Google Glass Price, Specs and Review

To date, Google Glass has only been made available to software developers, in small quantities, and with an initial price of $1,500. So if we’ve whet your appetite and you fancy experiencing ubiquitous computing, when can you expect to buy one and how much will it cost?

Google has been keeping tight-lipped on both these questions but industry experts reckon it’ll be the end of this year or the beginning of next before they’ll appear in the stores across the globe. And regarding the price, pundits expect the price to fall but perhaps not drastically. Sounds like you’d better start saving those pennies then.

It’s the craze sweeping the tech industry, talked up as the next big thing, but is wearable tech, and in particular Google Glass, really going to take off? We take a close look

It might run Android – Ice Cream Sandwich to be precise – but that’s about as much as Google Glass has in common with a smartphone or tablet. This high-tech piece of kit has been called a wearable computer or an augmented reality headset, but let’s forget the hype and see what it does. First and foremost it presents the user with a display that’s visible whenever you’re wearing Glass. Using clever optics, the tiny 640 x 360 pixel screen is magnified so that it appears like a 25-inch screen viewed from a distance of eight feet. Needless to say, it doesn’t block out your view of the real world. That is because the display is semi-transparent you see it superimposed on reality – hence the given term, augmented reality.

If you’re into technical specifications, Google Glass has an OMAP 4430 dual-core processor, 12GB of usable fl ash memory, it has 802.11g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a fi ve-megapixel camera capable of 720p video. Obvious omissions are mobile phone and GPS chipsets so Glass is reliant on using a smartphone, via Bluetooth, to provide these features. However, if you are within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, Glass is capable of providing a wealth of useful functionality on its own. User input is via a combination of voice commands, prefi xed by the well publicised “OK, Glass” command, and a tiny touchpad on the headset.

Given that Glass does pretty much the same as a smartphone or tablet, so long as you have it paired to another device in your pocket, it begs the question of why you’d want to shell out on Glass and make yourself pretty conspicuous in the process. Speaking at the recent Google I/O developer’s conference, Google’s Senior Development Advocate, Timothy Jordan, gave a fairly compelling reason. “When you’re at a concert and the band takes the stage, nowadays 50,000 phones and tablets go into the air,” he said.

“Which isn’t all that weird, except that people seem to be looking at the tablets more than they are the folks on stage or the experience that they’re having. It’s crazy because we love what technology gives us, but it’s a bummer when it gets in the way, when it gets between us and our lives, and that’s what Glass is addressing.” This is just one benefit of what the supporters of wearable computers refer to as ubiquitous computing. While smartphones and tablets have brought us “always on” connectivity, we still have to remove them from our pockets or bags to interact with them. Ubiquitous or pervasive computing goes one further by giving us a display that’s always with us and functionality that’s only a voice command away, whether mounted to your head or strapped onto your wrist. Elsewhere we look at some of today’s killer apps for Android and, impressive as they might be, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine seeing a vaguely familiar face and having Glass whisper their name in your ear and tell you where and when you last met.

What about getting Glass to search for a friend you arranged to meet in a crowded room. And what about never again being blamed for a motor accident that wasn’t your fault? With Google Glass recording everything from your point of view, you’d have the evidence you need to ensure justice is done. Despite all the hype about Google Glass, the concept of wearable computers isn’t a new one – far from it. As long ago as the Eighties, enthusiasts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were developing their own customised creations and could be seen wearing them on the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They never caught on, which begs the question of whether Glass will be different because it has the might of Google behind it.

However, in comparing Glass with the MIT wearable computers of the Eighties and Nineties we’re not comparing like with like. Just let’s say that using these early wearable computers involved having a heavy box of tricks hanging from your belt and wearing a headset that made you look like the Borg of Star Trek fame. Needless to say, they were only used for specialist applications such as maintaining complicated equipment where engineers needed to access diagrams and parts list but have both hands free to work on equipment. By way of contrast, Glass weighs less than a pair of ordinary sunglasses and is entirely self-contained.

So the technology is there, or just about, and wearable computers have come a long way since the clumsy contraptions of the Nineties. Even so, Glass has been making some enemies in high places. Together with other members of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, US Representative Joe Barton has written to Google, asking them to address several points relating to privacy concerns. To give a feel for those concerns, the letter quotes from an article in the Wall Street Journal that suggests that, “it will only be a matter of time before you’ll be able to aim the lens of your device at his or her face, and using face recognition technology get the individual’s address, work history, marital status, measurements and hobbies.” In addition, Joe Barton and his fellow signatories observed that a bar in Seattle has already banned the technology in advance, because of privacy concerns. We can be sure this is one argument that’s going to run and run.

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