Five things you should know about Google Glass

Google Glass

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Google Glass has generated a lot of hype in recent weeks. Currently only available to a chosen few beta testers, or  ‘Google Explorers’, in the US, Google plans to roll out its new wearable computer for general purchase later this year.

With voice activation and access to a whole array of Google products, Glass is designed to be a computer you can wear anywhere.

Google Glass is currently being used by a number of Google Explorers who registered their interested in test driving Glass by posting a short message on Google+ or Twitter explaining what they would do with it with the hashtag #ifihadglass. Each successful Explorer paid $1,500 for the privilege.

We will have to wait for another while before it is available on this side of the Atlantic, but in the meantime, here are some interesting snippets of information on Google Glass, where it came from, and how it works.

1. It looks like a lot of fun

Glass is voice activated and currently offers access to Google+, Hangouts, Gmail, maps, travel information, and Google Translate, as well as a 5MP camera for still and video recording.

While testers have been finding lots of uses for it, one has stood out for me personally as very useful and exciting – tech evangelist Robert Scoble has found it a useful tool for journalists, having recently used it to record an interview.

Google recently released this promotional video demonstrating what it’s like to use Glass:

2. It doesn’t contain any glass . . . yet

Despite the name, Google Glass does not currently come with  lenses. However plans are afoot to develop models which can be incorporated into prescription glasses. According to Project Glass the company is still perfecting the design for frames with prescription lenses, but the company expects they will be available later this year.

3. It comes from the same lab that created the driverless car

Unsurprisingly, Google Glass comes from the same research and development facility that created Google’s driverless car. What is surprising, however, is that the lab, known as Google X Lab, is so secretive that few people know where it is. The lab’s Wikipedia page lists its location as “somewhere in the Bay Area of Northern California”, though it is clearly on or near Google’s Mountain View campus.

Widely touted as something of a Wonka factory of the tech world, the lab is also responsible for developing an artificial neural network which taught itself to recognise cat videos on YouTube, and was rumoured to be developing a space elevator, though the latter project is a myth.

The lab is also expected to announce a new project any day now.

4. It is already raising privacy concerns

Google Glass does have implications for personal privacy, particularly as it can potentially be used to film people without their knowledge or consent. Australia’s federal privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has requested a meeting with Google to discuss these concerns, while pressure group Stop The Cyborgs, set up in response to Google Glass, is seeking a commitment from Google to take measures to reduce the impact of Glass on personal privacy. The group is also asking people to ban the use of Glass in their premises.

5. You can’t sell it

According to the Google Glass terms of sale, anyone purchasing a device cannot be resold, though it can be given as a gift. One Glass Explorer, known only as ‘Ed from Philadephia’, offered his Glass for sale on eBay last week, before he had received it from Google, before realising that doing so would contravene the terms of sale. The beta testers in the Explorers programme face deactivation of their devices if they resell, loan, transfer, or give them to someone else. While the terms for general sale are not quite as restrictive as this, they do prohibit the resale of devices.