Google has been working on their Project Glass, a futuristic-looking wearable computer, for about three years now, mostly as a research program. But recently, news broke that this product may be hitting the market sooner than most people thought–by the end of 2013 and for under $1500. That announcement has a lot of people speculating about potential uses for Glass, including pilots.
The product is far from a sure thing, with major questions about whether consumers will pay for it and whether people want to walk around wearing something out of Star Trek. But the technology is intriguing, especially for aviation. Consider a few possibilities:
- App integration. Google has said Glass “will integrate with” Android and iOS, although it’s not clear exactly what that means. If that integration is deep, there are all kinds of aviation app tie-ins that are possible (ForeFlight runway advisor displaying on Glass, anyone?)
- Heads-up navigation guidance. One of the initial features for Glass will be Google’s Maps app and turn-by-turn directions, so this one is an obvious opportunity. An aviation version of this could be helpful–just imagine getting Garmin 430/530 turn annunciations without having to look over at the avionics stack, or seeing the airport location as you look for traffic on final.
- Weather overlay. Want to know the latest METAR for the airport at 2 o’clock? Look in that direction and tell Glass “show me weather.” The small display screen could show the latest weather report.
- Find cheap fuel. Need to make a fuel stop en route? Ask Glass to “find cheap avgas,” and you could be presented with a list of nearby FBOs, sorted by fuel price. Tell Glass, “go direct” and your destination instantly changes.
- Traffic display. One of the great paradoxes of aviation is that when a traffic alert goes off, all eyes go to the panel–not outside where the traffic is. Glass could be an elegant way to look outside for traffic, but be guided by your onboard traffic system.
- Synthetic vision. Another advantage to a heads-up display like Glass would be for use with obstacle or terrain databases. As you look for the runway in that 1/2 mile visibility, Glass could point out the nearest obstacle or terrain, or draw simulated approach lights.
- Checklists. No co-pilot needed with Glass–pilots could read checklists without having to look down, and check off items verbally. This could be especially helpful in an emergency, and even make use of the built-in camera: you could take a picture of a warning light and automatically get the appropriate checklist.
- Video recording. This is another feature that will probably be built into Glass at launch, so pilots could record their flights, perhaps even with GPS data overlay. No need for a separate camera or mounting systems.
- Flight instructor video conferencing. The Google video hints at the ability to hold Google+ hangouts with Glass, so you could live stream your next cross country (if you had cell phone service) and ask your CFI a question if needed.
Of course, most of this is dreaming at this stage, especially since Glass operates mostly by voice controls, which could be problematic in a noisy GA cockpit. That’s not to mention the serious app development work that would be required to enable most of these features. None of these feature are coming anytime soon.
But Glass would keep pilots’ heads up and eyes outside more often, which would certainly be a good thing. Think of it as a Gulfstream heads-up display for the masses…maybe.
Watch Google’s video below for more information–it even includes a general aviation flight as a segment: