It was like a scene from a Michael Bay movie, just without the explosions – wait, it wouldn’t be a Michael Bay movie then, would it – hipster extreme sport types jumping out of a plane and parachuting, and also in wingsuits, down to the convention center that Google was holding their big IO Conference presentation. All of it was being streamed live via Google+ with the company’s leader, Sergey Brin, wearing the device that they had shown off via video presentations just a few months earlier.
This, as in interruption of the conference, was Google showing off the promise of Google Glass – in real time.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, Glass is a wearable device that looks like a pair of glasses, without lenses, that not only can video everything you see, but also project images into your line of site that you can interact with. It’s all very Jetsons.
What was interesting from the conference isn’t that there looks to be a lot of working prototypes of the device, or the fact that as a prototype it is already incredibly small, or the fact that Google made the device available to attendees for $1500 (shipping Q1 2013) to assist in development, but that what we ended up being shown was a device that simply shot video. We were not shown any of the interactive web access, or how the device can display to its user directions or other information. No, there was none of the very cool Terminator-like graphical display that the previous video showed off. What we got was maybe the most awesome GoPro Hero killer, ever. Surely the device is capable of much more and in fact the a few media member were allowed to wear Brin’s pair and saw what was described in the LA Times as
“The titanium frames were lightweight and comfortable. They were in “demo mode” and just showed a video of fireworks. The image, which was above my right eye and above my normal line of sight, was quite small. As I moved my head, the video panned. If I cupped my right ear as Brin directed, the sound of the fireworks was amplified. It wasn’t a true demo of the glasses. Brin clearly did not want the media to see his text messages or email. But had it been activated, I would have heard an alert when a high-priority email arrived in his inbox. I would then tilt my head up to see the message display.”
For anyone watching this and thinking, “how geeky do you look wearing that?” remember how weird brick sized cell phones, original bluetooth earpieces and jam boxes on a shoulder looked. If the 1st gen is this small (reportedly weighs less than a normal pair of sunglasses) you can quickly see how in a couple of years Glass could end up almost invisible. But, there was a sense that Google isn’t quite sure yet what the product is, or will be. Brin claims that he gets all of his email and voicemail via the device (although that was “deactivated” for the demo) and maybe that is part of the interesting decision to tell the people in attendance (largely developers) they could buy their own pair of Glass(es?) for $1500 and would have them them at the beginning of next year. Google needs everyone smart to think about this product and figure out where it is headed. Right now it’s very cool, but it really doesn’t do anything transformative. Yet.
Google also showed off the new Nexus 7 tablet – aimed right at the Kindle Fire – with its new interface, connection to Google Play and a set of specs that really turn up the game. It will be made by Asus for Google and sell for $200.
We also got a look at the next version of Android, 4.1, aka: Jelly Bean. This really is more of a list of improvements than a major upgrade in the OS, but there was a nightly impressive demo of “Google Now” a true competitor to Apple’s Siri.
And then there was the very odd media box, er, ball, the Nexus Q. A media hub in the shape and size of a softball, with glowing lights and a top half of the sphere that can rotate to control volume. The idea is to compete against the Rokus, Apple TVs of the world, but with a built in amp and connects to all your Android devices to stream audio and video. Oddly priced at $299.
And Google Events, a new party, occasions planner that works with Calendar and allows people to shot pictures and share them to the event’s invite which can be seen by anyone else that got the same invite.