The 'augmented reality' glasses, part of Google's Project Glass, and Apple's Watch are two steps closer towards wearable technology.

The Google X laboratory in California is responsible for the idea of fridges that order food themselves, plates that post details of the contents of your meal to a social network, self-driving cars and space elevators – and this week they added another futuristic product to their list: wraparound shades you can use to browse the internet.

The “augmented reality” glasses, part of Google’s Project Glass, could be used to take photos, display directions and conduct video chats through the use of voice-activated technology. They are aimed at improving the integration of augmented reality into the user experience.

Augmented reality is a view of a real-world environment that is supplemented through computer-generated information and superimposed graphics.

The prototype glasses were unveiled last week on Google+, the company’s social network.

A short video on the site shows a Project Glass user’s perspective as they explore New York, speaking commands, taking pictures, getting directions and receiving messages from a friend.

“We think technology should work for you – to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t. A group of us from Google X started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment,” says the post signed by the three Google X team leaders.

Prototype images of the glasses, also on the Google+ page, show a digital display the size of a stamp attached to the top of a pair of glasses.

It is unclear whether the glasses themselves could be financially viable, and Google’s reputation for allowing employees to experiment with new ideas has sometimes unsettled investors as any return is unpredictable.

Chief executive Larry Page has cut back on some of the projects, but also defends Google’s commitment to working on the futuristic “speculative” projects that could one day turn into “billion-dollar businesses”.

What is the Google X laboratory?

Google acknowledges the existence of a so-called “secret” laboratory where unusual research projects are undertaken.

The lab is located in the headquarters of the company in Mountain View, California. – The Independent