Google Glass – What is it and how does it work?

google-glass2-b910424100ec7c2fc4b6efd0f280d51613e864db-s6-c10It may sound like science fiction, but Google Glass is very real and scheduled for public release in 2014. Will it be a useful tool we can all benefit from, or just a novel toy for technophiles?

Nobody seems to be working harder to turn the present into the future than Google. From self-driving cars to robots, their R&D projects read like a list of science fiction movie props. Before too long, one of these ideas, Google Glass, will be on sale to the general public. Google Glass is a hands-free headset featuring a small screen, that fits the user like a pair of glasses. They are Google’s first attempt at creating a ubiquitous computer – a computer which fits seamlessly into its user’s life, providing contextually relevant functionality, rather than expecting them to figure out the best use for the device on their own.

As a concept this sounds like an incredible idea. People generally don’t like change, especially if it means they have to learn how to do something differently. Whilst tech savvy early adopters might love the idea, ease of use is what gives technology mass appeal.  Potentially, a ubiquitous computer like Google Glass could almost literally sell itself, by telling a user how it can help them at the right moments.

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That may sound great in theory, but how does this compare to Google Glass in reality? Well the Explorer Model which was released to testers earlier this year may be missing some features which will be present in the public sale version, but so far it works using a series of voice activated commands, all starting with the magic words “ok glass”. This allows the wearer to take photos using a 5 megapixel camera, record videos in 720p, send text messages, get directions, search Google and more, all totally hands free.

You’d be forgiven for thinking these features don’t sound especially revolutionary or applicable to everyday problems. The hands-free element is novel but since we aren’t all skydivers or extreme sports enthusiasts like those in Google Glass’s promotional videos, it’s hard to see this as a product that will change our lives, at least not in its current state. Since it has to be paired with an Android version 4.0.3 or higher mobile phone using battery draining Bluetooth, it isn’t even a cell phone alternative yet.

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That being said, this is still early days and who knows what applications and functionality Google Glass may have in its public offering? Third party companies are bound to think of a vast number of applications if given the opportunity as well. Rumours suggest that eye movement based functionality, such as winking to take a picture, may even be available. But the possibilities for the technology itself are almost limitless. It doesn’t seem a stretch to imagine an app which could tell you how far and fast you have walked or jogged for example.  QR codes might finally be useful if you could activate them by simply turning your head in the right direction too. Since the key selling point here is context sensitivity, Google Glass is only limited by its ability to detect what you might want in a given situation.

Like all new technologies, Google Glass is bound to have a rocky start while not just its users, but their creators, work out exactly what it can be used for. But whether Google Glass has the potential to become something more than a hands-free phone camera, only time will tell.

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