Describing Google as a “search giant” has taken on a meaning beyond its market-leading search engine, because the company is intent on searching for the future. Two of Google’s future-search efforts have recently come to light -- a smartphone or a ring that acts as a password, and a laser-projected keypad for its upcoming interactive glasses.

Despite your best efforts to come up with a password that is strong, hackers are constantly finding ways to break into your account. Even if they don’t figure out your idiosyncratic combo of numbers, letters and punctuation, there are regular break-ins to corporate repositories that pilfer thousands or millions of passwords at a time -- yours could be among them.

USB Device

In the corporate world, a two-factor verification is not uncommon, such as a Yubikey cryptographic card on your keychain that provides a physical verification device only you possess. But consumers and smaller businesses are less inclined to employ a physical second factor.

Now Google is looking at second authentication via easier-to-use devices. A Google-authored paper to be published this month in the engineering journal IEEE Security & Privacy Magazine suggests such incarnations as a small Yubikey cryptographic card embedded into a ring or into the increasingly useful smartphone, and read by the Google Chrome browser could be in the works.

In their vision, either of these devices could use a Near Field Communication-like tap-to-verify action on the computer, even when there’s no cellular connectivity.

To support this effort, the paper’s authors -- Google Vice President of Security Eric Grosse and Engineer Mayank Upadhyay -- have created a vendor-independent authentication protocol that utilizes a web browser but does not allow sites to use the technology as another means to track users.

Of course, a single-factor login using a physical device is only as secure as the physical device, which is why the ring or smartphone login scenario will still likely require another authentication factor. Google already offers a two-factor authentication, where the second factor, a one-time code to enter along with your password, is sent to your smartphone.

Google Glass

Looking toward another part of the future, the search giant has submitted a patent application for a new kind of input device in its Google Glass product. The glasses, which overlay interactive data onto objects, places and people seen by the wearer, are expected to be released in a developers’ version sometime this year, with a possible market-ready product sometime in 2014.

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The application, Number 20130016070, envisions a tiny laser projecting a keypad, keyboard or other pattern onto a surface or even onto the user’s hand. The movement of the hand used as the projection surface modifies the projected image, while the gestures used by the other hand on top of the projected image, are interpreted as input.

While laser-project keyboards are on the market, this new application’s special sauce appears to be an addition to the movement of the projected pattern, or gestures on top of the pattern, as commands.