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Greensburg man among first Google Glass 'explorers'

Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Jaron Swab says Google Glass, the futuristic eyeglasses-like device that Internet search giant Google Inc. plans to begin selling later this year, should make mobile technology less intrusive and easier to use.

Swab, of Greensburg, is one of the first people in Western Pennsylvania to test Glass, for which he paid the Mountain View, Calif.-based company $1,500. He drove to New York to pick up the device two weeks ago.

“The issue has been that technology gets in the way,” Swab said, referring to smartphones, which must be held in your hand to operate. “Now we're trying to get technology out of the way.”

Glass, which Swab said has the potential to supplant smartphones, performs a surprising range of functions. By either tapping a touch pad on the side of the device's frame or with voice commands, a Glass user can send and receive emails, texts and calls, shoot video and photos, perform Internet searches, navigate with Google Maps and complete other functions.

Google is encouraging its 10,000 “Explorers” — the software developers and enthusiasts who Google selected to test Glass — to create apps for the device, which it calls “Glassware.”

Swab, 24, was one of 8,000 people selected through Twitter to receive Glass. About 2,000 software developers who attended Google's annual conference last year were given the chance to buy the device.

About two dozen people in Western Pennsylvania were selected through Twitter to receive Google Glass, according to a map of Explorers produced by Stanford University.

Swab showed up to a meeting with a reporter on Tuesday wearing Glass with a sunglasses lens snapped into the frame, which made it look less bizarre.

You don't need a lens to operate Glass. The screen is viewed on a sugarcube-sized piece of glass that's at the short end of a hockey-stick-shaped piece of black plastic attached to a thin metal frame that wraps around the user's face, just above the eyes.

Swab said he wore Glass to a Pirates game the day after picking it up and got a lot of strange looks.

“Everyone was staring at me,” he said.

Swab, who is chronicling his experience with Glass at jrswab.com, said he finds Glass intuitive to use, and it has decent battery life — about five hours of continuous use. It can store about 12.5 gigabytes of data.

Glass connects to the Internet through Wifi or via a Bluetooth signal from a smartphone, Swab said. The Bluetooth connection enables calls and texts.

Drawbacks so far, Swab said, are that he can't wear Glass with his prescription glasses, and the screen can be too bright at night.

And, of course, there's the price, though Swab was perfectly willing to pay $1,500 to be among the first to get Glass.

He suspects Google will drastically lower the price by the end of this year to compete with smartphones.

Google spokesman Chris Dale would only say that the company will sell Glass to the general public for “less than $1,500.”

Dale said Google is hearing from potential customers who want to buy Glass and said demand is “extremely high.”

Forrester Research senior analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said in a report last week that Glass is a “when, not if, product.”

“This prototype version of Glass, known as the Glass Explorer edition, shows enough promise that we think it's just a matter of time until Glass takes off,” Epps wrote. “Glass is extremely compelling but extremely limited in its current form ... But Glass is continuously improving via over-the-air updates and new applications, and we have no doubt that in time, Glass will be the next iPhone.”

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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