Fun and Angst With Google Glass
For one brief shining day, just about anyone can have a Glass of their own. Google is being cautious about the way it introduces the product to the marketplace, given the extreme reactions it evokes. Some see it as the epitome of the post-PC era, while others see it as emblematic of the Internet Age's assault on privacy. Glass has been credited with saving lives -- and putting others at risk.
Google Glass, which has been the focus of considerable controversy, went on sale Tuesday -- for one day only -- at US$1,500, with Android KitKat and new features that include improved battery life, photo bundles, photo replies and voice command sorting.
However, one feature -- video calling -- has been eliminated because fewer than 10 percent of Explorer beta users employed it.
"Today we hope to bring even more Explorers into the program to reflect an even more diverse group of people," Google spokesperson Chris Dale told LinuxInsider.
"This is the new generation of technology that will replace everything," enthused Mike Jude, Stratecast program manager at Frost & Sullivan. "You won't need a wall-sized TV, you won't need a PC, you won't need a browser. Restaurants won't need a menu, they'll just have a QR code that you can scan through your Google Glass to see what's available."
What KitKat Brings to Glass
New to Glass with the KitKat update are photo bundles. When users scroll through their timeline, they will see each day's Glass photos, videos and vignettes organized in bundles. Think of this as a filing system for Glass content.
The new photo reply feature lets users tap "reply" and send a photo in response to a greeting from a friend, or take and send a new photo.
Sending feedback has been made easier. Users just have to tap on the device info card in Settings and provide their feedback. Or they can send an email, call Google, or post in the Explorers Community.
Voice command sorting lets users tap Glass or say, "OK Glass," to sort voice commands by time and frequency. This makes it easier to see the most frequently used commands and speeds up accessing them from the touch menu.
Oh, and devs now can write Glassware using the latest Android software development kit now that the device runs KitKat.
"One goal of the Explorer program is to get Glass in the hands of developers so they can hack together features and discover security exploits," Google's Dale said.
The Glass Threat
Consumer Watchdog on Tuesday released a report describing Google Glass as "inappropriate for the broad consumer market."
The device threatens the privacy of both users and people whose images it captures; it can distract users at critical moments; it can pose health risks in some circumstances; and it can be used for improper or even criminal purposes, such as surreptitiously capturing people's PINs at ATMs, the organization maintained.
Google Glass is "a stalker's delight," Consumer Watchdog said, suggesting it might come in handy for pedophiles.
The group held a press conference at its Santa Monica, Calif., office on Tuesday to demonstrate the privacy issues raised by using the device.
"Google Glass can't do anything a smartphone can't," Frost's Jude pointed out. "You can have a smartphone on your table turned on to take a video surreptitiously; it's just a bit more obvious."
Much of Glass's functionality comes from a user's smartphone by tethering Glass to the phone, Google's Dale said.
The Glass Backlash
Not everyone is in love with the notion of Google Glass. Some bars, restaurants and cafes have banned people from wearing them on the premises, and in San Francisco, two people have been assaulted for wearing the device over the past few months.
The incidents have been cited as an indication of heightened tensions between techies and modern-day Luddites.
However, such reactions are common when new technology is introduced, Frost's Jude told LinuxInsider. "We will eventually figure out how to accommodate the good and how to take care of the bad things."
Google doesn't see any antipathy, Dale said, and "judging by the excitement we've seen around opening our site up for anyone to purchase Glass today, that perception is reaffirmed."