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Google Glass FAQ

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Everything you need to know about Glass on one page! At Steegle, we think Google Glass will be a paradigm shifting device. Even if it is not widely affordable or used just yet, it will get us  all thinking about the next level of human-computer interaction. In anticipation of its launch, we have put together an exciting article of FAQs about this amazing gadget!

  1. What is Google Glass?

    Can you imagine having, right in front of your eyes, in an instant, any information you require with a simple voice command?  You can get directions, you can check your email, read the papers, translate a word or phrase, play games, take photos instantly, no fiddling to find your phone to catch that perfect moment in time as your baby, unexpectedly takes it first step, or that incredible view. Google Glass, put simply, is a revolution in technology. Google Glass takes data that would normally be held in your smart phone, your tablet or even your laptop or desktop, and places it into a pair of spectacle frames, quite literally placing the screen in front of your eyes and beaming the image onto your retina.  Activated through a combination of voice control and touchpad controls, you have a camera, video recorder and data display mounted within your line of vision.  The microphone will pick up your commands and Glass will respond instantly.   Google Glass brings science fiction into science fact - it really does make Star Trek look dated!

    real picture of google glass in London Atmosphere
    Within the next 12 months Google Glass will be available on general, retail release, and all of us will have the option to purchase a headset.  Glass brings with it a raft of problems though. One of the biggest issues raised in the press as Glass hits the streets is the issue of privacy, and a fear that Glass brings in the Orwellian nightmare of Big Brother watching your every move, literally, through Glass.  How do you know if the person wearing Google Glasses is looking at you, or looking at the screen in front of them. How do you know if they are recording you, sending your every word, every action to some great eye in the cloud? Are they taking your photo and harvesting your biometric data which is being recorded and analysed, or are they chatting about the weather?  As you stand on the subway are you being watched, or is the person standing beside you reading the paper? How do you know, and how will our privacy be protected - these are currently very real, and very concerning, questions which don't currently have an answer.  To deal with some of these issues some States are already enacting laws to prevent Google Glass being worn in certain public places - bars and cinemas being obvious areas of concern. Social etiquette will have to adjust and advance - will it be acceptable to ask someone to remove their Glass? We all know its rude to fiddle with your phone while having a conversation , is it rude to wear and check your Glass?  All of these problems will have to be addressed and ironed out over 2013 and 2014 as we adjust to this new piece of technology (some would say intrusion) in our lives.

    Glass though also brings with it incredible benefits, huge advances in the possibilities for so called "vertical applications" to be used by the emergency services, for education, for travel, for communication, and even for gaming.  

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  2. What can I do with Google Glass?

    With Google Glass you can surf the web, check your emails, make a reservation, get directions, send a message, chat to your friends and show them what you're seeing, as you see it. You can check what the weather will be like, make sure you flight is on time, even read the New York Times, scanning between stories with a move of you head - you can even have the stories read to you. You capture videos in first person perspective, photograph exactly what you see, in an instant, with just word.  Here is an example of the current voice commands available on Google Glass:

    Google Glass Voice Commands:

    task command
    video “record a video”
    photo “take a picture”
    initiate hangout “hang out with [person/circle].”
    search “google [search query].”
    image search “google photos of [search query].”
    translate “say [phrase] in [language].”
    navigate “give directions to [place].”
    TXT / SMS “send a message to [name].”
    “send [message] to [name].”
    weather “how is the weather in [location]?”
    air travel “when does flight [flight number] depart from [airport]?”

    Translation is easy too, simply ask Glass to translate what you are hearing, or what you want to say.  Gone will be the days of fighting with a translation dictionary, Glass will do it all for you in an instant, and with a great accent!

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  3. Google Glass explained at TED

    Why did Google create it?

    Google Glass was developed with the idea that rather than us all walking around with our heads down fiddling with our phones, Google Glass would be a way of incorporating technology into our everyday lives, and removing the block on communication that can be put in place with mobiles.  Numerous studies have shown that mobile phones, tablets and other pieces of tech which involve looking downwards block communication and make the other party in a conversation feel cut off. If you take out your phone you are suggesting that you're not really that interested in what's being said, its a way of closing the conversation - Google Glass gets around that problem. When you use Google Glass you are looking up, you're facing the world, not looking down. Sergey Brin discussed at TED 2013 how Google felt that smart phones are, in some ways, emasculating, that they hold us back, but Google Glass helps us to look outward, and enables better communication and interaction.  

