Google Glass Australian Hands-On: I Just Had The Future On My Face

They say you can have egg on your face as a phrase indicating the embarrassment one ought to feel when looking stupid, and from one look at Google Glass, you probably should think twice about getting around with this weird gadget on your bonce for just that reason, but I'm not so sure. I just had the future on my face, and it's so beautifully simple. This is Google Glass.

What Is It?

In case you've been living in a cave for the last six months, Glass is a piece of wearable tech from the boffins at Google and Google X -- the top secret lab inside the world's largest search company.

Glass is simple: it's a tiny screen, mounted to a pair of stripped-down Glasses that you wear on your face to take the technology out of using technology: to give you information without a smartphone having to get in the way. That's Google's dream, and Glass is its living embodiment.

These futuristic pseudo-specs have been getting around the US for some time now, but they haven't yet landed in Australia. Nobody outside of continental North America is allowed to be a so-called Glass Explorer (read: beta tester paying for the privilege), and all the coverage we've seen so far has been as such. Until now.

Using It

The first thing you notice about Glass is the weight, or lack thereof. All this face-based future tech tips the scales at only 46 grams, which is probably a good thing if Google intend you to wear it all the time.

Glass tethers either to your phone via Bluetooth and piggy-backs its data connection, or it has a Wi-Fi antenna to glom onto your home or work networks. There's no cellular antenna, which means you still always have to have your phone on you.

No matter the data connection, Glass pulls information from your Google account like GMail, Google+, Calendar and so on to display it on the device in the form of cards. If you've ever used Google Now, you're familiar with the way Mountain View loves its cards.

On the right hand side of Glass is a control arm: a concealed touchpad under the side of the specs that responds to swiping forward and backward, as well as up and down. Down indicates cancel, back scrolls left in the cards to present your Now information (Weather, Stocks, Calendar, etc) while swiping forward dives back into your history.

Glass has a few simple but powerful functions, all controlled by voice. "OK Glass" triggers the device, and you navigate down the command tree from there.

"OK Glass. Google. Who is the Prime Minister of Australia?" I ask nervously.

"The Prime Minister Is Kevin Rudd," she replies quickly.

"How old is he?" I ask after another tap.

"Kevin Rudd is 55," she adds, complete with a card illustration of Mr Rudd from Knowledge Graph and a card showing his date of birth.

You learn something every day.

Glass also allows you to take a video or a photo with an utterance of your voice, or by tapping the camera button on the top right hand side of the unit. Videos go for 10 seconds by default, but a double tap on the control pad extends the video recording infinitely. You can always tell when someone is rolling film on you, however.

To save space, Glass uploads video and photos straight to your Google+ account in a private album. That way it doesn't take up space on either your phone or your Glass unit. Why use physical when the cloud is better?

From there you can share it out wherever you like.

Glass also gives you navigation options using Google Maps.

"OK Glass. Take me to the Sydney Opera House," I ask, more authoritatively this time.

"Head west," she replies, throwing a map onto my transparent glass display that responds to my compass location, adjusting the map as I go. I actually rode to the Google building, so two quick swipes and I'm onto Bike directions. Lovely.

You can also trigger Hangouts and such on your Glass by making a video call to people in your Circles. You see them through your Glass screen and they see what you're seeing via the front-facing camera.

For the most part, Glass is fairly comfortable. It sits quite high on your nose so that the arm and the glass-cube screen are out of your way when you're not using them. If you go about your business, it politely fades into the background of your peripheral vision until you need it again.

Glass automatically realises you want to use it again when you either tap it to wake it up, or tilt your head up by 35-degrees (the angle can be adjusted). Then you can just dive into your Glass like you would your phone.

Bone-conduction audio in the back of the device vibrates to transmit sound through to your ear-bits without actually bellowing it to those around you. All the people near you hear is the same thing they would if you were on a phone call, for example: an almost sub-aural hum of someone talking in the background, likely only audible in the quietest of rooms.

