Technology TEDTalks

Our thoughts on using Google Glass so far, plus videos that show what it can do

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Sergey Brin shows a demo video of Google Glass at TED2013. In today’s talk, he reveals the big idea behind the project. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In today’s talk, Sergey Brin of Google shares the idea that motivated the development of Google Glass: that while smartphones inherently take us away from experiencing the real world, there could be a device that allows for a digitally-mediated experience within it. As Google heads into day three of its I/O developer conference in San Francisco, and as members of Congress express concerns about the new technology, it’s an especially fitting talk for today.

Sergey Brin: Why Google Glass?Sergey Brin: Why Google Glass?In this humorous talk, Brin checks his email and then says, “This position you just saw me in – looking down at my phone – that’s one of the reasons behind this project, Project Glass. We ultimately question if this is the ultimate future of how you want to connect to other people in your life, how you want to connect to information. Should it be by walking around looking down?“

Hunching over his phone, he asks, “Is this what you were meant to do with your body?”

TED’s media team was invited to purchase Glass after a team member attended Google I/O last year. So several people in the TED office have taken a turn trying it out since it arrived in our office in early May. Michael Glass, our Director of Film + Video, has much to say after test-driving the new device.


Several members of the TED staff try on Google Glass. Michael Glass (top left) and Isaac Wayton (bottom right), who road tested it the longest, give their impressions of the new device.

“Whatever its oddities and awkwardnesses, this is the first step in getting to that HUD Terminator experience that captured so many imaginations 30 years ago. If we had given up on the cell phone because its first users looked like schmucks holding up big grey bricks to their ears, we would never have met the iPhone or Nexus 4 or Droid DNA or Galaxy S4 or whatever your dream phone is,” he says. “The bit that blows my mind is its integration with Google Hangouts although to be honest it’s not been particularly useful in any specific way. Then again, neither was E=MC2. It’s mostly a toy right now, which is all the more reason to play with it. I think Google is smart to be humble and not cram the thing full of tools and functions — the crowd will figure out the most interesting ways to use it; they just needed to make the first leap into the hardware.”

His biggest complaint: “My last name is Glass and I walk around saying, ‘Okay Glass’ to activate the main menu.”

TED editor Isaac Wayton also tested out Google Glass.

“I really like the idea of Glass, in theory, but I’m worried that it’s a technology that will promote selfish user behaviors rather than real life human interactions. Also, since I need to wear prescription glasses — and couldn’t wear both Glass and my pair at the same time — I wasn’t able to see the tiny, projected screen very well,” he says. “That said, it is an amazing piece of technology and it deserves further development because I am sure that people will also find intelligent uses for Glass to help people in the real world.”

The bottom line: he looks forward to a version that somehow attaches to existing glasses.

And TED’s Product Development Director Thaniya Keereepart had this to say: “One thing that’s been exceptionally interesting for me about Glass is the user interface. We’ve become accustomed to using our hands to ‘touch’ a device in order to control it — it’s evolved from a keyboard to a mouse to a touchpad. With Glass, you have a very different UI constraint to how information is controlled and revealed. That Star Trek future where we speak to a computer that Hollywood had been dreaming of for decades has arrived, and I think it’s here to stay. On photos and videos — I think people over time will come to value first-person recording more and more. Filming babies and children seem to be one of the more popular things to do via Glass for a reason — it’s personal. It’s the memory recorded exactly how you see it. Removing the barrier between your eyes, a recording device, and the subject, makes the filming experience much more about you and your child.”

She sums it up saying, “I agree with Michael that this device is merely the first step in the evolution of smart wearable computers. Its purpose and value, in my opinion, is to trigger our imagination and creativity.”

Below, some videos that show more of what we know about Google Glass, which will be available in 2014.

Prototyping a new product can take eons. Or it can take … a day. In this talk from TEDYouth, Tom Chi – who was on the team that developed Glass – shares how the invention was rapid prototyped, with team members expressing desires, solving problems and eliminating dud ideas by mocking up the design using clay, paper, modeling wire, binder clips, hairbands and chopsticks.

Andrew Vanden Heuvel wanted to be an astronaut –– but instead he became an online physics teacher for schools without advanced science courses. In this video, which premiered at TEDxCERN, Vanden Heuvel takes students on a virtual field trip to the European Organization for Nuclear Research and shows them the particle collider that is longer than the island of Manhattan.

The official promo trailer, shown during Brin’s talk.

At Google I/O 2012, Brin gave a demo of Google Glass — when the device was still largely a mystery to the outside world. In it, he connects to parachuters in an airplane overhead via a Google Hangout. They then jump … and bring their prototypes into the event.

A how-to use video, posted on April 30.

