Google Glass

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Google Glass
GoogleGlass 4.jpg
Category Smartglasses
Developer Google, Inc.
Announced April 2012
Released Developers: May 2013
Price 1000 USD (2015)
Operating system Android
Display Prism projector
Resolution 640x360
Field of view
Weight 43 g

touchpad, voice, gestural, inertial

Data available
Risk factor
Not Standalone

Google Glass is a set of augmented reality (AR) smartglasses developed by Google Inc. It is a standalone device that needs to be connected to other devices running Google’s Android OS, mainly smartphones. It uses a small display hovering in front of the user’s left or right eye. The user can control the device either by a small touchpad on the side of the device or by using voice commands. The label glasses here could be misleading, since by default Glass does not come paired with any lenses; the device itself is a slim glasses-like frame with the HUD unit attached to it. So far only a group of early adopters selected by Google called ‘Glass Explorers’ was allowed to test out the device after paying 1,500 USD for the developer version. After this testing phase, Google halted the sales of Glass, saying that it will take some time to perfect it.[1][2][3] Due to a big marketing campaign, Google Glass created a number of controversies. (See below for details.)

Because of the hype that Google created, smartglasses and other (HMDs) have experienced a boom that has not been seen before. Even if Google has discontinued the device for now, the interest in the technology has created a better market for such devices, and this has led to many new projects being unveiled.[4] Following the discontinuation in 2015, Google shut down the associated social media accounts for Google Glass in January 2016.[5]

Main Characteristics

The device consists of a titanium frame of four different designs[6], a nose-bridge, and an attached 640x360-pixel prism projector piece that also contains the processing unit and 12GB of memory that can be expanded by Google cloud storage. Google describes the projection as 'the equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away.'[3] Other notable features are a 5 Mpx camera, microphone, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, GPS, touchpad and 570mAh battery. Glass runs Google’s Android operating system and can connect to other Android, iOS, or Bluetooth devices, or to the Internet via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or microUSB connection. Sound feedback is conveyed through an oval speaker on the inside of the battery pod or via attachable ear buds.[3][6] In June 2014, Google presented a new way of delivering sound to Google Glass users via ultrasonic waves. This allows the device to deliver the sound that is perceivable only for the actual wearer of the device.[7][8]

The usability of Glass can be further expanded by using additional software called ‘Glassware’. These apps as well as the general settings, contacts, and otherwise the main hub of the device is called MyGlass and can be downloaded as an app for Android or iOS.[9]

Users can control the device by a touchpad located at the side of the device’s frame, with voice commands, or by moving their head.[10] Google also patented a method of control through gestures.[11] However, this technology was not used in Google Glass.[7]

Disassembled Google Glass unit.
Disassembled Google Glass unit.

The first rumour about a new device coming from Google started circulating on the web at the end of 2011.[12] Google hired electronic engineers from Nokia and Apple and was said to be working on a brand new piece of wearable technology.[13] The device was teased on social networks beginning in 2012. This culminated on Google I/O in April 2012, when Glass was officially announced by Sergey Brin. The mentioned ‘Explorers’ program started in May 2013. The Google Glass Explorer program was a testing phase for which potential testers could apply by using the hashtag #IfIHadGlass. Google then selected 8,000 individuals, who were invited to the U.S. to pick up their device, which was followed by training on how to use it.[14] The program and subsequent sales of the device were halted in January 2015.[15] Google announced that the project is not abandoned but that Glass needs to be redesigned and will not be fully released until it is perfected.[16][17]


Google Glass is a HMD device that offers a hands-free way of searching, browsing, or otherwise using the Internet; record video; and taking pictures, and thanks to the expandability with custom apps, uses these features for entertainment, education, or therapy.

