You’ve probably heard the hype by now, and really, how could you not? They’re the most exciting thing since the iPhone and, for once, Apple wasn’t the first out of the gate with it. Google’s wearable computer, the Google Glass system, is now on sale, although not everybody will be able to buy a pair. As of last night, members of Google’s All Access music subscription service have been invited last night to be part of the company’s Glass Explorers Program—if they’ve got the cash, that is. They’ll still have to shell out a cool $1,500, and either provide an American shipping address or pick up a system personally in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. That said, let’s take a look at what we know for sure, what we know isn’t true and what’s coming up in the world of Google Glass.
What is it?
It’s a wearable computer. Google Glass is just as much a computer as your iPhone, except the display projects over your eyes, creating a hands-free overlay. It’s pretty boss, and if you were one of those kids who grew up wishing the world was more like Blade Runner, this is your bag.
Who’s making it?
Google’s X division. We’re not making that up. They’re also the division that makes driverless cars, presumably bought a military robotics company in Boston and other creepy stuff that makes them sound a lot like Skynet. To work on Glass, Google brought on experts on wearable tech and augmented reality to maximize the device’s capabilities.
What can it do?
Most things your cell phone can do. Glass tethers to your phone to receive up to 4GB data, so you can Google anything on the go. It also shoots in 720p with a 5 megapixel camera, and 16 gigs of storage space—however, tech pundit Robert Scoble recently reported that recording video is lacklustre, offering only up to 45 minutes of battery life while using the feature. Right now, Glass uses many existing Android Apps, as well as a small group of new apps designed specifically to work on Google Glass’s overlay, affectionately called Glassware by the company’s branding wizards.
How does it work?
To use its functions, you can use the touchpad built into Glass’s right temple, or tap it and say “Okay, Glass,” followed by your command. Like, “Okay, Glass, take a picture,” or “Okay, Glass, Google Vernon Maxwell.” The verbal command also serves as a privacy warning, so nobody can surreptitiously use Glass to film or shoot things they shouldn’t be.
What are the downsides?
First and foremost are its price and availability. Technology experts are predicting that these high-tech glasses won’t hit the mainstream until 2016, despite being available now, which may bode very poorly for the brand’s longevity unless Google can cut the price to a more consumer-friendly $300 a pop. Second, users have reported very negative reactions to wearers of the device, mostly due to concerns about invasion of privacy. Finally—unlike Google’s famous AdSense advertisements—it doesn’t respond very well to context: you can be at work, and still be inundated with distracting tweets. Likewise, Glass’ software won’t go out of its way to give you information about a new city you just landed in or pull up automatic translations when you’re reading a Chinese takeout menu. Expectations for the device are high, and there’s a high likelihood it won’t live up to them. For those who don’t mind—well, step right up and purchase a pair.