This past April, Google began shipping the first iteration of its wearable computer, Google Glass. This first edition, known as Explorer, is intended for beta testers and app developers. These early adopters/Google guinea pigs were paid $1,500 for the strange looking glasses in one of five available colors – charcoal, tangerine, shale, cotton, and sky.
Google Glass is essentially stylized sunglasses minus the lenses (imagine a style similar to Oakley rather than Ray-Ban). There is a thin titanium strip that wraps around your head, with the battery, touch pad, speaker, camera (photo and HD video), and display housing attached to the right “stem” of the wraparound frame. Google Glass is very light due to the materials used and includes adjustable nose pieces. The titanium strip and nosepads can be shaped for a custom fit, and the display can be angled to place it in the optimal position. That position is in front of, and slightly above the right eye. To view the Google Glass display, you look slightly up; it isn’t designed to overlay your full field of view when staring straight ahead.
The business end of the eyepiece is a thick piece of glass/composite material that offers an HD quality display, which Google claims is similar to viewing a 25-inch (diagonal) HD screen about 8 feet away. Images appear crisp and text is clear and easy to read, but outdoors in direct sunlight it can be hard to pick out from the background.
What Does It Do?
Google Glass essentially works as an advanced bluetooth display and headset for your smartphone. Glass can display text messages, e-mails (from a Gmail account), Google Maps directions, Google Hangout video chats, and Google+ updates. (Twitter, Facebook, and a number of other apps are rumored to be coming soon.)
Google Glass is tied into a Google account through the MyGlass Android app. The MyGlass app uses your account information and pushes localized and personalized information to the Google Glass display.
Google Glass is controlled via voice command, head gestures, and touch pad. The wide right outside of the “stem” and display housing is a touch pad. You swipe along the length of the frame to move through menus and you can tap on the touch pad to make a selection. You can tilt your head up or tap the touch pad to “wake up” Glass, then use a combination of voice and touch pad controls to perform various functions. With voice control you can take a picture, record video, dictate text messages and e-mails, and make phone calls.
Glass Explorer Edition does have limitations. Google claims the battery will last through one day of typical use, however reviewers have reported battery life from 3.5 hours to as little as 1 hour. Connectivity and device compatibility are another issue. In order to get the most from the Glass, you need a fairly new Android phone (running at least Android 4.0.3) that also supports Bluetooth data tethering (this allows Glass to connect to the Internet via the 4G or LTE data connection). Google Glass does have Wifi; however on anything more complicated than an open home wifi network, it can be hard to connect to. For example you can’t connect to a network that requires a webpage based sign on, like you’ll find in many hotels and airports.
Wonderful, What Does It Mean to Me?
Google Glass represents the first step into interactive, wearable technology. It brings communication and social networking deeper into our lives. While wearing Glass, text messages, e-mails and other information are available for you to read without distracting those around you, or those people being aware you are reading something. The camera at eye level, potentially always on and able to record photos or video could cause new privacy concerns and changes in social etiquette.
While the product is still in development, Google Glass could shape our use of technology in the future. As of press time, Google Glass is still being tested before putting the product out to a large consumer base. It could be a few years before the product is refined and released to a wider audience. Learn more about Google Glass at www.google.com/glass.