When Google releases Project Glass, possibly later this year, they won't just be letting its early users take pictures of anything they see, or do Google searches with their eyes closed and their hands tied: there will also be apps, including (but not limited to) The New York Times, Evernote (and it's related app, Skitch), Path and Gmail—duh.
That bit of news came on Monday during a demonstration by Timothy Jordan, Google's Senior Development Advocate, at SXSW. Apart from a little kerfuffle over Reddit, honors for the most memorable thingy at this year's interactive portion of the festival fell to Glass, which appeared on the occasional face of a Googler at slick barbeque parties and on the SXSW stage. Here are a few of the apps that Google's working on, perhaps in time for the holidays (which, come to think of it, could be a perfect time to distract yourself from small talk and surf through Wikipedia without anyone noticing.)
News and Email
Photo by Engadget
The NYT's app works much like its iPad counterpart, displaying the day's top headlines as well as related photographs, but all in the glasses' tiny LED screen that rests in the user's peripheral vision. Gmail will work similarly, and the Glass version will appear minimal in comparison to the desktop version. Both point the way toward a future in which headlines and short snippets will become increasingly common, design will need to be minimal, and consumption (in the middle of Silicon Alley cocktail party conversation, for example) will need to be discreet and more passive than active.
The apps are controlled via touch and voice command. The device is powered on by saying "Okay Glass"; by touching the right temple arm of the device users can scroll through apps and devices that Google refers to as "cards." Users will access their Gmail by speaking, but then scroll through their inboxes by placing their fingers on the touchpad.
Video courtesy of Rhen Wilson.
Photographing and note-taking
Evernote and Skitch take the idea of a mental snapshot and put it into a literal context, as Glass allows users to take photos of things they want to remember and then annotate aspects of the image with drawings, clip art, and text. This could make studying a hell of a lot easier, as students could theoretically take photographs of textbooks and highlight the important parts without ever picking up a pen. In the SXSW demonstration, Jordan took a photograph of the audience and then put it on-screen so he could manipulate the image using these apps. Jordan also shared the photographs with his connected friends on Path.
Socializing with other friends
Video courtesy of Rhen Wilson.
Path is the most complex (and, given privacy concerns, most complicated) of all the third party apps that will be available with the initial version of Project Glass. It will allow users to create social circles and communities where they can share location-based information such as where they go running or where they, uh, live. Path has already been criticized for invading privacy, and this concern could be exacerbated with the program's integration into Google Glass. Face recognition is on its way too, bringing nerds closer to a summary of information on the "friends" standing on the other side of Glass, just like the Terminator has.
Looking Cool and Actually Seeing Things
Jordan also noted in the SXSW demonstration that an initial version of the product, "Explorer," might be ready to ship as early as the end of 2013. But wait to save your money on this one. The project is only in its initial stages, and the Explorer edition will start at an asking price of $1,500. On the bright side, the demonstration also illustrated that there will be a beach-friendly variation of this project, as one slide included a bro wearing Google Glass on top of his cool shades. Nerds who already wear glasses are also in luck, as Google announced on Tuesday that it was working on another version of Glass that would allow for other frames.
Greg Priest-Dorman, a Glass engineer and an early pioneer in wearable computing, wearing them glasses under his Glass
Physics dictates one no-brainer feature that will likely not be available anytime soon: a phone would require too much power to fit on your face, and given concerns about radiation near your brain, by FCC standards, a phone app wouldn't exactly be legal. Instead, the device will be able to tether to a smartphone—another reminder that even with a screen in their face and a pile of apps, users will still be relying on and getting distracted by that old-fashioned screen in their pockets.