The promise and hype of Glass has been far too high to live up to what you get when you place it on your face, but that's ok: the core concept and execution of Glass is enough to quell your weirdly aloof expectations.

Glass is like having a personal assistant on your face. Someone to help you navigate your day and the world around you. Someone smarter than you to educate you about things you're not so sure with. Someone who speaks every language and can tell you how to say you want another glass of wine in German. Someone to give you your calls and texts and emails and all the relevant information that might affect your day.

It's the promise of information without technology fulfilled in a beautiful polycarbonate and aluminium accessory that will change the way you live your life. It's Google Glass, and I want one.



    I'm such a sucker for gadgets...and this I want...I don't care how weird I might look to "normal" people!

    A personal assistant on your face? Um...

      Yes, Daniel. That's what I said. I'd like it in every sense of the phrase. ?


        Thats disgusting and makes you sound desperate...

            I do. but that wasn't humourous.

              Let the record reflect that gross would not enjoy an assistant on their face as a matter of parliamentary record.

              Next question please, Minister.

        The future on your face? That's what she said :p

    "You can always tell when someone is rolling film on you, however."

    How? From what I have read, there isn't an indicator light.
    And if it involves refraction from the screen, jailbroken versions would be able to disable that.

    I am by no means concerned, just curious.

      There isn't an explicit LED, but it's easy for other people to see the screen light up, which it does whenever it takes a photo or while recording.

      Yeah, you could likely root and hack it to record without the screen lighting up. But if you wanted to covertly record someone, there are already plenty of spycams available that are much cheaper, have much longer battery life, and are far less obvious than a headset on your face...

        This is true, however I think the bigger issue is one of convenience. If you have to go out of your way to buy such devices you will definitely be doing something with them that might not be legal. However, having found yourself in a situation where you had the tool to do it, it might be more of a temptation to do it and to do it not so obviously. Also, it means that the people with bad intentions can blend in much easier.

        Last edited 31/07/13 9:35 am

          I think (at least in the near future) people with Google Glass on their face will not be blending in easily.

          Do you really think it will ever be more convenient to pay many hundreds for Glass, hack it to disable the screen light, and try & blend in while staring fixedly at someone with a headset on your face, than to buy a $15 spy cam off ebay and tuck it under your shirt?

            The screen light could be on for multiple reasons. As far as I can tell, it's on whenever your using any function of glass. There's really nothing distinguishing it from recording or other function. Thusly you can't assume that just cause the screen light is on, that its being used for recording. As far as staring at you, anyone currently using recording functions of a device does so discretely, they'll do the same with glass. You can't assume they'll be looking at you the whole time.

            It's true though that most of the fears are born out of possible paranoia, but it doesn't negate the fact that it could happen. You just have to weigh your options.

            Think of being a woman for example. It's pretty unlikely, that someone would whip out a phone and record your assets, but it does happen. I think that doing so might be easier wearing glass. Just glance over a lot.

              Well, put it another way. If you were out at a cafe and saw a woman so astoundingly hot you couldn't resist capturing her for posterity, which do you think would be the least likely to get you busted? Light up your Glass, keep looking over at her, and hope that nobody notices you staring at her with glowing headgear - or just whip out your phone, keep your hands low, and angle the lens in her general direction while looking at your coffee instead? Or, if you were that woman, which would you be more likely to notice yourself?

              Regardless of your answer, the real question is, are people who wear Glass *more* likely to record people surreptitiously (and I don't mean just in passing) than any old bloke with a phone (let alone a spy cam)? Remembering that Glass is just a tool for what its users want to do, and not even a particularly good tool for this kind of job.

          Er.. There's nothing illegal about filming in any "public" place, even with a hidden camera. It might not however be say, admissible as evidence under certain circumstances.. Like, I think if you intend to use video in court with sound, you need to tell them they are on camera and with sound.

