Google Glass Gets Its First Software Update, New Features

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-05-08

Google Glass Gets Its First Software Update, New Features

Google Glass users are starting to get their first software updates for their head-mounted computers, including a dozen new features that Google hopes will make the devices even more useful.

The new Google Glass XE5 software update is being rolled out to Glass users as their devices are connected to their chargers, according to a report from Phandroid.

The new features in the XE5 update, according to Phandroid, include the following:

  • A change to the device's sync policy. It now requires power as well as WiFi for background uploads.
  • Crash reporting for the devices.
  • Incoming Google+ notifications for direct shares, comments and +mentions.
  • Incoming Google+ Hangout notifications.
  • Increased speed for transcription of queries and messages.
  • Users can now use a long-press to search from anywhere in the user interface.
  • International number dialing and Short Message Service (SMS) are now included.
  • A new On-Head Detection calibration flow for improved operation.
  • Appearance of the devices serial number on the device info card to make it easier to find.
  • Improved and more reliable estimation of battery charge time that is remaining.

The software update is performed automatically by Glass via WiFi after it is plugged into its charger. "The process can take more than a few minutes (it is a pretty substantial update)," reported Phandroid.

The first Google Glass units began shipping in April to developers who signed up at last June's Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in a contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass. In February, Google expanded its nascent test project for its Glass eyewear-mounted computer by inviting interested applicants to submit proposals for a chance to buy an early model and become part of its continuing development. In March, Google also began notifying a pool of applicants who were selected to purchase the first 8,000 sets of Google Glass when they become available for real-world use and testing later this year by consumers. Those selected applicants are beginning to receive their units in waves.

Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also boast a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to the wearer through their bones, using a bone-conduction transducer that previously had been revealed in earlier reports.

Glass comes with its own dedicated micro-USB cable and charger. Glass is built to be compatible with any Bluetooth-capable phone, while its companion MyGlass app requires Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher.

Also in April, Google released the open-source Android-based kernel code for its Glass project to encourage software developers to begin much more Google Glass apps development in a big way.

Google Glass Gets Its First Software Update, New Features

The Linux code was released on April 27 on the Google Glass kernel source Web page for now, but another Website will likely be established for the code, according to Google.

The release of the open-source code will certainly inspire lots of innovative uses for Glass, which so far doesn't have a lot of apps that are available. In March, the first few third-party apps were demonstrated at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, where Google showed potential users some examples of what they can actually do with the innovative, eyewear-mounted computer that is Glass. Among the apps unveiled at the conference were a news app that delivered headlines and photos from The New York Times, an email app and a note-creation app for Evernote.

The basic components of Glass are an Android-powered display, a tiny Webcam, a GPS locator and an Internet connection node built into one side of a pair of glasses.

Early users have wasted no time trying out their new devices and reporting how they are working to the rest of us on posts on Google+, Twitter and other Websites.

The Glass project was unveiled officially for the first time to developers at last June's Google I/O conference. Google Glass is not expected to be widely available to consumers until 2014, according to the company.

Earlier in April, Google's investment arm, Google Ventures, launched a "Glass Collective" organization to seek out and nurture startups that can add features and capabilities to the Glass project.

In March, it was reported that the head-mounted Glass devices would be assembled in Santa Clara, Calif., by well-known Taiwanese device builder Foxconn to showcase electronics manufacturing capabilities in the United States.

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