When Google Glass was unveiled, the tech world instantly fell into two camps. Camp one was excited: we’re living in the sci-fi future! Camp two, though, wasn’t so happy. It’s vapourware! some said, while others worried that Google just wanted to plaster ads on the entire world. Is either camp correct? Let’s find out.
What is Google’s Project Glass?
Wearable computing is not a new idea, but Google’s enormous bank account and can-do attitude means that Project Glass could well be the first product to do significant numbers.
When will it be released?
Originally Project Glass was mooted for a public release in 2014 at the earliest but the latest news on the Google Glass release date suggest it’s beginning to look like we could seeconsumer units by the end of 2013.
That’s because the prototype Explorer units are becoming an increasingly common site around San Francisco – and Google is even allowing competition ‘winners’ to pay $1,500 to get these early offerings.
What does Google Glass do?
The core of Google Glass is its tiny prism display which sits not in your eyeline, but a little above it. You can see what is on the display by glancing up. The glasses also have an embedded camera, microphone, GPS and, reportedly, use bone induction to give you sound.
Voice control is used to control the device; you say ‘ok glass’ to get a range of options including taking pictures, videos, send messages using speech to text, ‘hang out’ with people or get directions to somewhere. You access these options by saying them out loud.
Most of this functionality is self explanatory; hang out is Google’s video conferencing technology and allows you to talk to a people over web cam, and stream them what you’re seeing and the directions use Google Maps and the inbuilt GPS to help you find your way.
The results are displayed on the prism – essentially putting data into your view like a head up display (HUD). It’s potentially incredibly handy. Also rather nifty is the potential for automatic voice and speech recognition – and Google has given its Glass project a big boost by snapping up specialists DNNresearch.
What are the Google Glass specifications?
An FCC filing in the US revealed many potential details, suggesting that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth would be used to send pictures to the screen, whilst bone-induction may be used for sound, vibrating your skull to communicate the sound into your inner ear. It’s not a new technology, but certainly does have critics who suggest that it falls short of traditional headphones.
We don’t have a lot of the final details on specs just yet – but expect Google Glass to run modified Android, to sport a decent resolution camera with a decent lens and we’d be fairly certain that the microphone needs to be a good quality.
There will be a GPS chip, and the lightweight and flexible glasses design will come in five colours – Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale, Cotton, Sky. That’s black, orange, grey, white and blue for anyone that prefers plain English over marketing speak.
I already wear glasses. Will Google Glasses work for me?
Yes. Google is experimenting with designs that will fit over existing glasses so you don’t have to wear two lots of specs.
In fact, you should be able to get them before 2013 ends, according to Google.
Update: Warby Parker, a well-known designer of hip-looking glasses, is rumored to be working with Google to create stylish Google Glass frames. We’ll keep an eye on the developments as the launch date approaches.
What is the Project Glass price?
The NYT again: according to “several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named,” the glasses are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones.” So that’s around $750/£500, then, possibly with the help of a hefty Google subsidy.
The latest hints definitely suggest a price that will make them attractive to technophiles.
The developer versions – traditionally more expensive that the final consumer units – were made available for pre-order for $1,500 (c£966).
As to WHERE you can buy the specs; online will be a certainty, but don’t rule out Glass making a debut in a all-new Google Store, with the search giant apparently considering actual shops to showcase the tech to those who haven’t been following every development.
Who is providing the competition?
Of course, with something as high profile as Google Glass, every major company has been linked with building a competitor.
Apple and Microsoft are Google’s most obvious rivals – and both are rumoured to be working on their own equivalents, and Sony has gone as far as to patent a Glass-alike offering.
Is Project Glass evil?
It could be. Google’s business is about making money from advertising, and some people worry that Google Glass is its attempt to monetise your eyeballs by blasting you with ads whenever you look at something.
Some of the parodies actually make a good point by showing people bumping into stuff: heads-up displays can be distracting, and there may be safety issues too. Until Google ships its self-driving car, the thought of drivers being distracted by their glasses is fairly terrifying.
There are privacy implications, too. Never mind your web history: Google Glass might record everything you see and do.
There is a red recording light, but the tech certainly raises some key debates that will become more relevant as this kind of technology surfaces. What are the repercussions from having everything you say potentially taped, turned into text and searchable? What are the repercussions for free speech.
All radically new tech brings new potential for evil. But you have to weigh that against the capacity for good and the progress it brings.
Google Glass pre-order customers will get regular updates
Those people who paid Google $1,500 for the privilege of pre-ordering some Project Glass specs will be receiving “private updates” through Google+.
Will it make me look like a dork?