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Saturday, July 06, 2013, 10:21 am PT (01:21 pm ET)

First look: Google Glass unboxing, setup, and first impressions

Glass, the pet project of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is arguably the most hyped device yet in the emerging wearable computing market. Here's a first look at the test hardware that's been made available to a limited number of developers.

Glass


Unboxing



The Glass packaging is wonderfully executed. It ships in its outer box, so there's no wasted packaging. It's a matte black box that uses heavy stock, and ours survived overnight shipping without damage to the black finish.

Glass


Inside are two clip-on lenses — one clear, one tinted. These can be used to make Glass look more like traditional glasses, or like sunglasses. We did not use either of these when wearing Glass out in the wild.

Also included are a power supply, flat Micro USB cable, a soft bag to carry Glass in when not in use, and paper instructions with comments about whether Glass is appropriate or not in all situations or environments.

Glass


Setup



Google Glass is, frankly, a pain to setup. We started out using an Android Nexus device running the latest stock Jelly Bean, hoping for the best possible experience, but it didn't work out that way.

Setup requires visiting a website, selecting a Google account for use, and setting up a Wi-Fi network. The Web page returns a QR code with the instruction to take a picture of the QR code with Glass to get it to join the network.

Glass Setup


First problem: QR codes are not human-readable. As such, if you mistyped, the QR code will not help you verify it.

Second problem: Composing a shot with Glass is difficult. You can look at something and hope it's in frame, only to have to delete it and take the picture again.

Third problem: The glossy screens ons Nexus devices pose additional issues. We were only able to get it to recognize the QR code by performing setup on a MacBook Air display. If you're using an extra-glossy screen, Glass will take the photo but may be unable to recognize the QR code. As such, you will not join the network or your Google account.

Navigating Google Glass



Primarily, the wearer has to wake Glass up with either a head tilt (the default is 30 degrees), or a tap on the side of the temple, followed by speaking the words "Okay, Glass."

Here are some of the navigation options currently available in the latest version of the Glass software:
  • Scroll — Slide your finger forward on the touchpad to scroll down. Prior to a recent update, swiping down would bring up options to delete, or drill down in hierarchical menu structures.
  • Zoom – Slide two fingers forward or backward to zoom. This is similar to two-finger scrolling on a Mac, except that it's swiping side to side.
  • Look around – With two fingers down on the touchpad, move your head around to pan.
  • Click – As you look around, you can tap to select anything in the center of the screen.

Glass POI


When controlling Glass via voice, Google's software, like Apple's Siri, understands follow-up questions in context. In one example, the question "How tall is the Eiffel Tower?" can be followed up with "When was it built?" Glass will know that "it" is referring to the Eiffel Tower.

After getting Google Glass all set up and becoming acquainted with its navigation, a key question remains: What's it good for?

Driving directions



To get started, pair Glass with an Android device, then install the MyGlass app. Driving directions are not available with an Apple iOS device without jailbreaking and using @b3ll's notification hacks for Glass. This allows Apple Maps notifications to be passed to Glass.

To search locations, say, "Okay, Glass, search for [NAME OF PLACE]." You can call or get directions for the place, and the system shows a nice 3D navigation screen with voice and step-by-step instructions.

Glass Navigation


Unfortunately, we found Google Glass can't be used in bright sunlight. To drive with the accessory, we had to lower the sun visor in order to see the map in Glass.