Glass is a small, wearable computer that attaches to a lightweight headset and projects an internet feed over the wearer's right eye. The device, developed by Google, can be used to check Gmail, find calendar events, display maps with directions, make phone calls, find search results and take photos and video. Google recently announced that it can also be used with prescription lenses and sunglasses.
Google has been running a limited pre-release Glass Explorer program for interested people. But it's not for everyone, with Glass headsets costing $1500 and only available to US residents at the moment.
Go go gadget Glass
Glass responds to voice commands. Saying "OK Glass, take photo" will turn on the camera; "OK Glass, get directions to the Opera House" will activate Google Maps. It can make you feel a bit like Inspector Gadget calling on a go go gadget, but it's a pretty nifty system.
The device uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone and Wi-Fi to connect to the internet for uploading photos and videos. Glass can take 5MP photos and videos at 720p resolution, which are stored in your Google account.
Clear as Glass audio
The side of the Glass unit has a bone-conducting sound panel, which conducts an audio stream directly to the inner ear through the bones of the skull so even people with impaired hearing can hear the sound.
Glass can only be heard by the user and doesn't require speakers. This should limit sound spill, which is particularly important if it's to gain widespread use in social settings.
Privacy vs potential benefits
Disability advocates are eager to see what Glass can offer to people who want to stay connected but don't have the mobility to use a tablet or phone. Google has released a video of a young girl paralysed in a car accident, using the device on a camping trip to access directions, search the web and take videos, all without needing use of her hands. There are also exciting possibilities for Glass in settings where people need hands-free communication and connectivity, and sportspeople can easily use the technology to record video from their own perspective.
Glass has drawn the attention of privacy commissioners around the world (including in Australia) who are concerned about what information Google will collect, how it will use that information, and what it's doing to protect the privacy of users.
Google says it won't be using facial recognition and users will be able to manage their own Glass settings. The company didn't outline what it will do with the user information once it's collected.
Safety concerns have also been raised about Glass, particularly in relation to driving – there are already restrictions planned to limit use behind the wheel.
Is Glass too much in your face?
Talking into a headset that other people can't hear, or looking at people while scanning the internet with one eye, might prove to be too anti-social for many people – at least until a new wearable technology etiquette comes into practice.
Glass shows that once again Google is positioning itself ahead of the curve when it comes to internet innovation. But it remains to be seen if the technology is literally too in-your-face to gain widespread popularity. It may find a home in niche applications and bringing much-needed connectivity for people with disabilities.
At the moment, a Google Glass headset costs $1500 and is only available for trial in the US.