Company & People

  • Sergey Brin: Co-founder of Google Inc., Director of Google X
  • Babak Parviz: Former director of Google X
  • Steve Lee: Lead product management for Google X
  • Sebastian Thrun: Founder of Google X
  • Thad Starner: Technical lead/manager for Google Glass
  • Tony Fadell: Former Apple employee; design and management for Google Glass
  • Ivy Ross: Jewelry designer, head of Google Glass

Important Dates

  • December 2011: Google Glass was rumoured.[12]
  • 4th April 2012: the device was teased on Google+.[18]
  • April 2012: Google Glass was officially announced at Google I/O.[19]
  • May 2013: the device was available to developers and early adopters, testers, and developers.[20]
  • January 2015: the end of the 'Glass Explorers program'. The current version is discontinued.[16]
  • December 2015: a new version of Google Glass appears at FCC webpages.[21]
  • not yet available to general public.

Ethical Issues

A woman with Google Glass on.
A woman wearing Google Glass.

Google Glass can be used to record everything its user is looking at. This has raised a notable controversy, as it could mean an intrusion of privacy if the wearer decides to record strangers without their prior consent.

A face-recognition app could be used to identify people by just pointing the device’s camera at them. This further violates personal privacy.

As much as other pieces of modern technology, Google Glass can be distracting to the user, effectively isolating him or her from the surroundings. This has raised concerns about whether the device should be allowed whilst driving.[22] Similar concerns have been raised in the cases of riding a bike or walking. While navigation included in Google Glass could help users with directions, the device distracts them at the same time.[23]

These controversies have caused the creation of reactionary movements for and against the device alike. The 'Stop The Cyborgs' campaign calls for limits on which situations Glass can be used and encourages people to think about the impact of new technologies.[24] Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, defends the device as something that is actually meant to free the user from distractions that smart phones bring.[25] A woman has cliamed to be assaulted in a San Francisco bar while wearing the device.[26] The word 'glasshole' was created to describe people who act unethically or abusively while using/wearing the device.[27] There is even an ‘Etiquette Guide’ for a Google Glass wearer.[28]

Concerns regarding advertising come to mind as well. Google’s revenue is created mostly from advertisement. There might be the possibility for Google, or any other advertisement company, to place virtual advertisements into what users see through the smart glasses.[1]

Health Risks

There are four health issues linked with Google Glass; eyestrain, fatigue, the impact of LED light on the eye's tissues and the negative impact of electromagnetic radiation, known as SAR, on human body. The eyestrain was reported for the first time by Eli Peli, who was Google’s optometrist consultant. Peli shared his experience with Glass, stating that it can cause eye-aches because the display is positioned in an area that is uncomfortable to look at for prolonged periods of time and requires days to adjust to.[29] He later retracted his statement, saying that the device does not pose any serious health risks and that the eyestrain is comparable to other devices with similar display technology.[30] Eyestrain can be an issue with display-equipped devices, and this is even more so prevalent in technology such as Google Glass because the displays are very close to the eyes. Similar health concerns connected to other devices were not reported, however.

Sina Fateh reported that smartglasses could cause fatigue or headache, due to the fact that users could see the content just by one eye. This issue has also been reported also by several users of Google Glass.[23]

As mentioned in the Smartglasses synopsis, the LED light that is produced by smart glasses could negatively affect the retina, especially during a long period of exposure. However, no such negative impact of smart glasses or Google Glass have yet been reported.

Regarding SAR, Google Glass exposes to the users' tissue to approximately the same amount of radiation as iPhone 5, namely 0.924 watts per kilogram. The device fulfils FCC regulations, which is 1.6 watts per kilogram. Thus, the amount of SAR produced by Google Glass is considered to be safe. However, in order to correctly evaluate the health risks of this type of radiation, more long-term studies are needed.[31]


Google Glass offers several useful applications that make it easier to use the connected smartphone. It can also be used therapeutically because the user can install additional applications that could offer such features.

