Google Glass Unveiled: The Story Behind the 'OK Glass' Command

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-07-20

Google Glass Unveiled: The Story Behind the 'OK Glass' Command

"OK Glass," the simple voice command used by Google Glass users to perform various functions with their devices, went through a series of options before becoming the choice for voice commands.

In a fascinating peek inside the development process for the innovative, cutting-edge Glass devices, Google Product Marketing Manager Amanda Rosenberg recently filed a blog post on Google+ that pulled the curtain back on how the command came to fruition.

It all started with an April 2012 dinner invitation from the Google Glass product manager, Mat Balez, wrote Rosenberg in the July 16 post. After the dinner with Balez and his wife, Balez, who had had already been working on Glass for a while, mentioned that Glass did not yet have a marketing team, she wrote.

"In the car on the way back, Mat told me about how the team had been working on the 'hotword' for Glass," the word that would be spoken by users to give voice commands to Glass, wrote Rosenberg. "He then asked me if I had any ideas for the hotword. In that moment the only phrase I could think of was "OK Glass.' I didn't tell him straightaway though. Instead, I continued to look pensive and muttered something about 'looking into it' just to appear as though I was going to put more than 3 seconds of work into it."

Already, the Google Glass team had been considering many other phrases as the hotword command, such as "Listen up Glass," "Hear me now," "Let me use Glass to," "Go Go Glass," "Clap on Device, please," "3, 2, 1 …," "Glassicus," "Glass alive" and "Pew pew pew," according to a list Balez had forwarded to Rosenberg.

When Rosenberg got home after that fateful dinner, she got to work thinking about other possibilities, she wrote. "I tried my best to think of something else, anything else so that I could at least have a few options to send to Mat. Alas, I could not think of any others. I've been fortunately cursed with a one-track mind. So, I decided to put all my Glass eggs in one basket and send over a rationale for 'OK Glass.'"

In an email to Balez, her argument for using "OK Glass" included the fact that since Glass was to be used by people in public, the voice command should be something that is innocuous and simple.

"I pondered carefully about this (off and on) for the last 2 days and came full circle to the initial thought I'd had in the car with – OK," wrote Rosenberg to Balez. "OK, the most frequently used word on the planet.  Denotes approval, acceptance, agreement, assent, or acknowledgement, but is also a frequent expression used for transitions in conversation."

In that context, she wrote, OK could be used for a command with any sort of Google device. "OK + (fixed keyword) – A fixed pre-defined expression that relates to the name of the product, the name of the feature," such as "OK, Android," "OK, Google," "OK, Glass."

In that way, the expression is as simple and natural as saying, "OK, Amanda," she argued in the email.

"Anyway, those are just some initial thoughts," Rosenberg wrote to Balez in her email. "Would love to discuss further or (if I'm way off with this one) never talk about it again."

Google Glass Unveiled: The Story Behind the 'OK Glass' Command

It didn't take long for Rosenberg's idea for "OK Glass" to be accepted, she wrote.

"A week later, it was implemented," and Rosenberg joined the Glass product team a short time later.

"Coming up with the phrase was the easy part," she explained. "Figuring out if it would work was another story. There's a whole team at Glass who worked very hard testing and implementing it before it was adopted. It's hugely exciting to hear 'OK Glass' being used today. That said, 'Device, please' is growing on me."

It was such a simple yet interesting development trail for the Glass voice command system. It makes one ponder about how things would have gone had the "Go, Go, Glass" command, which is reminiscent of the old Inspector Gadget "Go, Go, Gadget!" command, been selected.

Efforts by eWEEK to contact Rosenberg via email for more details about her experience were unsuccessful.

Earlier in July, Glass received its third software update so far, which incorporates improved and expanded voice command capabilities. The update allows Glass users to do more things without having to touch any Glass controls, and it allows users to communicate more easily with family members and friends in their contacts list. In June, Glass got a big upgrade for its camera, with the release of new software that now better detects low-light situations and includes automatic High-Dynamic-Range (HDR) photo-taking capabilities.

The first software update for Glass arrived back in May when features such as incoming Google+ notifications for users were added. Also included in that first Glass XE5 software update was crash reporting for the devices, increased speed for transcription of queries and messages, and the inclusion of international number dialing and Short Message Service (SMS).

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, where it was the hit of the conference. 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 have been receiving 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 wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers that were revealed in earlier reports.

Google Glass isn't yet ready for the general public, but sales of the devices are now expected to begin sometime later this year, according to a recent eWEEK report. That's at least months earlier than the 2014 retail debut the company had been targeting since last year, a source inside Google told eWEEK. The source would not elaborate on why the retail launch schedule is being moved up.

The concept of Google Glass has been a hit so far for Google, but some critics argue that they continue to be worried about the privacy implications surrounding the use of Glass, which is an eyewear-mounted computer that features a still camera, a video cam and other real-time recording features.

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