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February 21, 2012
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Tim Dees Police Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

Heads-up displays for your actual head

Google, which has just been given the go-ahead from the Dept. of Justice to buy a big chunk of Motorola, now has a working prototype

There was a discussion of heads-up displays (HUDs) for vehicles in this space a few months back, looking forward to the day when the interior windshield of your patrol car would become your computer display. That’s peachy while you’re inside the car, but it would be really handy to have some visual display available outside and on foot, too. A blog about all things Google indicates they are very close to field testing of just such a device.

Google is more than just a search engine and advertising sales outfit. They have a massive research component, and employees are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their time on projects of personal interest. Given that they hire some very bright and capable people, many good ideas come out of those projects. One of the products already available on most Smartphones is “Google Goggles.”

Load the app, and take a picture of whatever it is you’re interested in with the phone’s camera. Google will transmit the image, compare it with billions of images it has indexed online, and returns information relevant to the subject of your photo. This is a great example of the power of “the cloud,” where data and most of the computer processing resides at a fixed location, waiting for inquiries and data to be sent from the field.

Google Glasses will resemble Oakley Thumps, which builds an MP3 player and headphones into a pair of wraparound sunglasses. With Google Glasses, one lens will incorporate a liquid crystal display (LCD) or active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display in one lens. Input would come from an integrated camera, spoken commands, and head gestures that are said to become second-nature with practice. Just when we were getting used to people having animated discussions over Bluetooth headsets connected to their cell phones, we’re going to see people in Terminator-style sunglasses twitching their heads and talking like Kurt Russell in the early scenes of Starman.

The glasses will function as a Smartphone, using both cellular voice and data networks and Wi-Fi connections when available to send and receive data, but will have a computer processor and memory on board for storage of apps and data. A GPS module could make the glasses location-aware and determine the direction the wearer was looking, as well as where and how fast they were moving.

If you’re not seeing the possibilities, here’s a scenario: you make a traffic stop, and the glasses target and recognize the characters of the license plate, transmitting the registration and wants check. When the driver hands you their license, a quick scan of the barcode on the back transmits that inquiry, which returns instantly if the driver and registered owner of the vehicle match, that information having been staged for transmission. Wants, recent traffic violation history, and other relevant data (restraining orders in force, gang membership, known associations with wanted persons, etc.) all show up in your field of view, suspended in space on a virtual screen a few feet in front of your eyes. The glasses could function as a body-worn video camera, saving the clip to memory until it could be downloaded into the car or station computers.

If you were doing field interviews on suspected gang bangers, a captured image of your subject’s face could be transmitted and compared to mug shots of known bangers. “No, you aren’t Juan Martinez. You’re Chuy Rodriguez, street name Slugball, you claim the 45th Avenue Vatos, and you have an outstanding warrant for gun possession.” How did I know? To borrow one of Andy Sipowicz’s better lines, “I got hit in the head by a meteor when I was a kid. It gave me strange mental powers.”

You won’t see these at Best Buy anytime soon. Google isn’t sure they would have mass market appeal, but merged with Motorola’s Golden-i headworn computer (and that’s very possible, as Google was only today — February 14, 2012 — given the go-ahead from the Dept. of Justice to buy a big chunk of Motorola), these could have real possibilities in law enforcement.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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