          Not sure though, just my random gatherings. I love legal stuff. Er.. Law stuff.. Legal law..

    Its ok, but it still looks completely and utterly stupid.
    Its the Segway of eyewear/gadgets.

    Besides, i am a little worried about the privacy or it all. Taking photos and video or someone (creepy or otherwise) is concerning.

      Photos and videos are taken of you already, with Today's technology. Someone "texting" on their smartphone could be taking a photo of you and CCTV is always recording where it has been set up.

        People dont always have their phones out aiming it at you (most people tend to use them angled towards the ground), Google Glass would always be out and looking at people.

          Do you also mind when tourists point their (big obvious DSLR) cameras at a scene that happens to include you? Because you're certainly being captured then, while a Glass user is far less likely to be recording anything at a given time (it really chews through battery life).

          If they kept staring fixedly at me while their Glass glowed brightly, then yeah, I'd probably also ask them to stop. Same as if a tourist started following me with a camcorder.

            Tourists dont have a camera stuck to their face all day.......

        You are warned with signage in places where CCTV is present. As for pointing a mobile phone, as mentioned by others, rarely, if ever, do people text with the phone at head level. I highly doubt people take pictures/video from the angle that people text at.

          I don't believe there is any legal responsibility to display such signage.. I believe councils and what not use them mainly as they act to effectively extend the security range of a singular camera, since there could be a camera *anywhere* near the sign, or one that would spot a criminal leaving, etc etc.. That's for public spaces anyway.

          Businesses are 99% private land, and thus are entirely free to film you in hd with 4239429 cameras with sound and motion tracking floodlights if they want, with no signage at all.

          [as far as I know anyway, would be keen to know more!]

    i hope theres an option to save videos to physical cause i cant bear to think of the mobile data it would chew up!

    In all seriousness I'd prefer if Google Glass has curved glass on the inside edge facing the eye. I'd rather hate a cornered edge of glass being punched into my eye if I was to accidentally bump into the wrong person...

    ... Although the technology looks to be the future! :)

    Privacy is no longer about the recording of data, it's about the way the data is used. I don't care if people record me using Glass without my knowledge, as this happens all the time already.

      It does ? Can you give me some examples other than tourists ? Even with tourist, your aware they take photos and videos that may include you, but you know they are not there to focus on you.

      Its pretty easy to pick out someone who's pointing a camera your way for any meaningful length of time because people have it in their hand pointing it at you. However when its something that on your face full time, ask yourself how often do you take note of people wearing glasses out in public ? I know I can pick out tourists pointing a camera often, but I rarely take notes of if people are wearing glasses or not.

      Last edited 31/07/13 9:48 am

        Dunno about you, but I'm rather more likely to notice people staring right at me (with or without any headgear) than people holding up cameras.

        I think the underlying assumption here is that Glass users are more likely to "focus on you", for some reason. I'm not sure why people think wearing Glass makes someone more willing to invade people's privacy than anyone else with a recording device. Because they can? (at least until their battery expires) Because they don't have to hold up their hands to do it? Because they've got nothing better to do with their expensive multipurpose headset than to single out *you* from a crowd and stare at *you* for extended periods, then laughing at the video later on with their friends or something?

        Serious question. I've never really understood why people are more afraid of Glass than any of the countless other recording devices (some of which are genuinely worrying and far more likely to be abused).

          1. Glass is not the only device capable of recording you without you noticing. As stated, spycams can do exactly this without any visible signs that you are being recorded.

          2. You only find it easier to spot tourists with cameras pointing in your direction because you have been conditioned this way. In time, you will find that Glass is just as easy to spot. Kind of like the guy at the local pool wearing tinted aviators...

