What Is Google Glass?

google glass

Click on the image for a product video demonstration.

Google Glass.

Digital technology has been growing by leaps and bounds, especially in the past couple of years. Innovations such as smartphones, 3D printers, mobile tablets, and cloud computing have revolutionized the way we live and work.

Newspaper headlines today read almost like science fiction novels, what with stories about tech implants beneath the skin, smartwatches, intelligent advertising, etc. The most recent technology development that is changing the way we see the world is Google Glass.

By now you’ve probably seen the photos of this new techie face wear, but many people still have questions; what Google Glass is and isn’t, what it does, who it’s for, when and where you can buy it, what it’s like to wear and use, and most importantly for technology – what does it mean for our industry?

So what exactly is it?

The answer, for now, is simple: Google Glass is Google on your face.

Google Glass is a wearable technology device that acts as an extension of your smartphone screen to perform a set of simple tasks. It is designed to resemble a pair of glasses. It’s also worth noting that Google Glass is very much an intentional beta product that has been launched to spark a wave of new hardware and software applications. It is concept ware, plain and simple. Google Glass isn’t a finished, commercial product — and it isn’t meant to be. It isn’t a cell phone or a computer, and you won’t find it today on Amazon or in your local Best Buy store.

Made of titanium and plastic, Glass looks like a pair of rimless glasses with a thick, heavy right stem and a cubic rectangle sticking out of the front. It has nose pads and an adjustable arm in the front. There’s a power button, a speaker, an indicator light, a Micro-USB charging port, and a camera shutter button. The battery sits behind your right ear, and a touch-sensitive navigation pad is embedded in the right arm near your temple. At the moment the Explorer Edition is available in black, white, grey, sky blue and orange.

The full range of features offered by Google Glass can now only be accessed with Android smartphones. Glass will work with an iPhone, but the features are much more limited and Google hasn’t rushed to announce any compatibility with other smartphone operating systems. Glass isn’t a smartphone either, but it can connect to one (or your home network) using Bluetooth or Wifi.

The small “screen” (the glass of Glass) measures 0.75-inch deep and 0.375-inch by 0.375-inch wide and tall, and it sits between your eyebrow and upper lid, not in front of your eye. You glance up and to the right to read the active display area, which is half an inch at the diagonal.

Google has been a little dodgy on offering up the digital display resolution, describing Glass’ screen as having “a high-resolution display [that is] the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from eight feet away. The display is small — 0.5-inch — so it helps if you have strong natural vision or corrective lenses. Since the display housing is transparent, it’s easier to read the screen in front of a darker backdrop rather than, for instance, staring into cloudy, overcast skies.

How do you control it?

There are currently two ways to control the product: there’s voice recognition, which you trigger by saying “OK, glass.” The device’s touchpad (aka right arm) works in tandem with voice controls. You’ll tap and swipe forward, backward, or down to scroll and back out of “screens” you see in the display.

Moving your head won’t change a thing, but if you look up at the Glass module, the screen should light up so you can verbally command it. Otherwise, you can bobble your eyes and head at will, and navigate Glass through deliberate voice and manual controls.

So what does it do?

  • Voice search
  • Initiates turn-by-turn driving, walking, or cycling directions
  • Captures and shares photos and videos through Google Plus
  • Starts a Google Hangout
  • Accepts phone calls
  • Sends texts
  • Delivers search results, including the weather
  • Hooks into third-party apps

What does this mean for privacy?

As personal technology becomes increasingly nimble and invisible, Glass is prompting questions of whether it will distract drivers, upend relationships and strip people of what little privacy they still have in public.

Glass has already been pre-emptively banned in a few bars across the US. Large parts of Las Vegas will not welcome wearers. Most recently, West Virginia legislators tried to make it illegal to use the gadget, known as Google Glass, while driving.

Google has put safeguards in place to make it less intrusive to the general public. For instance, you have to look directly at someone to take a photograph or video of them, and the camera makes an audible shutter sound when used. The user also has to speak or touch it to activate it. Among the safeguards to make it less intrusive: you have to speak or touch it to activate it, and you have to look directly at someone to take a photograph or video of them.

Google has often been at the forefront of privacy issues. Like many Silicon Valley companies, Google takes the attitude that people should have nothing to hide from intrusive technology.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” said Eric Schmidt, then Google’s chief executive, in 2009.

So where can you get a pair?

Google Glass is intended for developers who have purchased the product for $1,500 (more than $1,600 with tax). The product isn’t commercially available, and if you didn’t buy them as part of a developer program or win them as apart of Google’s “If I Had Glass” social media campaign, you’ll need to wait until the first pair becomes commercially available in 2014.

To learn more about Google Glass, click here.

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