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Hands On With Google Glass: Wonderful, But (So Far) At A High Price

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Anna Richardson-White, communications manager for Google Glass. WWJ photo, Matt Roush

Anna Richardson-White, communications manager for Google Glass. WWJ photo, Matt Roush

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DETROIT (WWJ) — Google’s new wearable computer, Google Glass, is a wonderful thing.

Whether it’s $1,500 worth of wonderful is up to you.

But then, Apple has already proven that people will pay more than they need to for a computer if it’s got great style.

I got to try out Google Glass in a press event Friday morning, a day before a two-day public tryout that attracted more than 2,000 signups at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

Google Glass is essentially a very light set of eyeglass frames that you wear. The left temple is a wispy length of metal. The right temple is a long, thin box that contains Glass’ hardware, touch interface and battery. A clear plastic block sticks out just a bit from the right temple. It doesn’t look like much from afar, but that’s your screen.

When you put on Google Glass, you’ll see a small box in the upper area of vision of your right eye. It looks about like a small, 20-inch TV would look if you were six or eight feet away — not filling up anywhere near your whole field of vision, but big enough to read comfortably. It displays the time and the words “ok glass,” which is the verbal command you use to start up the device. From there you can utter a bunch of voice commands. You can also control forward, back and more with one or two fingers sliding or tapping the plastic housing on the right temple.

I got my demo from John McGrath, a Brooklyn resident (as in New York City, not mid-Michigan) who formerly worked on Wall Street. He said he uses the device regularly to take pictures and videos, especially when he’s on his bicycle, along with Google searches, directions, phone calls, emails, and a video calling service called Hangouts in which the people you’re calling see what you see through the Google Glass camera.

He says he charges the device once a day — twice a day if he’s using it heavily — and that it isn’t really meant to be used constantly. McGrath said it’s more for “quick interactions.”

I can think of tons of applications for this “you see what I see” part of Google Glass in everything from medicine to security. And you never know what else people might use it for. As McGrath said, one user told him, “I can’t wait to garden with this on with my friends and have them help me identify plants.”

I used Glass to surf the Web, get directions, get a map, take a picture, shoot a short movie, and more. The tapping and finger movements would take some getting used to, but only a little — I’m confident I could master this device within an hour or two, and if I can, anyone can. The images displayed are sharp and crisp, and the device is quick to respond to all inputs.

I also spoke with Google Glass Explorer Jamie Ladronka of Lansing, one of 60-plus Google Glass Explorers from Michigan who won the right to pay $1,500 for the honor of being an early adopter by writing an essay on what they’d do with Google Glass if they had it. Ladronka, a mobile technology consultant for the Lansing life insurance company Jackson National, said he’s using Google Glass to “tell people’s stories,” everyone from the Christian rock band Jars Of Clay to a homeless man living under a freeway bridge near his home. An audio interview with Ladronka is below.

Anna Richardson-White, communications manager for Google Glass, said 2,000 people have already RSVPd to take a tour of Google Glass at MOCAD Saturday and Sunday. She said walkups won’t be turned away, so if you’d like to check it out, feel free to go. And you can still RSVP at http://detroitthroughglass.splashthat.com/. An audio interview with Richardson-White is below.

Like everyone else from Google, Richardson-White wouldn’t say when Google Glass would hit the retail market, or what the price would be — she only said the plan is to start selling Google Glass to the public sometime in 2014. Also coming soon is a version of Google Glass with built-in prescription lenses for us eyeglass wearers.

She said Google picked this weekend to be in Detroit because of all the entrepreneurial and innovation activities going on, from the just-concluded Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition to Startup Weekend Detroit.

So would I buy Google Glass? Well, I’d suggest a version that clips on to an existing pair of glasses so I can choose whether to wear it or not. And it sure would be swell if they took the 1 and the comma off the price!

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