          3. Why are all you people so worried about being recorded? Furthermore, what makes you think that that one person over there wearing Glass is specifically focusing on you instead of the hundreds of other people around you? I mean... Paranoid much... You guys getting up to illegal stuff or something? If so, probably a good thing you're being captured on video =p

          My point is, the ability for Glass to record video and capture photos is nothing new from a technological stand point. If there is any reason for you to be worried about Glass capturing images of you, you should be just as worried about every other recording device out there. Whether it be a phone, CCTV, spycam, security cameras, tourists with kodaks, etc.

          Just take a deep breath, calm down, and think about what you're saying...

          Oh and could you move to your left a little... You're blocking my view of the hot blonde behind you! >.

            Its just a good discussion, I don't think anyone is heated, angry, harboring any hate or ill will in any of the comments above and it looks as though people have thought about their comments. There's no need to take a deep breath.

            You have valid points and I suspect that its all largely paranoia as well. It still doesn't negate the possibilities out there. I compare it to the like of going out and getting hit by a bus/car. Its very unlikely its going to happen and most people wouldn't even think about it. Still most people will take precautions to not be hit and it still happens to some people.

            I don't think anyone would want to photograph or video me, so I'm not overly concerned about it.

            Perhaps the issues lies in the fact that people usually aren't walking around using their phone full time and glass is on your face ready to be used any time ? I'm just thinking of possibilities.

            Last edited 01/08/13 12:16 pm

        Not all cameras are in peoples hands or on their faces.

    What will probably tilt the scale in favour of my buying it will be when it starts to get companion programs that plug into games. Being able to look at the map at a glance in a flight sim or quickly glance at your damage readouts would be fantastic

      Hmmm, a "second screen" that is a real HUD. Very cool idea!

      It would be cool if it integrated with console/pc games, leaving your screen clear and displaying all HUD info on glass.

        Yeah that's what I'd really like. I was playing the new ghost recon with a mate the other day & I was occasionally distracted by the augmented reality stuff they splash all over the place, if that could be ported to something like Glass then I could occasionally glance at it when I want info & ignore it otherwise.

        Then again in order to project it correctly it'd need relative positional data so would have to be paired with something like Kinect or TrackIR to know what you're looking at. It'd still be worth it in my opinion since it could be used for the usual onscreen stuff like the handholding objective markers for people who need to be told to walk forwards till they reach the next lot of enemies.

    As soon as I get this, I'm gonna change the command phrase from "OK, Glass" to "Jarvis"

    "Jarvis, let's kick some ass."

    "OK, sir."

    nevermind trying to use this whilst walking down the road etc, i cant wait to use it whilst cycling. HUD! I can also countless applications in fair number of businesses for a device like that, thats going allow hands free access to information.

    Whens it coming to oz? Would be nice have some localisation seeing as tho this is an aussie article.....

    It's nice to see the face behind some of the worst articles on this site.

    What if you already wear glasses?

      There's a tiny screw that attaches the touch arm/glass display to the rest of the frame. Remove that and you can attach it to any kind of specs you like. There's currently a solution being worked on for prescription glasses, however.

        i was wondering that cause i wear glasses full time. what is the attachment like because not all glasses arms are the same width

    Don't be surprised when people behave weirdly when you're wearing them. And don't be surprised when someone takes offence when you look at them, and even goes so far as to tell you (or force you) to piss off.

    So apparently the next round of Glass Explorers are advantaged by knowing people with glass.. I know you.. gimme gimme.

    The biggest problem everyone seems to be with how it would look on their face.

    I think the biggest problem is functionality. It's vanilla Augmented Reality at best. We have the technology for good Augmented reality glasses (meta), it just takes someone with the money and marketing prowess of Google or Apple to make it happen.

    GLASS is an over glorified social media platform that feeds into our narcissistic need to share everything that happens in our life or be contactable at every given moment of the day.

      It's only narcissistic if you expect people to actually follow everything you're doing. Most people just like to put stuff out there, for fun. And I assume you mean to be contacted not contactable, since there isn't anything selfish about wanting to make sure that people have access to you when necessary.

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