SXSW: Reading The New York Times on Google Glass

Google-Glass

Image Credit: Project Glass

Google gave app developers (and curiosity seekers like us) a first look at how its eagerly awaited (by some) headset computer will serve up breaking news and integrate with popular apps and web services at a packed session at SXSW earlier today.

The demo was designed to get developers excited to create apps to run on the device, expected to be released later this year.

After showing Glass’ ability to snap photos and provide on-demand translation (“Arigato!”) — features that have been well documented in countless promo clips — Google Sr. Developer Advocate Timothy Jordan showed how Glass wearers would be able to scan headlines from the New York Times: Images overlayed with text appear in a timeline — essentially a horizontal scroll of notification “cards” floating in the user’s peripheral vision. Tapping on a card reveals a secondary scroll of additional stories; by tapping the device or, apparently, nodding her head, the user can read a short summary of the story, or have the full text of the story read aloud.

Subsequent demos showed how a wearer could read and dictate responses to Gmail messages and notifications from friends they follow on Path, a social journaling app. Jordan also showed how a wearer could snap a photo and send it to her (Android) tablet, where she could annotate the image Perez Hilton-style using an app called Skitch, then save it to popular notebooking app Evernote.

The demo was a bit of a breakthrough in understanding how the hardware could apply to real life: Up till now, we had a hard time imagining any practical application for Glass (we’re not often struck with the urge to launch a Google Hangout while skydiving). The voice input feature and ability to have incoming messages read aloud were particularly exciting to see.

Others remained unconvinced. Attendees rushed to pack the auditorium at the Austin Convention Center … but they played it cool once inside, refusing to respond to the presenter’s frequent exclamations of “Isn’t that cool!?” During the short Q&A session following the panel, one audience member asked, What can I do with Glass that I can’t already do with my phone? The dwindling audience erupted in the most enthusiastic applause of the entire session.

But the question missed the point. It’s not what Google Glass does that’s innovative; it’s how it does it.

How about you, PopWatchers? Will instant, hands-free access to headlines, tweets, and mail inspire you to try Glass on for size?

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