Google Glass Now On Sale in US, and I Got Mine!

That’s me, wearing Google Glass shortly after taking it out of the box.

Google is making Google Glass available to everyone in the U.S., as long as supplies last. The devices being sold are clearly labeled as “beta,” meaning that not all bugs are stamped out just yet. The company said it still considers this to be part of the Glass Explorer Program, otherwise known as “beta.” It is not a full-blown consumer launch, which is expected to happen later this year. At this time Google is also limiting orders to U.S. customers only.

Being an early adopter, I ordered mine weeks ago, and it arrived yesterday. I am still learning how to use it.

Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD). It displays information in a somewhat similar manner as displaying the info on your cell phone’s small screen except that this display screen is always in front of your right eye; and yet it never obstructs your view of whatever is beyond the transparent display. Glass connects to your nearby Android or iPhone cell phone by a Bluetooth connection. While the hardware is on your face, most of the software is running in your cell phone. In fact, the wearer can place and receive cell phone calls, take pictures, send and receive email, make videos, watch videos, view pictures, obtain GPS driving instructions with viewable maps, and much more, all without taking his or her eyes off the road ahead (when driving) or whatever view is in front of the wearer at the moment. Voice commands are used for most functions. There is little need to touch Google Glass.

Heads-up displays are nothing new. The U.S. Government first developed them for helicopter pilots in order to reduce the pilots’ workload. Soon after, heads-up displays were developed for jet fighter pilots who have to absorb a huge amount of information when flying tight maneuvers in a dogfight, experiencing high-G turns while trying to evade the enemy, all while trying to aim and fire missiles and guns. Pilots can now read the required information without looking down at the aircraft instruments.

Heads-up displays are now used by many. When entering a burning building, firefighters can view maps and blueprints of the building, even when their view is obscured by smoke and flames in limited visibility situations. Surgeons also use heads-up displays to look up required information or even to watch videos of similar, earlier operations. After all, it isn’t convenient for a surgeon to leave the operating room to look something up while in the middle of surgery! Likewise, the U.S. Navy provides heads-up displays to electricians for use when crawling through tight spaces on board ships and submarines, tracing the many miles of wiring where they cannot use printed wiring diagrams or blueprints. The Navy tried for a while to use microfilm, but that never worked, either; the smallest microfilm readers are still too bulky to be useful. However, a heads-up display using a wireless connection to a nearby computer works well to display the information the electricians need.

The new Google Glass combines both a heads-up display and a camera mounted in the glasses frame. The wearer can drive an automobile, view a GPS map, and listen to step-by-step driving instructions whispered in the Glass earpiece, all without taking eyes off the road. This is obviously far safer than looking at a dashboard-mounted GPS and much, much safer than the old days of folding and unfolding paper maps while cruising down the superhighway!

The use of Google Glass has become somewhat controversial although the logic behind some of these arguments escapes me. A number of myths are floating around, claiming that use of Google Glass is distracting to drivers, even though the same technology reduces distractions for fighter pilots, firefighters, and others. There are claims of invasion of privacy when using the camera although nobody seems to complain when traditional cell phone cameras do the same thing. I suspect it will take a year or two to dispel the myths as more and more of these devices become available and the general public eventually learns the truth.

The Google Glass device is very expensive at $1,500. That is for a unit that has a small “headband” but no eyeglass frame and no lenses. The basic $1,500 Glass is suitable for anyone who does not wear glasses or wears contact lenses. However, anyone who prefers glasses, such as myself, will then need to purchase special-made eyeglass frames ($200 to $250) and then visit a local optician to have lenses made to fit the frames. The cost of Glass plus eyeglass frame plus lenses can exceed $2,000. I suspect the price of Google Glass will drop radically as the technology advances although prices of eyeglass frames and lenses probably will remain about the same.

I ordered my Google Glass months ago, when Google was not promising any delivery dates. After a receipt of my order, the next communication I received from Google about the Glass was last week’s email message, telling me the device had shipped! It arrived a couple of days ago. I experimented a bit with it but found that I really needed lenses in the eyeglass frames. Wearing my regular glasses at the same time I tried to wear the Google Glass didn’t work very well.

That’s me, after having lenses placed in the eyeglass frame.

Today, a local optical shop inserted prescription lenses. I was the most popular customer in the optical shop for a while as all the employees gathered around to see Google Glass!

I am still learning how to use Google Glass. I will write about my experiences in a couple of weeks as I learn more about it. I suspect the genealogy-related applications are limited although I believe it will be great for taking pictures of documents when in a library or archive. However, it can also retrieve documents from Evernote, the application I use to store my notes and scanned images of maps, drawings, and pictures. Reportedly, it also can take dictation although I haven’t yet learned to use that just yet.

