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Here's looking at you, kid? Seeing Westport in a new light through Google Glass

Updated 10:16 am, Sunday, October 13, 2013

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  • Shane Selinger, 10, of Wilton, wears a Google Glass prototype Saturday at the Westport Library.  WESTPORT NEWS, CT 10/12/13 Photo: Mike Lauterborn / Westport News contributed
    Shane Selinger, 10, of Wilton, wears a Google Glass prototype Saturday at the Westport Library. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 10/12/13 Photo: Mike Lauterborn

 

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The eyes have it ... or least they'd like to get it.

Google Glass, the latest gadget from the tech behemoth Google, drew the curious from as far away as Southbury to the Westport Library on Saturday to get an up-close-and-personal look at what is best described as a wearable computer.

Michael J. Miller, former PC Magazine editor-in-chief, was on hand to demystify and demonstrate Google Glass for the turnout in the library's McManus Room.

The technology features an optical head-mounted display being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with the goal mass-marketing the device. The gadget displays information in a smartphone-like, hands-free format and communicates with the Internet via voice commands.

Miller, currently the senior vice president for technology strategy at Ziff Brothers Investments, wore the headset -- resembling a sleek pair of glasses, with the exception of a tiny screen embedded along the outer edge of the right lens. Afterwards, he allowed audience members to wear and try out the device, which is available to testers and Google developers in the U.S. for around $1,500.

At present, Glass is only a prototype, but Google officials indicate that similar devices are expected to be available to consumers in the near future. Tech observers that hands-free, wearable computers are the next step after smartphones in the evolution of popular technology.

The first prototype, developed by lead designer Isabelle Olson, weighed eight pounds. Now the device is lighter than an average pair of sunglasses. In time, new designs may permit integration of the display into standard eyewear.

"Glass is a reasonably powerful device on its own," said Miller. "It's basically an Android phone with a much smaller display. The easiest application is taking a picture. You just say, `Take a picture,' or press a button on the lens. It takes very wide-angle shots, best with landscapes not people. Glass is basically useless without an Android phone as that's how you get the applications. It's an adjunct to the Android phone."

In his demonstration, Miller used his own wi-fi connected phone as a receiver for Glass data (via Bluetooth) and a projector wired to the phone to show the audience, via a large screen at the head of the room, the real-time functions of the device.

Glass has 8 GBs of storage and data is downloaded to a PC automatically to Google Plus. There is currently no flash for photo taking.

"One interesting use has been a surgeon wearing them during an operation and screening the process for medical students," Miller said. Mostly, the device is used for quick information gathering, such as locating a place, then finding details about it and an associated website.

Several concerns about the new technology remain, such as invasion of privacy with its the built-in camera, he said. Another issue will be its use by drivers, causing yet another distracted-driving threat.

Eleven-year-old Kevin Nobrega, from Southbury, who attended the Glass program with his mother, said, "I would get a pair if I could afford it. I saw on the Internet glasses that will project stuff, but nothing like this."