Michael Chagala, the Director of Information Technology at Sullivan Solar Power, has developed an app that allows solar installers to use Google Glass in PV system design and construction. We spoke with Chagala at last week's U.S. Solar Market Insight event in San Diego, California.
Google Glass falls in the wearable computer/ubiquitous computer/augmented reality category, such as it is. The heads-up display system includes GPS as well as a speaker and a microphone, all pairing with an Android phone. The heads-up display hasn't gone through its official commercial release -- although there is already a devoted following of users and developers (referred to in some circles as "glassholes"). There's a glass development kit and some cool applications have already been created. In fact, Timothy Jordan, Google Glass developer advocate, uses the term "cool" at least ten times in his development kit presentation.
Chagala demonstrates some of the capabilities of Google Glass for the solar installer trade in the following video:
The video shows Google Glass serving as a hands-free phone responding to voice commands. But it also demonstrates the ability to capture and send video, as well as sharing device, customer and installation details between office and installer.
The current Google technology surely only hints at the potential for augmented reality and wearable computers. Popular apps in these early days look to be a heads-up display for a golf-shot cheat-screen and a lap-time counter for cyclists. There is a universe of potential applications leveraging the compass and GPS features along with the heads-up display.
There's a waiting list to purchase the current Google Glass, while units sell for about $2,000 on eBay.
Fred Wilson, highly successful tech investor at Union Square Ventures, likens the current Google Glass to Apple's Newton, for those who might remember the groundbreaking personal data assistant: a great effort, a commercial failure, and a harbinger of an entirely new device class.
Sullivan Solar Power has designed, sold, and installed thousands of residential and commercial solar systems in the San Diego Gas and Electricity (SDG&E) utility territory. But it's just scratching the surface with its app and the potential of heads-up displays in the industry.
We are already seeing different and ruggedized designs for smart glasses from firms such as Recon or Vuzix. In fact, the heads-up industrial applications for solar installers or auto mechanics or construction crews might be where the real killer apps reside for this technology.