Google Glass takes pictures, plays video, browses Web


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A childhood spent in white-knuckle anticipation of a future where information materializes at the blink of an eye found gratification the instant Jaron Swab got his hands on Google Glass.

The 24-year-old Greensburg blogger, a lifelong tech junkie who started his first website in the third grade, had seen dreams of wireless gaming consoles and 3-D televisions materialize but was still waiting for the holographic, hands-free game changers science fiction writers imagined for the new age.

But with Google Glass, the highly anticipated voice- and retina-controlled device operated through virtual high-resolution display screens, technology once restricted to "Star Trek" or "Robocop" scripts has come to fruition in ways that may have disrupted the course of communication devices for years to come.

The most interesting development of the hands-free wireless future so far is that the more technologies advance, the less they intrude on day-to-day activities.

"[Google Glass] gets me out of the phone and back into what's more important than my cell phone, like conversations with people and experiencing everyday life," he said. "We've been heading in a direction where we're digging ourselves deeper and deeper into our devices, and this is literally pulling me out of it."

Nearly two months into Mr. Swab's experience as one of 10,000 chosen to beta-test Google Glass under its Glass Explorer program, Mr. Swab said the round trip to New York and a $1,500 fee were more than worth the price being one of the chosen few in the nation to sport the goggles.

"I think they gave them to those of us who weren't famous yet," he said. "I got mine and [Neil Patrick Harris] didn't have them, Soulja Boy didn't have his yet, Newt Gingrich didn't have his yet. A bunch of famous people that wanted them didn't have them yet, which helped me out on my blog because I was able to write some articles before some big names got out there to write about them."

And while Mr. Swab's early verdict says the technology has set the standard for the next generation of integrated communications devices, he makes sure users know it hasn't upended the smartphone just yet.

The device -- which includes a 5-megapixel camera and 720-pixel video camera, a bone conduction audio transducer that transmits sound directly to the inner ear and 12 gigabytes of usable memory -- uses data supplied by a Bluetooth-connected smartphone to perform operations. And while voice commands and retinal motions control several actions, a touch sensor on the Google Glass frame controls a considerable number of functions, including scrolling, zooming and searching Web pages.

On his blog "Information is Bliss," Mr. Swab said deleting bulk pictures and videos from the device became a pain when he was unable to remove them when they were connected to his Linux-operated desktop and had to delete them one-by-one from the device.

"[It] gets very tedious after awhile and my arm starts to hurt after a long time of holding it up to delete the many posts that I took during the days," he wrote.

Additionally, the device comes packed with everything but an actual phone, so any calls or text messages would have to come through the Glass's link to the user's cell phone.

On Mr. Swab's blog, he also noted that the virtual screen can be difficult to see when it's too dark or too bright in a room and that the bone conduction audio doesn't always have the sharpest sound in rooms with ambient noise.

But despite any shortcomings, Mr. Swab said features such as the Google Now interface that provides real-time weather and geographic information and a Google Calendar app that puts appointment alerts right in front of a users' face make the device more than worth its proposed $1,500 price tag.

By the time the product is released to the general public next year, consumers will have an entire industry of apps, websites and possibly movies to supplement the device. Google announced this week that it is partnering with film students from five U.S. colleges to explore how to use Google Glass to make movies.

But no matter what features will come with Glass in the future, Mr. Swab said they're a purchase he'd advise anyone to make today.

Visit jrswab.com for more information on Mr. Swab's Google Glass trial.

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Deborah M. Todd: dtodd@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1652.


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