Why You'll Get Google Glass

Next-gen apps show why Google’s augmented reality headset won't just be for niche markets.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

Posted November 20, 2013

Mike Elgan

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Lots of people say: "I would never wear Google Glass. They look ridiculous."

But the appearance -- love it or hate it -- is going to be considered by buyers along with what you can do with it. And the public hasn't really thought about what's coming for Google Glass functionality.

For example, if you saw people wearing big, clunky shoes, you’d say you wouldn't wear them. But if you learned that they worked like jetpacks for your feet, enabling you to fly, you'd be first in line to get them.

Functionality matters.

That's why Google Glass got really interesting yesterday. Google released a "sneak peek" Glass Development Kit (GDK) for developers, which came with a few new apps.

The kit enables software developers to create apps that actually run on the headset itself, rather than "in the cloud" as the few dozen current authorized third-party apps mostly do.

A few of these new, showcased apps provide a glimpse into the kinds of features that will turn Google Glass skeptics into fans.

Word Lens for Glass

I recently spent six weeks living in Florence, Italy. I don't speak Italian. But during that time, I wore Google Glass every day and also used an iPhone app called Word Lens made by a company called Quest Visual. Here's a short video of me using Glass in Italy to show how Word Lens on the iPhone works.

Word Lens on the iPhone is pretty amazing. You set the language (in my case, Italian), then hold it up to any written Italian -- sign, menu or magazine. The app translates the words, but keeps them in place, and even in a similar font.

Every time I used Word Lens in Italy, I thought about how amazing it would be to have that ability on Glass.

And that's exactly what Google announced this week: True augmented reality in which foreign languages are translated into English, in place in real time. By "in place," I mean Glass shows you a live video of what you're actually looking at. But English replaces the foreign language.

Here's what it looks like to use the new Glass app.

Surprisingly, the Word Lens Glass app works even when you don't have a connection. You select the language while connected, and it stores 10,000 words in the foreign language of your choice. (Google’s own augmented reality phone app, called Google Goggles, requires a data connection as you’re using it.)

This is revolutionary. By wearing Glass and running the app, there's no such thing as a foreign language sign or menu. Everything is in English!

This is the future of augmented reality, where you walk around and personally relevant contextual information is simply superimposed on your field of view. People get name tags and, if you've met them before, brief histories of your prior encounters. Everything is labeled, so you know what it is. Products are identified, and can be purchased with a voice command.

In other words, it's not just that Word Lens itself is revolutionary, but that it demonstrates a world of possibilities with augmented reality.


IFTTT are the initials for “If This Then That.” It's a web-based service that makes it easy for anyone to automate things online.

IFTTT supports 74 "channels," which are mostly web-based services. It invites you to create "recipes" that automates the interaction between two channels.

For example, IFTTT enables you to set up a "recipe" that automatically downloads into Dropbox any Facebook photo you're tagged in (the tagging triggers the download). You can set it so that when a specific item becomes available on Craigslist, you get an email. Or it can send you a text when rain is expected tomorrow -- that sort of thing.

Now, IFTTT has added Google Glass as a 75th "channel," which means you can set the functions of other channels to Glass. Right now, it goes only in one direction -- from other channels to Glass. I've got it set up to notify me in Glass when, say, I'm mentioned on Reddit. In the future, it will go in the other direction, enabling the triggering of events through voice commands. For example, you'll be able to say: "OK, Glass: Turn on the lights" and IFTTT will send the command to the WeMo "channel" and turn on your light.

It's not just that IFTTT is incredibly useful, but that it demonstrates limitless automation controlled by, or involving instant notification through, Google Glass.

Other Glass Apps I've Got My Eye On

Google also unveiled other apps built with the new developer's kit.

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Tags: social media, google+, Google Glass

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