Stay tuned…

16 Comments

What a fun new toy! Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

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Google Glass IS different because all its elements are persistent and insidious.
You would notice someone walking around videoing you with a smartphone, you don’t with Google Glass.
The HUD is always there, so for people that are easily distracted, like those people that insist on texting while walking OR driving, Google Glass simply increases the danger.

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    I got my Glass on April 15. Yes, the HUD is always there, but it’s not “on” all the time. It only lights up while actively in use; the majority of the time it’s dark and not distracting. If you choose to take a photo or video, people can see it lit up, so you’re likely not going to get away with stealthy filming. The default is 10 seconds of video unless you put your hand on the side to tap and increase it. Everyone I’ve met is not worried about being filmed. And the battery life is such that you really wouldn’t want to waste it on constant video anyway.

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I don’t think this would be a good device to use while driving. It all adds up to more distracted driving.

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    The reason helicopter pilots and fighter jet pilots use heads-up displays is to REDUCE distractions. I used Google Glass yesterday to display GPS maps in the display while I was driving. It was nice to see the maps and turn-by-turn instructions without taking my eyes off the road, unlike normal GPS units installed on or in the dashboard. In short, the result is FEWER distractions.

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Although I can see many useful applications for this tech I must point out – having the average person use this while driving is very scary. Most will be learning on the go (bad enough when they are learning a new cell phone going down the road.) The previous occasions this tech has been utilized was with specially trained, (hopefully) fairly intelligent individuals. NOT the average person driving down the road. You know, the ones that can’t even talk on the phone without slowing way down. The ones oblivious to the fire truck speeding through the intersection. The ones that can’t figure out how to use a 4 way stop. Heck, the ones that barrel through the red lights!
Anyway, thank you for sharing your journey with this new tech. I’ll be glad to hear from an actual user!

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Carol C. Reynolds 1 1 May 22, 2014 at 10:34 am

Gotta love technology. I can see many useful ways to use this device, however, I feel its one more thing that we don’t need driving down the road. Many people (too many) just have no common sense. I say get them off the road and let them get a 1 horsepower animal, then they can text or wear glasses all they want – me and mine will at least be safe.

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Not sure I am interested in this new form of technology. But even if I were, am not sure it would work. I wear monovision contacts (for presbyopia) with the distance lens in my right eye. The screen would be a blur.

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    Bonnie, I also wear monovision contact lenses, and my distance lens is in my right eye as well. I never thought about that, but I have no problem with Google Glass! Unless your correction is incredibly strong, it shouldn’t be a problem. My right eye contact is -5.75.

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Dick, how difficult is it to read the display? Since hearing about these a year or so ago I have wondered how hard it would be to read the screen that close to my eye. Even with corrective lenses I have to have something at least 6-inches away to read it and that assumes that the print is large enough. (And, as someone else has alluded to, I have one eye with an astigmatism that would make reading anything in front of it a problem.)

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    —> how difficult is it to read the display?

    I found it to be very difficult the first five minutes or so. Then my eye apparently become accustomed to it. After an hour or so, the display became perfectly clear at all times without even thinking about it. I also have astigmatism but it seems to be a non-issue.

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Dick, while one can “dictate” an email reply or text message, or add text to a shared image on Facebook or Google+, I was disappointed to realize that you can’t capitalize words or use punctuation. The first time I replied to my daughter’s text, she knew something was different because I never write in lower case letters only! It’s definitely for short, casual dictation only.

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The comparison of helicopter/jet pilots to car drivers is not a valid one. The reduction in distractions for the pilots is due to not having to constantly be reading the many gauges on their instrument panel. A car driver, in contrast, should be keeping their eyes on the road at almost all times (other than checking the speedometer and mirrors – something Google Glass does not remove the need to do.) Reading a display on your glasses while simultaneously trying to drive is an accident waiting to happen. The real danger of cell phones is not from taking one hand off the steering wheel, but from taking one brain off the driving. These glasses will have the same effect. I hope you enjoy your new device to the fullest, but for the safety of the other people on the road please do not use them while driving.

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Am wondering how a hearing impaired person would interact with them, as I wear hearing aids… Any thoughts?

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    For most things, hearing is not required. MOST things would work even for someone who is completely deaf. The exceptions I can thing of is that Google Glass can function as a Bluetooth earpiece for a cell phone and it also can play music from files stored on the cell phone or from the Internet. In both those cases, I suspect a hearing-impaired person simply would not use those functions.

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