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Google Glass Drops “Project” Status, Opens Testing To The Public

The time has come for Google Glass to drop its “Project” moniker and move into the hands of the public.

No, the wirelessly connected eyewear hasn’t hit the shelves just yet, but Google has taken the next step in bringing the device to market. The company has announced the ”If I Had Glass” promotion allowing members of the public the opportunity to get their hands on the Explorer prototype that few have been able to test. Additionally, a sleek Glass-devoted website has launched with a new commercial that helps to better define exactly what the device can and can’t do.

It’s a positive sign that the device may become widely available sometime this year, as previously reported.

So how does one get Google Glass as soon as possible? Simply post on Google+ or Twitter explaining what you would do with the device in 50 words or less along with the hashtag #ifihadglass. Up to 5 photos and a 15-second video clip can also accompany submissions. Applications will be accepted through February 27.

Those who are chosen through the promotion will need to purchase the Glass Explorer Edition for $1,500 and travel to one of three events to pick it up, which will take place in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

In the announcement, Google has specifically called out for “bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass.” Presumably, the company wants users who are going to create the next batch of awesome video clips that will help sell the public on the gear.

Speaking of which, here’s the new video titled “How It Feels” that spotlights video capabilities and social functionalities of Glass:

While it may be true that the promotion is Google’s way of fueling the hype machine, this latest video reveals more about what users will actually be able to do with Glass once launched.

Last April when the project was announced, the accompanying video appeared to have more augmented-reality features with popup menus and an interactive HUD that seemed to create a fluid and engaging experience with one foot in the virtual world. Now that the technical aspects of the prototype have been whittled down through feedback and testing, emphasis seems to be on using the device for media creation and social features. Sure the video shows maps, translation, image and voice searching, but the amount of information available at one time is limited by the tiny transparent window that hovers in the upper corner of the field of vision. That means a much more streamlined interface than users are accustomed to with browsers on computers or mobile devices.

One of the more curious aspects of this video is how voice commands are activated by saying “Ok Glass.” To date, Google’s voice search has required a mouse click in Chrome or waiting for a beep when you hold the smartphone to your ear. This is in contrast to Apple’s virtual assistant Siri that reinforces a social relationship with the service through the use of a personal name. As this technology evolves, it’ll be interesting to see how much of a personal connection people desire with their technology in how they address it.

It’s worth noting that Glass won’t be the only futuristic-looking headset around when it goes live. Vuzix, which has been developing augmented reality glasses for years, was at this year’s CES to show off its M100 Smart Glasses. Though the eyewear needs to connect to a smartphone, this may be an advantage for certain applications in that the device doesn’t try to pack a computer into an eyeglass frame. In fact, the surge of smartphone accessories that have launched recently — including the mobile payment system Square, the CellScope otoscope for diagnosing ear infections, and the various 360° panoramic video attachments – capitalize on the smartphone being the “electronic brains” rather than housing their own processors.

As companies look to establish the technology that will define the post-PC era, Google Glass increasingly looks like the next form factor for low-end digital cameras rather than the replacement for smartphones…at least for now. With the success of Android, perhaps Google isn’t so anxious to make the smartphone obsolete just yet. If the platform is a success, the capabilities of the device can be expanded later to include advanced features, apps, and inevitably advertisements (ugh).

With this latest news from Google, it appears that 2013 is shaping up to be “The Year of Wearable Computing” and that looks to be a very good thing indeed.

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