Video, audio, and magic headphones: Google glasses come into focus


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Last month, Google co-founder Sergey Brin was photographed on the New York subway, sporting what appeared to be a pair of extremely expensive shades.

Now, new details of the eagerly awaited “Google Glass” device have emerged in a test report published by a US regulator. The web search giant’s latest hardware project is an augmented reality headset, which, according to the test report by the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC), plays video and audio to the wearer, and includes a “vibrating element”.

This matches up with what is already known about the prototype, which features a tiny screen to display computer data. The tech news site Engadget uncovered the FCC papers, including a recent patent application for a “Wearable Computing Device with Indirect Bone-Conduction Speaker”. The technology, which has previously been used in hearing aids, uses a vibrating part to direct sound to the user’s inner ear through their skull.

Mr Brin, 39, who runs the secretive “Google X” development group, has also been spotted wearing the hi-tech specs around San Francisco. He demonstrated an early iteration of Google Glass at a conference in May 2012, where the audience was treated to a live feed from the glasses’ built-in miniature camera, worn by members of a skydiving team in freefall.

When the headset is connected to a wireless network, it can overlay augmented reality information about the wearer’s surroundings, culled from Google search and location data, on to their view. It can also capture video and photos and instantly share them online. According to the FCC papers, the device can store video files and be recharged with a power cable that attaches to the right-hand arm of the spectacle frame. Mr Brin has admitted its battery life is a work in progress.

The $1,500 device is expected to be delivered to software developers sometime this year, and Google has already begun to host “hackathons” in New York and San Francisco, for those developers to brainstorm new and exciting applications for Glass. The firm has said it hopes to make the device available to the public by the end of 2014.

By then, there are likely to be a number of comparable products on the market. At the annual Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas last month, tech firm Vuzix demonstrated its M100 headset, which places a tiny monitor in front of the user’s right eye, and can be controlled by a smartphone via Bluetooth. At least two other small firms, TTP and Explore Engage, have announced plans for rival devices, while Oakley recently launched its digitally enhanced Airwave ski goggles.

In May 2011, Microsoft also applied for a patent for digital glasses that can display augmented reality data, such as baseball statistics to a fan watching a live game. Meanwhile, Motorola Solutions is poised to release its HC1 head-mounted, voice-activated computer; a bulkier device than Google’s, it is intended for use in specialist working environments where its potential users – builders, paramedics, warehouse staff – need both hands free.