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Google Releases Glass Development Kit, with Limitations
Google Releases Glass Development Kit, with Limitations

By Barry Levine
November 25, 2013 10:07AM

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The Glass Development Kit gives developers tools to work with parts of Google Glass that were previously inaccessible, including the ability to write offline apps and create ones that employ the on-board GPS and accelerometer. There is also now the ability to utilize a Google Glass wearer's location and to add voice commands into an options menu.

Google has taken another step toward generating a plentiful supply of apps for its Google Glass headgear. The technology giant has unveiled its Glass Development Kit (GDK), although some developers are expressing disappointment.

The GDK provides tools for developers to work with parts of Glass that were previously inaccessible to them, including the ability to write offline apps and create ones that employ the on-board GPS and accelerometer. There is also now the ability to utilize a Glass wearer's location, to add voice commands into an options menu, and to detect gestures on the unit's touch pad.

But the GDK is still a work in progress, in large part because Glass is. The new GDK provides more support for app development than did the Mirror API, but Google cautions that the GDK is still a preview. The Mirror API, released in April, allows outside services to manage menu items, share content or provide subscription notifications, and there's a Playground with tools for experimentation with content display.

Glass Version of Word Lens

The appetite for apps on this emerging product, now in a limited preview, is evident. As Glass senior developer advocate Timothy Jordan told a Glass hackathon in San Francisco last week, where the GDK was unveiled, over 83 percent of Glass owners have installed an app -- even though app installation to this point has not yet been made easy.

Recently unveiled apps include a Glass version of Word Lens, originally for smartphones, that allows user to point the device's camera at a sign in a foreign language and the words on the sign are magically replaced with words translated into a language of your choice. The Word Lens app is considered one possible model for the apps that might become popular through Glass -- ones that essentially just do their job, assisting the user without requiring someone to step through menu choices to get anything done.

One issue with app development at this stage is that Glass itself is still a prototype, and thus somewhat a moving target. Reportedly, the Glass hardware is close to being complete, while software is still very much in flux.

'The Early Days'

There's also the fact that, given a device with such revolutionary potential, Google is still in flux about figuring out app-related policy issues. For instance, the company has not allowed or encouraged facial recognition apps because of the potential for privacy violations, not to mention the possibility that Glass-wearers could find themselves shunned by many people who do not want to be automatically Googled during conversation.

Additionally, Google has built a GPS delay into Glass, and again because of privacy concerns, advertising is currently banned.

Al Hilwa, program director for application development software at industry research firm IDC, told us that this is still "the early days of wearable computing, and Google is taking an iterative approach" to the device's development. He said many issues about the appropriateness of apps will be "refined by being used" and then weighing reactions.

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