David Pogue, who has given the TED Talks “10 top time-saving tech tips” and “On cool phone tricks,” reviews Google Glass for CBS News. “A lot of people are excited about this step into the cyborg future and other people are horrified,” he says. In this short video, he reveals some common misperceptions about Glass and its ability to distract. But he also point out a major potential flaw – that it allows people to record others without their knowledge.

And finally, Saturday Night Live’s sendup of Glass.

Comments (25)

  • Craig Bailey commented on Nov 4 2013

    I wonder if Google Glass has thought of merging the technology of Polyvision switchable privacy glass and the daVinci surgical robot with their product? This could open the door for several applications from business confidentiality to virtual reality communities with the privacy glass. In time Google could expand their technology into a virtual interaction usage that uses the current technology found in the daVinci surgical robot used in heart surgeries. This can be developed to be used in the fields of private business, medical industry and the military.

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  • commented on Jun 9 2013

    Reblogged this on endustri mühendis.

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  • Jared Woodbine commented on May 21 2013

    It’s a brave new world!

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  • commented on May 17 2013

    Reblogged this on .

  • Jason Thibeault commented on May 17 2013

    This is a new, rapidly evolving technology trend: Field of Vision Computing. It’s not going to go away, just like the cell phone didn’t go away. There will be lots of pain and lots of change but the idea of augmenting our daily lives with rich data, allow us to capture moments, and most importantly, do it with our hands free, is radically and fundamentally transforming. Of course, the best way to do that? Put that experience into our field of vision (or slightly off to the side).


    • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

      I disagree Jason. Anything like this around the eyes and head will at the very least, be a big distraction with time. The weight on your face will be another factor and does google have scientists and doctors, guaranteeing, that the low levels of radiation will do no harm over time?

      Here’s another test, for those that wear glasses, cut out a small piece of tape and stick it to one of your lenses, but off to the side and maybe lower on the lens and go about your everyday work and play. Also, tape about a one ounce piece of something, on your stem.

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  • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

    Perhaps there is a place for such micro tech, if it had expansive capabilities, along with vocal tech, in some ways.

  • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

    I don’t think google would purposely hurt anyone, I just don’t think they thought it through as carefully as they should have. I believe the thought was there and then they just tried to stay on a positive track. The concept is really cool by the way, but it may be best for google to find some niche to fill with the technology, besides the glasses.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

    Here’s another test.

    Put your cell as close as the glass on google glass and squint your one eye as much as possible, to try and focus on the words. I would also say, do you feel the heat, the intensity of light and might we also be experiencing the low levels of radiation?

    • Eliot Walter commented on May 17 2013

      Isn’t G-Glasses just a viewer, are not a phone? I would imagine the image’s focus point is at a reasonable distance, so you are not looking at an image that appears close. Also I don’t see why the display couldn’t sense your eye’s focal point and adjust the image to appear at that distance. As for radiation, it would be substantially lower then using any other cell phone, as you do not have a microwave transmitter against your head. It, I think, is akin to Blue Tooth, using a short-wavelength radio transmitter.

      • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

        Elliot, from what I’ve read and seen, I don’t believe its just a viewer. As to the focus point, I really don’t know, but that’s a good point. Long term exposure to even very small amounts right at the head and eye area might not be something you want for your children. You wouldn’t want your children to be used as guinea pigs would you?

        In another industry, they are selling a tool that puts off microwaves, that has been shown to burn material and as microwaves can and do bounce, that leaves the operators of these new, expensive tools, touted by the controllers of that industry, to the general public, in essence, implying to the public, that any not using this new technology are behind the times and should be avoided, even though none of them use this technology.

        I challenged the industry to have a doctor declare it was safe for short and or long term use. Did you know microwaves can damage the cones in your eyes? Can it also harden your arteries and more? The industry doesn’t care, it just wants money and destroying people’s lives means nothing to them.

      • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

        That industry by the way, refused to have an assessment done by any doctor or scientist.

  • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

    For notification purposes, forgot to with my response.

  • Jim Ryan commented on May 17 2013

    Remember when your mom or dad would say, don’t do that, your eyes may stay that way?
    Remember when they would say, don’t sit too close to the tv?
    There are good reasons for such. I bet having google glass right up to your eye, will be bad for both eyes over time. Consider, one eye is focusing right in front of the eye, which will create strain, while the other is essentially, left out of the picture, not to mention any radiation.
    I believe some will experience a sickening feeling, with just short usage, but hey, lets wait and see.

    Here’s a test for you. Hold your cell phone as close to one eye as you can, while being able to read the words and see how you feel and what you think.

    Yes, the cell is likely a lot stronger, depending on how sensitive each person is to this, but also consider long term possibilities.

  • commented on May 17 2013

    Reblogged this on BLOG TECNOGAME.