It'll be several months before the average
gadget-lover will get their hands on Google Glass but among software
developers there's already a gold-rush mood about the potential of
the new wearable technology device made by the search giant.
So far only a few hundred developers and tech experts have worn the futuristic glasses, but at this month's Google I/O annual developers' conference in San Francisco, everyone wearing the 1,500-dollar prototype had a permanent smile on their face.
A short time wearing the glasses explains the fascination: the wearer has access to all the information available on the internet without having to use a smartphone or computer to get it.
So far the glasses can be used to read and write emails, take photos, record short videos, provide navigation instructions and perform Google searches. At the conference, media companies, social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, and app developers like Evernote showed plans to extend the functionality of the device.
For example the user could see breaking news from the New York Times or CNN, deciding which areas they're interesting in and filtering out the ones they don't want. Or digital notetaker Evernote could be used to prepare a shopping list on the computer which would then be sent to the glasses and displayed while in the store.
Whether the glasses with their built-in battery and modem look cumbersome is subjective.
The plastic prism which projects the content to the user doesn't sit directly in front of the eyes, but rather at eyebrow level.
The displays appear amazingly sharp, much improved from the prototype shown a few years ago. Despite a low resolution by today's standards of 640 x 360 pixels, the perceptual experience is like looking at a display with a screen diagonal of 63 centimetres from a distance of 2.5 metres.
Using the glasses takes a bit of getting used to. A nod awakes the Google Glass from sleep and one activates the camera by clicking a button on the frame. A finger swipe on the frame is used to navigate through the simple menu structure while information such as weather forecasts or directions is transmitted into the user's ears.
To save power the glasses are set to quickly go back to sleep when not being used.
The nightmare vision of some privacy advocates that the devices will be videoing their environment around the clock is not going to come true with the current limited battery life. In its current incarnation, Google Glass can only record video of a few seconds' duration.
Members of the US Congress have written to Google asking how the privacy of the people around a Glass wearer will be protected. They have also asked whether the device will have facial recognition software.
Most of the developers at the I/O conference were certain that the current technical shortcomings will soon be overcome. They expressed only moderate concern about privacy fears regarding the new device.
The victims of undesired photos or videos at the moment are most likely to be Google Glass wearers themselves, who are being photographed or filmed on the street without their permission by curious smartphone owners, it was said at the conference.
Developers in any case don't want to get left out of the gold rush, which hasn't broken out in California's Silicon Valley alone. Nobody wants to miss out on the next big thing - which could well be Google Glass.
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