Google Glass is the controversial wearable that everyone mocks until they're in a position to demo it. Then they're awful nice. That's because the sci-fi-looking beta testers who don Google Glass still turn heads and are peppered with questions more than a year after the first invites started rolling out to developers. How does it work? What does it feel like? And, of course the inevitable, well, can I try it?
The increasing number of Google Glass invites has led to Project Glass being open to everyone in the US and now the UK, so curious, tech-savvy early adopters can answer most of these questions on their own.
It a little easier to say "yes" to now that it's been upgraded with more memory and apps ahead of Google IO. There's a speedier 2GB of RAM on board instead of 1GB and 12 new apps today including Shazam and Live Stream. The Google Glass app list is officially over the 50 apps hump.
Google made the complicated ownership decision easier thanks to the release of Google Glass 2, an updated version of its Explorer Edition heads-up display with an almost identical form factor. It includes new accessories and made prescription glasses attachment compatible with the frames. Moreover, new apps and updates to the linear operating system that weren't available at launch make this current Google Glass a tempting buy.
Still, this new Project Glass model is better at addition than subtraction. While features have been added, the price hasn't dropped in a year. At $1,500 (£1,000, about AU$1,589) plus tax, Google's experimental wearable is exorbitantly priced for the average person. It's also best if you're an Android, not an Apple person.
How to get Google Glass
Google undoubtedly wanted Glass in the hands of developers who will make the experience better, more so than curious individuals who want it for personal use. Therefore, developers were the first to qualify for Google Glass invites.
Now it's for sale to anyone living in the US and UK. Google threw Project Glass into open enrollment for 24 hours on April 15 and then permanently made it available a month later. Good things come to those who wait, too. As of reporting, all new Google Glass models come with free frames for prescription glasses or a free sunglasses shade attachment that typically costs $225 (£175, about AU$239).
Signing up for the normal Google Glass waitlist in June of 2013 after Google IO gave me access to an Explorer Edition beta code in November, while my friend who registered in December received an invite less than three weeks in January. That alone shows how much easier it became to receive an invitation.
Strict rules still limit who can ultimately take advantage of the invite code and purchase a prototype. For example, you must be 18 years old and a US or UK resident, so adults living in the other parts of Europe or Australia aren't eligible. These age and country-specific rules also apply to the open enrollment day.
An expand Google Glass Europe release date could be announced on June at Google IO 2014, where the company is expected to shed light on its product plans for the rest of the year, including Android Wear and the Moto 360 smartwatch.
Even with the bulkiness of the battery and durable frame, Google Glass is extremely lightweight and comfortable resting on my face. It weights just 42 grams (1.48 oz) and because everything, including the screen, is just out of my line of sight I often forget I'm wearing it.
At first, Google Glass did give me slight headaches as I strained my right eye to focus on the tiny prism in the top right corner of my vision. The team at the Venice headquarters did forewarn me about temporary Google Glass headaches, instructing me not to use Glass for more than a few hours the first couple of days. It's incredibly unnatural to have just one eye focus on a screen while the other goes without use, but my eyes and brain adjusted to the phenomenon in a few days to the point where it's now intuitive.
Like a modern smartphone, there are few physical buttons and ports on Google Glass. That's because most of the interaction is done via a long 3.25-inch touchpad on the right side. Underneath the touchpad is a micro USB port for charging the device and on the top is a camera button that's great for quick snaps in noisy environments.