the Google House of Ideas: 2 Lens Glass, Google Robots, and Smartwatches

There are rumors that Google will be opening retail stores sometime in the near future (some rumors point to next year). The question rises though, what will Google feature in those storefronts? Will Chromebooks be a kiosk filler item? Will we see Android based phones? Are Google Glass wearable eye glasses still somewhat far off? Might self-driving cars still face changes in state legislation? Google TV might be a possibility. Home entertainment systems running on Android Hardware could also be shelf stuffers. Or will Google pull out some surprises for us?

Some recent patent filings from Google provide some possible hints at what we might see in Googleshops (or whatever they might be called) at some point, if Google does indeed open retail shops.

A look at how 2 lens glasses might be calibrated from the patent.

Binocular Head Mounted Display

The very first of them is likely still some time off, but interesting in that it details a version of Google Glass with two lenses instead of one. It’s the first patent filing I can recall from Google that actually has Sergey Brin’s name stamped on it as a co-inventor. Keep in mind that the Google Founder has been seen multiple times in public wearing a single lens (monocular) pair of Google Glass, including a recent trip on a subway in New York City.

Some alignment features are shown on a pair of glasses involving a noise bridge and sidearms behind ears.

The patent itself describes how a pair of glasses with a display for each eye might be calibrated, with lenses rotated, changes to sidebars behind each ear, side bars moved up or down, and more. This type of augmented reality glasses is often referred to as a binocular head mounted display. Misalignment of a pair of glasses like this can cause problems, which this patent addresses:

[0015] One technological hurdle to overcome to further encourage marketplace adoption of HMD technology is identifying and compensating for binocular HMD deformation. Deformation of a binocular HMD can lead to deleterious misalignment between the left and right image displays of the binocular HMD.

These misalignments can result in a blurred or otherwise compromised image as perceived by the user, which ultimately leads to a poor user experience (disorientation, dizziness, etc.). Deformation can occur due to a variety of reasons including misuse, poor user fit, nonsymmetrical facial features, harsh environmental factors (e.g., thermal warping), or otherwise.

I don’t believe that a pair of binocular augmented reality glasses from Google have been seen out in the wild, but some of the patent filings from Google have shown 2 lens glasses. The issue of figuring out how to prevent alignment problems might have been keeping us from seeing binocular glasses from Google in public. Will we see them in Googleshop window displays?

An image showing how sidearms of Glasses might move up and down, independently of each other, from the patent.

Laser Alignment of Binocular Head Mounted Display
Invented by Sergey Brin and Babak Amirparviz
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20130038510
Published February 14, 2013
Filed: August 9, 2011

Abstract

A binocular head mounted display includes a frame, right and left displays, an alignment sensor, and a control system. The right and left displays display right and left images to a user and are mounted to the frame. The alignment sensor includes a first laser source mounted proximate to one of the right or left displays and a first photo-detector array mounted opposite the first laser source and proximate to an opposite one of the right or left displays.

The first alignment sensor is mounted to measure misalignment between the right and left displays due to deformation of the frame about one or more rotational axes and to generate a signal that is indicative of the misalignment. The control system is coupled to the alignment sensor to receive the signal and to calculate the misalignment based at least in part upon the signal.

Google’s Rules of Robotics

If you’re a science fiction geek, you might have come across Isaac Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics while you were growing up. The Will Smith movie, I, Robot, is loosely based upon Asimov’s stories, and the robots within the film are programmed with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics . I think I first learned about them as a 12 or 13 year old (guess I’m a science fiction geek).

Google was granted two patents today that hint at rules for robots.

The following screenshot from one of the patents shows an android device as a human interface for controlling a robot:

An image from the patent showing an android device as a human interface, the cloud as an intermediary information source, and a robot connected to both.

Last October, I wrote about a Google patent that described how Google’s visual search project, Google Goggles might be used by robots to learn about objects that they might have to interact with, in the post Robots Search Google Goggles to Pick New Things Up. Google’s new patents involving robots also describe how cloud computing might play a role in how robots might learn about the objects around them as they work.

A flow chart showing how a robot might gain information about an object from the cloud, and an image of a robot performing work.

Methods and systems for providing instructions to a robotic device
Invented by Ryan Hickman and Damon Kohler
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent 8,380,349
Granted February 19, 2013
Filed: October 27, 2011

Abstract

Embodiments disclose methods and systems for providing instructions to a robot device. The method may be executable to receive information from a robotic device and determine data responsive to the information. The method may also be executable to determine an order to send the data to the robotic device, where data associated with robot functionality to be performed at a first time is given a first priority and data associated with robot functionality to be performed at a subsequent time is given a second priority.

The method is further executable to receive information indicating an amount of available memory on the robotic device and to provide the robotic device an amount of the data responsive to the information that is storable in the amount of available memory on the robotic device and in an order such that data that pertains to the first priority is sent first.

Another issue that might come up with robots is when they are issued two different commands that might conflict with each other. For instance, a robot might be told to clean the floor, but might be interupted by a command to be quiet when guests arrive, and may then stop making noise by cleaning.