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  4. What is Project Glass?

     The Project Glass team at Google are the engineers, developers, programmers and all round geniuses responsible for the design and development of Google Glass technology. (Part of the so called secretive Google X Team).

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  5. How does it compare to a smart phone.

    Google Glass will do anything a smart phone will do, apart from (at present) make phone calls (it would be a surprise if a future embodiment doesn't also have phone technology built in!)  The big difference is the mode of use - with Google Glass you are wearing the technology, the prism screen appears at the size (relatively speaking) of a 25" screen before your eyes, just out of your direct line of vision, and with its voice activation and tilt and touch interfaces the intention is that Google Glass becomes a part of your life, with you, responding to you, reacting to your environment in a far more intuitive fashion than a smart phone.  There is no view finder, no scrabbling around in your bag to find your phone to take a picture, as Google says, "its designed to live with you, in the moment, even when you're falling from the sky."

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  6.  How much did Google Glass cost? 

    At this time there is still a great deal of speculation as to how much Google Glass will cost when released for general sale. The Google Glass Explorer Edition which has been released to a small number of developers carried a $1500 price tag, but it is expected that Google will set the retail price lower to avoid the 'luxury' tag and to maximise initial sales. It is thought that the price will be similar to that charged for a high end smart phone. Some bloggers are suggesting that the price could be as low as $300-500, but it would seem unlikely with the price of top end smartphones which are far less technologically advanced retailing at higher than that kind of level. 

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  7. How can I buy one and when will it be released?

    The Google Glass Explorer Programme has now ended as Google has moved the Glass team out of Google X and into the main business which is a promising sign.

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  8. How does it feel to wear it?

    Its probably best to let Google Glass itself show you how it feels to wear it:

    YouTube Video

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  9. How does it work?

    This infographic by Martin Missfeldt, shows how Google Glass actually works.  There is no screen in front of your eyes, it just appears that way. What is actually happening is that a projector creates the image, which is then focused, via the prism, directly onto the retina.  In this way the 'screen' appears as a transparent image, overlaying the real image behind.  

    Google Glass is designed to project the image to appear to the top right of the field of vision in normal use to avoid blocking the user's vision, but when focused on the image centres and becomes the focus.  Google is currently working on making Google Glass available for use for those needing prescription glasses as the lens and the distortion created by the prescription will alter the way in which the prism directs the image. It may be that you simply wouldn't be able to see the image, or, as has been reported by some people who have borrowed Google Glass from bloggers to 'give it a go', it could cause blinding headaches which would be far from ideal! It is anticipated that, although this is more challenging, it will be possible to create custom prisms, whether this will add to the price hasn't been announced yet, and whether as your prescription changes you would be able to buy new prisms we don't know, but at least, if you really want Google Glass, it will be possible very soon.

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  10. What sensors are built into Google Glass, and what features do they enable?

    Google Glass has a variety of sensors built in it including a magnetometer, accelerometer and a gyroscope.    On their Google Hangout page a Project Glass member suggested that Google Glass is really very much like a WiFi only Galaxy Nexus, but without the cellular radio, and with some tweaks to the main CPU. 

    This array of sensors is what enables some of Google Glasses more interesting features - with a flick of your head you pick a story in the paper, turn the pages by moving your head slightly left to right. When searching for directions Google Glass will know which way you are facing, how fast you're travelling, which way you're looking, and be able to superimpose the map over the view you are seeing and show you directions for up ahead. The possibilities are vast, and developers are already examining ways to fully utilise the technology. There are even rumours, according to  SlashGear that there is an infrared eye-tracking camera positioned close to the temple which would further increase the possibilities for app development.

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  11. How robust is Google Glass?

    Google Glass are lightweight and extremely robust. They come with adjustable nose pads in different sizes for added comfort and security.  Whether they would put up with the worst excesses of your dog, or your toddler's attentions remains to be seen, but Google's publicity suggests that they will certainly put up with day to day wear and tear, whilst being light and comfortable to use.

