This year’s Google I/O keynote presentation was a whirlwind of huge announcements. Developers and reporters at the conference would have been overwhelmed with just the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Nexus 7, and Nexus Q announcements. Nobody was holding out too much hope for a big Google Glass announcement, but Sergey Brin wasn’t about to have his pet project upstaged by tablets and music spheres. The Google co-founder staged a massive set piece involving a Google+ Hangout with skydivers, cyclists, and repellers. Luckily, no one died, and Brin announced that conference attendees will have a chance to pre-order the “Explorer Edition” of Glass for $1,500.
That was all of the big news about Glass announced yesterday, but Google also began what could be considered an even more important – and more risky – public relations strategy by opening up about its hopes for Glass, and even allowing a few reporters some hands-on time with the device.
Isabelle Olsson (pictured above), the industrial designer behind the current Glass design and a large part of yesterday’s presentation, was roaming the convention with a Glass on her head. Business Insider‘s Owen Thomas was able to quiz her about the Glass design. Olsson told the reporter that her inspiration was to make the Glass headset “as minimal as possible without being boring.”
All Things D‘s Liz Gannes also spoke to Olsson, who told Gannes that she obsessively weighs new Glass prototypes down to fractions of a gram. Brin, who was also showing off Glass at the conference, told Gannes that he hopes the phones will be less disruptive than phones, which require the user to look down to use. Gannes’ impression of Glass, which Brin allowed her to try on, was that the device was “not immersive,” which is Brin’s point.
TechCrunch‘s Peter Ha had a similar opinion of the device, stating that the display did not hinder his ability to look around and disappeared until it was needed. Ha also reported overhearing Brin state that the battery-life of the device is a focus of their design. The current prototype lasts for 6 hours and the design team is looking at ways to extend battery life through software. Brin also told Ha that the consumer version of Glass will be “significantly” less expensive than the $1,500 version that conference attendees could pre-order, though the Glass team isn’t focused on making the device as cheap as possible.
CNET‘s Rafe Needleman stated that the device was locked into a “demo mode” that only showed a looped video of fireworks. He describes the image, as other have, to be postage stamp sized, and the perspective of the display shifted as his head moved. The audio of the prototype required Needleman to cup his hand over his right ear, a “feature” Brin told him is good for letting others know that the device is currently the center of attention.
It’s good that Google is keeping its “beta” culture alive and not keeping its projects secret until launch. It can be fun for a company to drop a technology bomb on the industry the way Apple did with the iPhone, but Google’s approach seems to build its own kind of excitement through anticipation. And, if Glass is able to go to market next year the way Brin hopes, the device just might disrupt the smartphone market as a bomb would anyway.