Test Drive: What Life Looks Like Through Google Glass

Google offered its first in-depth talk about their Project Glass glasses, and gave us a chance to try them on. Here's what they're like in their prototype phase.

The sky-diving, bike-jumping, building-scaling demonstration for Google Glass was, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, "a nutty idea that somehow became real." But most people can assume that applies equally to Google's cloud-connected, instant-awareness glasses themselves.

Brin said in a briefing at Google I/O today that he and the Glass team have been wearing early "Explorer Edition" Glass glasses for a few months. The titanium band is light and wearable all day, team members agreed, and Brin said Glass "makes you less of a slave to your device." Glass gives you notifications, show you what time it is, take pictures, and show pictures of friends' experiences.

"It's been really liberating," Brin said. "(Glass is) something that replaces much of what we do with a smartphone. It covers ... things you want to do often, that are not a very involved attraction."

Glass is only available for pre-order to developers who attended this year's I/O conference, for $1,500, and they don't arrive until early 2013. The consumer edition should arrive "less than a year" after that, Brin said, and, while they'll be "significantly less" than the developer cost, they will be "a premium kind of thing."

Why would anyone but the most self-involved, distraction-addicted person want to keep a Glass headset on? Glass' team leaders emphasized numerous times that the design involves having the interaction slightly above the normal field of vision: look up if you want, or keep focused on cutting up carrots for dinner. Brin took two pictures of the assembled press, so quickly and subtly that nobody in the room seemed to notice. And Steve Lee, product manager for the Google X labs and for Glass, noted that Glass allowed him to take more than 1,000 photos of a six-hour bicycle race, but he ended up sharing just a few of those photos, and assembling a 20-second time lapse video from the ride.

What's it's like to be wearing Glass? I had a chance to wear a demonstration pair for a minute or two. They are indeed light and almost unnoticeable in terms of weight and peripheral material. The screen where your images, videos, and notifications would go (these pair only showed a pretend friend's live video of fireworks) is quite outside your normal field of vision. It's there, and it's slightly translucent, but unless you very deliberately raise your eyes, it's just a notification, much like those that pile up in the corners of your computer desktop. When you're doing other things, that bit of glass is basically not there.

But we don't know exactly what Glass can do and show us yet, other than pictures and video. There's no definite set of features, though Brin said (and a very early concept video showed) that Google staff have tested text messages, email, directions, and other data sets.

Glass lead designer Isabelle Olsson said it was a somewhat intentional choice. The glasses are designed to become an almost unnoticeable second nature to the wearer—Olsson said she sometimes goes to find them in the morning, not knowing they're already on—but they couldn't be entirely invisible.

"We want to be honest, and we don't want to conceal it behind something that people will find creepy," Olssson said. Told in a pointed question that the glasses would look "extremely odd in any town in America," Olsson noted that the Glass project has collaborations with sunglasses, prescription glasses, and other forms in mind. For this early stage, though, the glasses are "something new," and "it takes some time for society to develop an etiquette with new technology."

Glass owners can control what gets uploaded to people's personal clouds, what notifications are shown, and which images are available to other Glass owners. So, at first, people will know you're wearing them, and you're intended to forget that. It does sound a little nutty, and possibly very cool for the right type of adventurer.

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  • Yahshua Natzeret

    I would like to test phase this considering my MIND is great with solving puzzles, fixing bugs in any pc, and figuring out how to fix exploits along with finding them.  Good idea to have me test them before it goes public.   Please contact me.  -Derek

  • Kotihayes

    I have a better idea then this an more user friendly so how do i talk to someone who could like maybe pay me for the idea is ez as u just havent thought of it anyway dont even know if this gonna work im on fb on my phone so yeah

  • Alena1984

    There are plenty of go oglers dogfooding them in Google Campus Mountain View and they gladly agree to give you their glasses to try.
    It's very intrusive technology, images blinking in your view field are disturbing and distracting. I doubt that you can ride a bike or drive a car wearing glasses without endangering yourself. 
    They will keep you always online, so you'll be able continuously read your emails, status updates from you friends on Google Plus, maybe surfing the web or watching youtube video, but I doubt that this is technology needed by people. Continuous reading of Google Plus updates, does not bring value to your life, only Google needs it. 
    This technology is hugely advertised by technical bloggers as Chrome OS and Google Wave were advertised before, but it does not predict any success.  

  • Friendlyfish

    "Brin said in a breifing..."

    All this technology and we can't spell correctly?

  • Sai Das

    The day I find myself needing these glasses is the day I need to seriously examine my life.

  • Schmiez

    This could REALLY change how we view sports IMMEDIATELY.  It would be like a video game unfolding before your eyes (no pun intended).

  • TheHindu Times

    The glasses should be controlled by a wrist watch (like the Small Touch Screen IPOD)

  • Jeff Mirabile

    This is exactly where connected technology needs to go. Ideally this should be a micro heads up display unit that attaches to any glasses. The issue is how you control it, whether by voice, preprogrammed components and or handheld or bluetooth connection to the PDA/phone or combination of all above. I can imagine all sorts of information being available with this.

  • The Merry Prankster

    It will make it more differcult for your boss to lie to you.He will probably tell you to remove your glasses first lolI

  • Rhea Galsim

    this is a good start for Google. I like it a lot. Add some extra features besides the photo-taking feature that make the product more useful for the multi-tasking consumer and won't be an interference. And of course--price. But pricing will most likely change.

    Funny how the picture above is a mac book with Google's glasses. Come on now.

  • Evil Queen

    You KNOW some idiots are gonna wear 'em while driving!!   Just what we need - another high-tech distraction! 

  • Moda_femme

    cool glasses that take pictures... ugh isn't that available already @ Walmart's toy section for $9.99?

  • Ahahughes

    no good for people who already wear glasses in order to see the real world - how could you wear two pairs of glasses?

  • Alex1x

    I had been wondering the same thing until now. It's mentioned in this article: " Olsson noted that the Glass project has collaborations with sunglasses, prescription glasses, and other forms in mind."
    I need my prescription lense or I'm left only contact lense.
    The best solution imo is ability to slide change lenses (ie. I wear contacts and dnt need prescription lense, so I slide dark shades etc...)