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  12. What do I need to know before I can use Google Glass?

    For now it is difficult to say what is going to happen when Google Glass is released to the general public. There are a few things that are important to know.

    What can't you do? Well, you can't scuba dive! Unfortunately, in its present state, Google Glass can't go under water - this is likely to cause huge disappointment to divers who want to capture the first hand experience of diving the Barrier Reef.  Fortunately for Google that is a fairly niche market, but even still, waterproofing would certainly add to their appeal! There are also many locations which have expressly stated that they will not allow Google Glass wearers to enter - for example your local cinema is not going to thank you for potentially recording your viewing experience, similarly many bars have already said they will not allow wears, casinos, courts, doctor's surgeries - anywhere really where cameras are already banned. It is also likely that due to privacy concerns Google Glass won't be allowed in schools, nurseries, and it may well be that even while out and about shopping you would be asked to remove them. The concerns surrounding privacy and filming are, understandably, growing daily as people become more aware of what Google Glass can do, and it is quite probable that by the time the retail versions are released, that legislation will be in place in numerous areas, and it is important for you to learn, and understand, where and when you can't use it.  If you can't use a camera, then you can't wear Google Glass.  

    glass side profile
    Another point to bear in mind is the interface itself - Google Glass works primarily through voice control, and there are a large number of places where it would simply be inappropriate to talk to your glasses. Whether it will catch on, who knows, but its an entirely unnatural thing to do and the average man in the street may feel far less comfortable walking along saying "Ok Glass......" than a Google Geek!

    While waiting for Google Glass to hit the retail market it is going to be interesting to see how Google deal with the issue of prescription lenses. Google Glass itself does not have a lens, but the way in which the prism works will be affected if your field of vision is shorter, or longer, than normal. Things should become clearer closer to launch, but it will be necessary to check that you can physically use Google Glass, without damaging your eyesight, or even to see the image at all, before spending what may well be a large sum of money ordering a headset. 

    You won't be able to buy Google Glass (even if you have the means) if you're under 13 years of age - Google state quite clearly that they are not for children. Google won't allow children under 13 to open their own Google Account, and this is necessary for purchasing Glass. Google haven't said whether they feel that there's a problem with children using them, in terms of development or maybe causing problems with their eyesight, but if you are under 13, or want to buy for a child, its not going to be a possibility for now. 

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  13. Will it be available in all countries?

    At present, Google Glass Explorers are only available to those over 18 who are resident in the US. It is anticipated that, upon general release, Google Glass will be available to be shipped worldwide.

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  14. Can I develop my own application?

    Yes, Google is actively encouraging developers to work on apps for Google Glass. One of the primary purposes of the beta testing and the release of Explorers to developers has been to show developers what Google Glass can do, and to enable them to begin developing purpose built applications.  Google is hoping that there will, very rapidly, be a huge development in Glass applications - this is going to be important as the suggestion is that current Android apps won't work with Glass.

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  15. Can I wear it while driving?

    Whilst Google states that you can wear Google Glass while driving depending on how you use it, it is expected that wearing Google Glass behind the wheel may quickly become outlawed in the same way that driving whilst using a mobile phone is forbidden, and for the same reasons. Already West Virginia has introduced an amendment to an existing bill which establishes "the offence of operating a motor vehicle using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display."  Technology writers and bloggers are arguing that it would be possible for Google to create a 'driver-mode' for Google Glass which could restrict the device to showing only GPS data during use behind the wheel, this is still unlikely to be acceptable, however, due to the potential for driver distraction. Glass may mean that you can check the route whilst looking ahead, but the temptation to have a sneaky peek at your emails, or to check your messages may be too much for some drivers, and the probability of driver distraction is just too high!

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  16. Is Google Glass a new name for Google Googles?

    No, Google Goggles is an app developed by Google using visual search techniques to identify locations and buildings and isn't related in any way to Google Glass.

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  17. What does augmented reality mean?

