Google Glass – first look and five key features

Google Glass

Google Glass is Google’s sci-fi-esque wearable tech that lets you take photos, record videos, browse the web, make video calls and access maps of your surroundings – and, unlike smartwatches, all without the need for a mobile phone.

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Glass’ functions revolve around a tiny translucent display that sits on the edge of your field of vision. The overlay can display incoming emails, or information about nearby landmarks for example. This, when combined with voice recognition and simple touch controls, creates a smartphone level of functionality, but from a new perspective.

Google has as yet refused to reveal a release window or likely price, though prototypes are currently being road-tested. We went to Google HQ to try a pair out. Read on for our first impression of Google Glass.

Jess Moreton

Google Glass – five key features

Voice recognition – Google Glass is mostly used through voice command. Functions such as web searching require you to say aloud what you’re looking for. Saying ‘Glass, Google search Which? Tech Daily’ for example would direct you to our blog site.

Once there you navigate by touching the frame of your Google Glass with your finger. Swiping left and right moving you through the site, or swiping down to send you back a level. Compatible websites will even play their content audibly, meaning you can negotiate a busy street without bumping into lampposts, but while still learning about nearby landmarks.

Camera – Glass includes a 5 megapixel camera, that is also capable of recording video at a 720p high resolution. Saying ‘Glass, take a picture’ will take a snap of whatever you are looking at. The 12.5GB on board storage should be enough to store plenty of images and videos; while Glass will also sync your media with your Google+ cloud account.

Glassware apps – Glassware is Google’s name for the apps compatible with Glass. Fifteen apps currently exist for the device, including Gmail, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and Field Trip (that displays contextual information about your surroundings). Expect considerably more apps to be available when Glass eventually goes on sale.

Battery – Google confirmed that the Google Glass battery will last for approximately 24 hours with ‘average’ usage. Glass can also record video for up to 45 minutes and let you make a 30 minute video call on a single charge.

That’s considerably less battery life than a phone but Google did confirm that Glass would only take around an hour to charge fully from empty, due to its included micro-USB charger that delivers twice the amps of a standard charger.

Phone tethering – Glass can access wi-fi networks independently of your smartphone, but is still able to communicate with your handset via Bluetooth. This means Glass can make phone calls, piggyback your phone’s 3G connection (if not in a wi-fi area) and display incoming texts. And best of all – it isn’t limited to any specific phone and is even compatible with iOS.

Expert opinion

Mike PlantAfter encountering Google Glass for the first time I have to say I’m impressed. The feeling of looking out, but with the addition of a visual overlay, is hard to describe. Importantly, the display is small enough to be unobtrusive. I’d go out on a limb to say that seeing the world through Glass would become second nature with time.

I don’t think that Glass is as scary as I thought it might be either. The fact that Google has designed it so that its default setting is off is crucial. It means that only by tapping the device does the display become visible in the user’s vision – hopefully ending fears of us being bombarded with unwelcome adverts when walking down a busy street.

My only reservations centre around its as yet unannounced price. I’d suggest that a lower price is essential for two reasons: first I wouldn’t fancy wearing something on my head worth over £500, for obvious reasons.

Secondly, a cheaper price should encourage people to buy and, to be completely honest, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable wearing Glass out in the wild unless enough other people are doing the same. Especially because it requires you to talk to it to access its functions.

Mike Plant – Online writer

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4 replies

    1. Hi Terry,

      It’s a valid question. We actually asked Google about privacy and our concerns there. The company’s response was reasonably convincing.

      First, you have to actually say ‘Glass, take a picture’ / ‘Glass, record a video’ to activate the camera. Obviously not a particularly covert action as you have to speak loudly and clearly.

      Glass also displays a red light when recording, so again, at least you can tell when its active.

      Finally, the fact it’s physically on your head is another key point. If for example you wanted to sneakily record something, it’s certainly not the most inconspicuous device on the market.

      When the device nears launch we’ll certainly take a closer look at any lingering privacy fears again though.

  1. Not really sure why people get so concerned about privacy issues.
    Its no difference from using a mobile phone, a headcam or even a carcam, let alone a device designed to be concealed.

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