The picture of a productized Google Glass is becoming clearer. This week, the technology giant is offering some new information about tech specs and commercial restraints on developers.
Google shipped its first batch of the revolutionary interactive eyeframes to developers on Wednesday, and has released some of the specs in the hopes of encouraging app development. The specs include a 5 megapixel camera which shoots 720p video, 12 GB of usable memory synced with Google cloud storage, and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth -- but no 3G or 4G for now.
Glass is designed to work with any Bluetooth-compatible phone, but the MyGlass companion app, which enables GPS and SMS messaging for Glass via a smartphone, requires an Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above device.
No Ads or Fees
The battery is designed to last for a day under normal use, although video-based apps can drain it more quickly. The voice-recognition capabilities of Glass could also make that technology a more common daily interface mode, as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt noted in a technology conference in New York on Tuesday. "I always thought I'd be typing for the rest of my life," he told the conference.
In addition to specifying what tech specs are included, Google is indicating what cannot be included, at least at this stage. The company released on Tuesday Terms of Service for the Glass Mirror API, which states that developers may not employ user data from the API Client for ad purposes, or sell or transmit any user data received to any other kind of third-party service.
Additionally, no ads can be included in the API Client, Glass apps will only be distributed through a to-be-named Google distribution channel, and developers cannot collect fees or payments of any kind, including virtual currencies, for any apps. If in-app currency is used in Glassware, such as for gambling apps, the virtual currency cannot be converted into actual money.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst for Reticle Research, emphasized that the "demands of this platform are different from what we see on smartphones today." The emerging profile of Glassware, he said, is "a heavy emphasis on visual input and glanceable information," and, since the device can see everything you see, Google is initially setting "a higher bar of what it can provide for you."
Degree of Distraction
Rubin told us that it's in Google's interest to keep "the degree of distraction" to a minimum, at least because too much distraction could literally be life-threatening for a wearer navigating in the real world.
But if Google continues with its no-ads, no-app-purchase policy, he said, some other revenue-generating possibilities could include Glassware designed to increase loyalty but not to generate revenue directly, such as a free bank app, or Glassware that is included as a free part of a bundle of apps. Google may also be taking a restrained approach now as it tries to figure out the kinds of monetization that do not overwhelm the experience.
Glass could become a key combatant in the coming War of the Wearables, with a variety of other major device makers -- including Apple, Samsung and Microsoft -- reportedly working on variations of a smart watch that can also be paired with a smartphone.