Google Makes Travel Easier For Lazy People

Google Takes on Hawaii's Hiking Trails
Google’s ongoing world digitization is opening up some very cool travel experiences to people sitting in front of their laptops and tablets. Now, rather than spending thousands of dollars, lots of vacation time and a decent amount of physical exertion to see these places, you can arrive by a click and multi-task your exploring as you commute to work, procrastinate a project or tune out in a meeting.
Last fall Google Maps debuted a “street view” of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs, allowing armchair travelers with no diving or even swimming ability to take a peek at the world’s greatest underwater treasures.

More recently the site teamed up with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau to feature Hawaiian hiking trails on Google Street View. Hiking guides on the Big Island will carry Google’s cameras on roughly 20 of the Islands’ best trails, stitching together a 360-degree experience that people can enjoy anywhere.

Another recent addition to Street View will please Harry Potter fans who can’t make the trip across the pond to London’s Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Muggles can now tour Diagon Alley and the wizarding shops it houses through Street View.

Google Maps isn’t the only thing bringing travel experiences to the masses. Though still in its infancy, Google Glass is expected to change the way people document and share their travel experiences. This year a Running of the Bulls competition invited two Google Glass users to Pamplona to view the annual San Fermin festival events. While the Glassers aren’t expected to actually run with the bulls (too bad, that’s something we wouldn’t mind having Google do for us!), they’ll be watching the bull run from a balcony and sharing the experience via a daily webcast.

It’s doubtful that Google’s online presentations will actually keep people from wanting to experience these places in real life, but we’re intrigued about what other experiences will become available to interactive travelers. Climbing Mount Everest? Surfing Jaws? Space travel?

Where do you want your maps app to take you next?

JetBlue Shows Us The Google Glass Enhanced Future Of Travel

jetBlue's vision of Google Glass for travelersSince its recent public unveiling, Google Glass has continued to generate a lot of buzz amongst the gadget obsessed, many of whom are looking forward to the release of the high-tech headset. The device, which pairs with a smartphone to collect data, provides a host of information on a tiny LCD screen that is suspended in the peripheral vision of the wearer. In the demo video that Google released we saw that screen provide directions, translate simple phrases and take photos and video. It was inspiring enough for us to speculate about the benefits of Google Glass for travelers as we envisioned a world of automated language translation, mobile social networking and augmented reality.

It seems we weren’t the only ones to get caught up in the concept of how Glass could potentially benefit travelers. Someone at JetBlue decided to put together their mock-ups of what they would like to see Google’s new gadget deliver and posted those images on the JetBlue Google+ page. Their ideas are simple, but definitely something that most of us can appreciate, including giving us visual cues on the current capacities of airport parking garages, updates on when to expect our luggage at baggage claim, real-time flight information and more.

The concepts shown in the JetBlue designs are definitely intriguing and give us a glimpse of what we can expect from Glass when it finally arrives. The consumer version is still a number of months off but the real-world potential is starting to become much clearer.

[Photo Credit: JetBlue]

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The Potential Of Google Glass For Travelers

Google Glass holds potential for travelersOne of the more interesting products currently in development at Google is a high-tech, wearable gadget known as Google Glass. In a nutshell, when worn like a typical pair of glasses, the device suspends a small LCD screen in your peripheral vision. When paired with a smartphone via BlueTooth, Glass is capable of displaying a variety of information without the user ever taking the phone out of their purse or pocket. Until recently, just exactly what information Glass could display, and what it would look like, remained a bit of a mystery. But earlier this week, Google released a video showing off the gadgets capabilities, some of which will come in very handy for travelers.

In the video, which you’ll find after the jump, you’ll see Google Glass helping someone navigate through a city, which is of course something we can all appreciate when visiting a new destination. Imagine simply asking the device to help you find a cafe, museum or other point of interest and then have it not only show you results, but also give you turn-by-turn navigation with visual prompts right on its tiny screen. That’s something that would certainly come in handy when navigating the congested streets of Paris or Rome.

But navigation is just the tip of the iceberg. The video also shows a user asking for a language translation and then quickly being provided the word that he requested. I think we would all agree that translation would be extremely helpful when visiting many foreign locales. It is easy to see future versions of Glass also being able to listen to and automatically translate full conversations in real-time or even providing written translations of signs, menus and banners too.Google Glass will come with a built-in camera, allowing the users to take still photos or video from their travels by simple issuing a voice command. Those images and videos can then be shared with friends and family via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The device has the potential to become the GoPro camera for the non-action sport crowd too, capturing all kinds of POV experiences from our travels.

Being location-aware, future iterations of the device could potentially allow users to leave augmented-reality notes for one another providing clues and suggestions on where to eat or stay while in a certain area. Then, as the user moves through those locations, he or she would see those notes appear on their screen as they pass by. The notes could include Yelp reviews, money-saving tips, hours of operation and a host of other information.

Google Glass is only currently available to app developers and beta testers, but Google is expected to bring it to market next year. The pre-production models run $1500 but that is expected to drop substantially when the consumer version becomes available sometime in 2014. Of course, we’ll also need to have a compatible smartphone (count on Android and probably iOS support) and a good data connection to make it all work. But the potential is there for a great product that can benefit travelers in many ways.

Now if they can just find a way to make them a bit more stylish.