Going Beyond Google (For Now): Google Glass Hacks

Google Glass can be used to accomplish a myriad of tasks ranging from obtaining information off of the web, to keeping track of time and weather, to shooting film shorts and taking pictures. While Google Glass is still in its infancy, it can accomplish an impressive array of tasks with just the sound of an “OK Glass” command or the tap of a finger. However, contrary to popular belief Google Glass is not operated as much by eye movements or have as many skill sets that the technology has the

Face Recognition API

Tiger Woods Face Recognition (Credit: Lambda)

potential of producing. Which is why prior to launching a full out consumer campaign, Google strategically implemented a limited release “Explorer Program” to developers and individuals interested in testing out its product.

As Google continues to roll out its much anticipated Google Glass to people on its Explorer list, many early participants have already found ways to customize their GoogleGlass experience. From software to hardware-for better or worse-these individuals have hacked Google Glass to take it to places unintended.

Whose Privacy? When and Where?

For example, last summer engineer at Lambda Labs Stephen Balaban, flirted with the privacy issues surrounding the glass when he created a face recognition API for the GoogleGlass. “Essentially what I am building is an alternative operating system that runs on Glass but is not controlled by Google,” he said. It’s out of Google’s grasp because he has built an alternative operating system that works with the product, but not the company. This has prompted Google to establish a ban in its terms of service on such uses. However, it is yet to be seen if Google will be able to implement anything in the Glass that can truly prevent similar “hacks” from occurring or if they would want to.

3D Printed Sunglasses for Google Glass

3D Printed Sunglasses for Google Glass (Credit: Chris Barrett/CNET)

The privacy concerns don’t end there. More recently, PR man Chris Barrett paired up with Next Fab Studio to create the first 3D printed sunglasses for GoogleGlass. While these seem similar to our predictions of Google’s AR glasses back in 2012, these frames differ in one respect. They don’t just protect against the sun, they prevent outsiders from viewing the light that indicates when Google Glass is in use. Despite its shady function, Barrett insists that the frames were NOT designed with sneaky in mind and that he created the glasses to improve the screen quality when out in the sun. He does however suggest that as “with any new technology like Glass or a wearable watch with a camera, it’s up to the user to decide how and when he or she will use the camera to record video or take photographs.”

A Look At Practical and Playful “Hacks”

While these particular instances address a need for serious dialogue on privacy concerns, other hacks have been a bit more practical and playful. Will Turnage, took the Google Glass apart only to reassemble it and make it compatible with already existing prescription glasses. In addition to making the technology more practical for prescription wearers, researchers at MIT are exploring gesture technology to work with GoogleGlass. This addresses the issues of voice commands in public places. As explained in New Scientist,”With a head-mounted display, you want some subtle but expressive way to interact with the content being presented in your view, so being able to easily detect finger movements makes the most sense…You could be standing at a bus stop, and just by making small movements with your fingers while your hand is at your side, you could be typing up an email or searching for something on Google with a virtual keyboard that only you can see.”

Super Mario with Google Glass

Super Mario with Google Glass (Credit: Brandin White)

Of course we could not forget the gaming hacks. University of Maryland PhD student Brandyn White implemented the eye tracking that people incorrectly believe is already built into Glass to enable hands-free Super Mario play. And let’s not forget Android developer Mike DiGiovanni Grand Theft Auto in-game GPS interface that shows up on the Google Glass screen.

As with any new technology, Google Glass is expected to face scrutiny and praise. What these hacks suggest, is that there is one safe and certain thing to say about Google’s Glass–the innovations for this new technology are endless. Google clearly understands this and is continually developing the technology around the Glass. While a few might be beyond, Google is not far behind. We will be sure to keep a watch on how this technology progresses and makes its way into various aspects of life: from helping those with different needs, to gaming and even miltary applications.

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