By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated February 20, 2013.
The futuristic Google Glass is getting closer to being a real world product. The company has launched a new Web site, a contest for first dibs at buying one, and a highly engaging point-of-view video.
The new Web site, at http://www.google.com/glass/start/, is Google-minimal, with only three sections and no images on the home page. One section, How It Feels, leads to a full-screen video taken from a user's point of view of parachuting, playing with children, eating Thai food, dancing and conducting assorted other activities, all the while voice-commanding Google Glass to video record, take photos, share images, look up information on the Web, and perform other functions.
In addition to the Web site, there are two other indications that Glass is moving closer to release. It is no longer being described by the Googlism "project" and, as noted in the site's How to Get One section, there's a contest to become one of the first buyers.
The contest is looking to select Glass Explorers for what sounds like a beta-testing phase. Via Google+ or Twitter, entrants can describe in 50 words or less "what you would do if you had Glass," and the entry must start with the hashtag #ifihadglass. Submitters can include as many as five photos as well as a short video of up to 15 seconds.
The chosen Explorers will have the opportunity to pre-order a Glass Explorer Edition of the coming product for $1,500 each, plus tax, and attend in person a special "pick-up experience" in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco.
The third section on the Web site, What It Does, very briefly describes the product's functions. Users say "take a picture" to perform that function or a similar command to shoot a short video, views can be shared live, directions are shown overlaid on the view, and messages can similarly be voice-commanded.
Glass, which becomes alert to a command if it is preceded by "OK, Glass," can also answer questions like "how long is the Brooklyn Bridge" or "how do you say half a pound in Chinese?" Answers are displayed as text, plus media if appropriate, in the viewfinder. When you're in a location such as an airport, Glass automatically displays a text overlay of your flight status.
'Pair of Google Glass'?
The new Web site also shows the emerging productization of Glass, with a version that includes sunglasses to complement the one-eye view screen, as well as models that come in any of five different colors for the frame.
Current Analysis' Brad Shimmin, noting the awkwardness of referring to "a pair of Google Glass," said he was "very surprised at how easy they made it to enter" a Google+ hangout, as shown in the video.
This just touches the surface of the new kinds of social computing Glass could make possible, he said, including long-distance dating, vicarious experiencing of others' adventures, or the ability to simultaneously conduct several conversations -- some remotely, some in-person -- when wearing Glass at a party.
Shimmin also pointed to possibilities for using Glass in businesses, such as training, where a user conducts an activity while remotely receiving instruction as needed or while referring, hands-free, to an online manual.