However, Lisa Goldstein, a deaf American journalist, has written about her negative experience with Google Glass.[32] As a person with hearing aids and a deaf accent, she was unable to get a response from Google regarding the usability of Glass for people with such disadvantages. The device is bulky around the ears, and it may be uncomfortable to wear hearing aids with it at the same time. Her concern about electromagnetic interference influencing her hearing aids was also not addressed.

Goldstein’s experience undermines the usability of Google Glass as a form of treatment (in case of people with hearing impairment) in its current form. The requested features, however, could be expanded by additional applications, e.g., the captioning app for real-time captioning[33] can be useful to people with a hearing impairment. Visually impaired people can use Glass with an app to help them recognize items they are looking at. They hold the item in front of the camera, say a command, and a custom-made app attempts to recognize what is written on the item and describes it to the user.[34]

Another case in which Google Glass has acted as a form of treatment, is the ability of Glass to recognize faces, and with an app that expands this feature, to understand and describe facial expressions or the track user’s attention.[35] This can help users with autism and related disorders to better orient themselves in social situations.[36]

Public & Media Impact and Presentation

Google's initial aim was not to advertise Google Glass until it was perfected. The device was meant to be tested in secrecy; non-involved Google employees did not know about the project, and it was unveiled only after it was deemed completely finished. When Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, joined in on the project, the decision to develop Glass was changed. The still work-in-progress project was unveiled to the public, and Google began recruiting testers to its Glass Explorers program.[17]

A side view on Google Glass.
A side view of Google Glass.

Despite Glass being an unfinished, prototype-stage device, Google, and most notably Sergey Brin himself, announced the project officially during the Google I/O keynote in 2012 in a very spectacular way. The show involved skydiving, rappelling down the conference building, and then finally cycling to the stage. All of this was broadcast to the conference room from Google Glass cameras worn by athletes.[37] This flamboyant unveiling and the added exclusivity of the Explorers Program combined into immense hype throughout the media.[38]

The enthusiasm did not last long, however. Reviewers quickly realized that they were describing a device that was hastily released and that is still in the early stages of development. Google Glass was praised for being lightweight and ready to record anything by just giving it the right command. Time selected Google Glass as one of the best inventions of 2012.[39]

The negative aspects have outweighed the positive ones, however. Reviewers have criticised Glass for having a short battery life, and that the device is, in fact, just a small display hovering in the corner of the user’s field of vision. The device met with disappointment. Thanks to the hype, many expected a revolutionary piece of technology, but Google sent out an unfinished device whose faults were quickly discovered upon closer inspection.[40][41][42][43][44] One example of such issues, is the tendency of the display prism to break in the heat of the day and form small bubbles on its surface. This was quickly addressed by Google, and faulty devices were replaced.[45]

The introduction of Google Glass had a notable impact on pop-culture as well. It was featured on The Simpsons[46], popular talk shows made fun of it[47], and celebrities wore it.[48] Glass was simply popular. And despite the obvious flaws due to it being only partially finished device, the hype shifted the focus of the media and public to smart glasses and inspired others to start their own AR projects.[49]

Apart from hardware and features of the device, what was discussed the most in the media were privacy issues. Many find the ability of a Google Glass user to discreetly record everything intrusive.[50] (For more, see Ethical Issues above.)

Public Policy

Google Glass may be illegal according to Ukrainian legislation that prohibits the sale and use of ‘spy’ devices that can secretly record the surroundings.[51]

Several establishments, notably casinos, cinemas, and theatres, have preemptively prohibited the entry of users wearing Google Glass because they are concerned about the privacy of other patrons[52], compliance with local law, or because of copyright concerns.[53][54][55]

In October 2014, Reuters reported that Dubai police planned to purchase Google Glass in order to fight crime. They intended to use Google Glass for recognition of people and cars that were suspected for of involvement in a crime.[56]

Related Technologies, Projects, or Scientific Research

  • KUMAR, Gulshan, SHARMA, Preeti. Google Glasses Impediments. International Advanced Research Journal in Science, Engineering and Technology. 2014, 1(2), 80-84. Doi:


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