    Augmented reality is a type of virtual reality, where a computer creates a composite image for the user, taking the real scene, the view which the user is observing and blending it with a virtual reality which provides additional information to the user. The aim is to enhance the reality, and create a seamlessness between the virtual and the real, increasing the user's sensual perception of the virtual word they are seeing and interacting with. Augmented reality can be as complex as that used by the military for training, or as simple as pointing your camera at a restaurant and seeing an overlay with details of the menu, opening hours and reviews by customers. 

    Although augmented reality has been around for some time, Google Glass offers the first, really usable and accessible augmented reality platform for everyday use. 

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  18. What are the specs of Google spes (Glass)?

    Running on Android and powered by a dual core TI OMAP 4430 processor (the same CPU used in the original Kindle Fire), the Google Glass comes in a choice of five gorgeous colours: Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale, Cotton and Sky.

    Packed into this lightweight, strong headset is a 5MP camera which can record film at 720p, a microphone, Wifi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth. The display is a pretty impressive 640x360, which, according to Google, appears equivalent to watching a 25" HD screen from 8 feet away, and is supplied with a micro USB.

    One of the biggest questions in developer circles at the moment, however, relates to the battery life. Batteries have become a big issue with the advent of smart phones where battery life is, quite frankly, laughable in many instances.  Google tells us that the Google Glass' battery will last for a full day of usage, however, bloggers are now reporting that this simply isn't the case. Robert Scoble has stated that shooting a 6 minute video uses a staggering 20% of the entire battery power, which would suggest that half an hour of video would wipe the battery completely - not good for a family day out!

    Google Glass Specs
      Google Glass
    SoC Unknown
    Display 640x360 "Equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away"
    Camera 5 MP forward facing, with 720p video
    Audio Bone Conduction Transducer
    Connectivity 802.11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth
    Storage 16 GB NAND total, 12 GB free
    Battery Unknown mAh, "1 full day of typical use"
    I/O microUSB
    Requirements Android 4.0.3 or Higher with My Glass app

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  19. How can I buy Google Glass at launch?

    No information has been released as yet as to how and where you can purchase your own pair of Google Glasses following launch. 

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  20. What Applications are envisaged?

    The range of applications which are currently envisaged are only the tip of the iceberg of what might be possible.  If Google lives up to its promises then Glass will offer a means of seamlessly integrating your life and your tech, the augmented reality of Glass aiding and abetting your every move. Whether Glass can live up to that remains to be seen and there are, as always, doubters with very real concerns regarding the interactivity of Glass, and the possibilities for apps.  Google is quick to point out that Explorers are a Beta product, they are not yet a marketable product, and the data and feedback gained from the Explorers being out in the real world will aid Google in developing Glass to be better still.

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  21. What about Apps?

    the launch of Google Glass Explorers, developers have been given the hardware for which, Google hope, they will develop a full range of applications. As yet, the options are limited, but that will change as the developers get to work.

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  22. What about productivity apps?

    Google is busy trying to get developers to work on productivity apps. At SXSW 13, Google's Developer Advocate, Timothy Jordan showed the initial raft of productivity apps including the New York Times App, and explained how Google Glass will work with Google's Evernote and Skitch apps, allowing users to annotate images, make notes and sync them with their Google accounts in the cloud. It is envisaged, over time, that developers may be able to sync Glass with keyboards, maybe even doing away with the mouse and screen to create a means of working on the move.

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  23. What about navigation apps?

    Google Glass can offer directions, find businesses, addresses - you say the name of the business you want to travel to, or the address you want, and Google Glass will show you the way, using a blue line superimposed and scrolling over a map. It is possible to pair your Google Glass with your smartphone - both Android and I-Phone are supported, but developers testing Glass report that using Android is far simpler and more successful. Using this option you can choose to use the Maps app on your phone, but choose to have the map showing on your Glass, rather than the phone. You can chose whether you want to use a car, bike or go on foot and the routes will be amended accordingly, just like it does on your phone.  Currently, bloggers like Tim Stevens report that the Glass isn't responding fully to head movements, but with the technology on-board this can only be a matter of time.

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  24. What about social media apps?

    Social media is always quick to latch on to new technology, and it is hoped that the social media giants will be quick to develop apps for use with Google Glass - the mobile versions of both Facebook and Twitter would work well with the technology, and would provide a different form of interaction, particularly with uploading photos and video directly from a first person perspective.