The person who issued the command and the guests might move off to another room, and the robot has to decide whether or not it should return to cleaning, even though that might make some noise. The next patent covers those types of situations.

A flow chart from the patent showing commands issued to a robot, and it deciding whether to follow the second command before completing the first.

Methods and systems for autonomous robotic decision making
Invented by Anthony G. Francis, Jr.
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent 8,380,652
Granted February 19, 2013
Filed: May 4, 2012

Abstract

Methods and systems for robotic determination of a response to conflicting commands are provided. The robot may evaluate scenarios using variables related to the contextual/situational data for event outcomes from which the robot can determine which of two or more actions to take, as by prioritizing the actions in order of importance.

Google Smart Watch

This past fall saw some tech blogs reporting about a Google smartwatch and this particular patent, not too long after the patent was filed. I’m not sure if it was disclosed publicly (it could have been), or if the information was shared other ways. On its surface, this watch looks somewhat like a regular watch instead of something out of a Dick Tracey cartoon:

A watch with a closed face showing the time and that there are 3 emails waiting.

Flip up the cover however, and you see emails, Google Maps, and possibly other information:

A watch with the face flipped up, and a message shown on the interior watchface display.

Look through the lens of the watch itself at objects in the world around you, and it might provide details about those that you might not expect:

Looking through the interior watch face display at coffee on shelves, you can see information about price, health, and possibly an advertisement.

Is that “buy now” in the image above an advertisement?

This smartwatch could potentially also act as a navigational device:

Navigational directions show on the interior face of a smartwatch with directions included.

Smart-watch including flip up display
Invented by Richard Carl Gossweiler, III and James Brooks Miller
Assignee: Google Inc. (Mountain View, CA)
US Patent 8,379,488
Granted February 19, 2013
Filed: August 21, 2012

Abstract

A smart-watch can include a wristband, a base, and a flip up portion. The base can be coupled to the wristband and include a housing, a processor, a wireless transceiver, and a tactile user interface. The wireless transceiver can be configured to connect to a wireless network. The tactile user interface can be configured to provide interaction between a user and the smart-watch.

The flip up portion can be displaceable between an open position exposing the base and a closed position concealing the base. Further, the flip up portion can include: a top display exposed when the flip up portion is in the closed position, and an inside display opposite the top display. The inside display can be concealed when the flip up portion is in the closed position and be exposed when the flip up portion is in the open position.

We don’t know what the inventory of Googleshops (again, my term) might include, but we just might see one and two lens smart glasses, robots that can make decisions on their own, and smartwatches. It should be an interesting place to shop.

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12 thoughts on “Inside the Google House of Ideas: 2 Lens Glass, Google Robots, and Smartwatches”

  1. A watch would be awesome. I know we’ve got iPod watches (sort of) and checking your phone isn’t the most difficult task, but being able to literally look at your wrist and know whether you’ve got an email or how to get to a particular destination without having to carry a phone around would be great!

  2. This is great stuff Bill! The idea of using the Google glasses, or watch for that matter, to scan images we see everyday and receive on the spot information about the product or service; link it in with local services and its an instant winner. People buying products instantly via their watch because they saw a poster on a wall of the product/service that caught their eye. No typing, no scrolling – just point and buy! Brilliant.

  3. I’m fairly confident that the search engine part of Google is just a cover and their real goal is complete and total world domination. Kidding, but with all the patents and different areas they seem poised to spread into it seems like the days of thinking of them as just a search company are quickly coming to an end. They work on some crazy ideas…really cool crazy ideas.

  4. Interesting stuff, after watching the Google Glass promo video yesterday (Which did, I confess, make me dribble with excitement.) I think that this technology definitely has the potential to profoundly revolutionize the way we use the internet. Mobile devices are currently enjoying something of a surge in online use, but I think that the eventual decline of these technologies will be due to devices like this which integrate the web and communication into life rather than simply provide access.

  5. I love the concept of Google glass but 2 lens Google glasses? Seems like a bad idea. It will make people bump into poles.

  6. I really like the idea of a google watch. The glasses are cool too they might take a little getting used to. The maps feature on the watch would be awesome if you don’t have your phone on you though I imagine it would need to be tethered to your phone for data service like the glasses will be.

  7. Hi Connor,

    The patent describes how Google Glass might be calibrated a number of different ways to help prevent problems like that. Also, they don’t impede vision like virtual reality glasses would (the kind you might wear for an immersive game experience. Instead they try to help augment things like vision so that you would be less prone to walk into a wall without them than with them.

  8. Hi Michael,

    I’m not sure whether or not a watch or Google Glass would require tethering to a phone. We do have patents that we can look at, but we can’t be certain on how a final product might work from those.

  9. Man you work really hard on research and your blog. Google is turning into a research centre with all the new products and updates coming up on their search engine. The Google Glasses are already heading for some controversies about privacy. I want to see how the government and people will react when everyone walking around will be knowing everything about every place and people. Crazy..!!

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