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  25. Apps day to day life?

    Recently,  ConAgra released a video showing how Google Glass might be used to make day to day chores easier, including creating shopping lists, and then mapping the quickest route around the supermarket for the items on the list. Whilst they haven't confirmed that they will be releasing this app, it seems like the sort of situation where Google Glass will really come into its own.

    YouTube Video

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  26. E-Books and Newspaper apps?

    The biggest scoop for Google Glass so far has been The New York Times releasing its app for Google Glass. The app will read you headlines and stories, and will let you check the news on the go. As most newspapers currently have Google Apps in the Play Store it would seem very unlikely that they won't release Glass versions if the technology takes off to run alongside their smartphone mobile apps.

    Currently there are no E-book apps, and it could be argued that Google Glass isn't designed - as yet - to read books, it is more for snippets of information on the go. Time will tell whether the likes of Barnes and Noble or Amazon will chose to launch Glass versions of their mobile apps, it would seem unlikely for them not to try and move with the times.

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  27. Social and Informative Apps?

    This is where Google Glass can really come into its own.  Already Glass can display the weather, the time, delays to flights, traffic updates - really the possibilities would appear limitless if there is sufficient investment in new apps to work alongside My Glass App.  It is this type of 'quick info' data that Glass will excel at.

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  28. What about education?

    Already there are suggestions that Google Glass could become the future in information, with a lecturer or teacher being able to sync effortlessly with a class full of Glass wearing students. Some find the concept quite scary, and the fact that under 13s are advised not to wear Glass may cause issues with educational opportunities for app development, but it is maybe within universities and high schools were the technology could be best utilised.  It would be a natural development from the use of tablets and interactive boards, to streaming information directly to the students' Google Glasses.

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  29. Can Google Glass be used for gaming apps?

    Bloggers are divided on this one - some say it is the obvious step forward, others suggest that there is no practical way of gaming with Google Glass, certainly not with current technology - there simply isn't the level of connectivity and interaction necessary for the more advanced, modern games. Programming and game production moves fast though, and there really is no reason to think that by the second or third generation of Google Glass, the capability will be there to interact in a gaming environment with purpose built apps. The way in which Google Glass works would suggest that it would be great for multi-player games - it is, after all, possible to see on your screen, what someone else sees on theirs. For now though, most of the Glass testers are suggesting that maybe the gamer would be limited to Solitaire - even Pacman would be likely to give you headache!

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  30. What are the potential vertical applications for Google Glass?

    Imagine that you have been in a car crash, or maybe you have collapsed in the street... you come to to find a paramedic standing over you, staring at you, wearing Google Glass. In a matter of seconds he has taken your photo which is linked to you biometric data held in a central database from your driving licence or passport. He now knows your identity, and, with the potential for linking information, your full medical history which will enable him to help you in a far more tailored way than is currently possible. All of this information, meanwhile, is being beamed, completed with the information he is gathering at the scene - your vital statistics, any obvious injuries etc, to a specialist at the local hospital who is able to guide the first responder through the Google Glass through the best course of action to take, and to prepare for your arrival at the hospital. 

    Or maybe you're a fire fighter, with Google Glass connected to your controller, and a map of the burning building you are in superimposed in your line of vision, you are able to locate any trapped survivors far more quickly and safely getting you, and them, out of danger far more effectively. On top of this, what you are seeing is being beamed to those outside who can guide you, advise you, and keep track of your every movement in a way that just isn't possible right now.

    Already the military use this type of technology, but their headsets are far bigger and heavier than Google Glass - Glass is so light, so strong, that it would seem an obvious progression for governments to move to this type of technology - superimposing maps, building layouts, known enemy targets etc directly into the line of vision of those on the ground. The same is true for the police, the coastguard, for any of the emergency services, right down to the AA roadside assistance driver who could see, in an instant, the schematics of your motor vehicle.

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  31. Small print

    Your Steegle team has strived to be as accurate and complete as  possible in our editorials. Notwithstanding, we cannot warrant that the information is accurate as it is susceptible to change in the rapidly developing world of the Internet. We assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter contained within our site.