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Google Glass Won Us Over This Morning
Scott Lucas | Photo: Brittany McLaren | November 19, 2013
We were skeptical. Now we're not.
This morning, we huddled in a packed room with hundreds of third-party Glassware developers (aka the nerdiest place on Planet Earth). But while we went in with a healthy dose of anti-Glasshole sentiment, we left feeling like Grade A Glasstronauts (Glasstronomers? Glasstrophysicists?). In a word, the Glass development kit, as well as five of the new apps that are launching today, are awesome. While the programming folks stuck around for an all-day Hackathon (when the Googlers announced it, the early morning crowd gave the biggest round of cheers we heard all day), us journalist types went back to the office to figure out how to welcome our new overlords.
Here, a roundup of the new apps, rated for overall coolness on a 1 to 5 barge scale:
Word Lens (Coolness Rating: 5 Barges out of 5)
The closet thing we saw this morning to a killer app, this program allows you to translate text, like on roadsigns or restaurant menus, from foreign languages into English (or the other way around). We tried it out on some mocked up road signs written in Italian, and the app almost instantly gave the English translation. It gave us that same feeling of shock and elation that Google Earth or Siri did when they first came out. It was cool. So freaking cool. "The software recognizes the characters and then finds the spaces. It builds up the words" said Bryan Lin, one of the programmers. "Then it has a word dictionary built in that translates and it puts the new word back in your visual field." The app works in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and German right now. "We're almost ready for Russian," said Lin. "But Cyrillic is harder. We're hoping to get there by the Olympics for sure." The last sign we looked at was in Italian. "Okay Glass, translate," we said. Up popped the English words, "The Future is Here." Indeed.
Allthecooks (Coolness Rating: 4 Barges out of 5)
This app is a new version of what's already out for Android. It lets you look up recipes on Glass while you are cooking. They display in step by step instructions, with the ingredient list always available if you just look up. You can also take photos of what you are cooking to share with other users, and upload your own recipes simply by speech. "Imagine getting a Thanksgiving recipe from your grandmother with this," said founder Rafael Sanches. (Though to be fair, the current list of recipes tends more towards fare like "Bomb Ass Potatoes.") Can a cooking show filmed with Glass be far behind?
Strava (Coolness Rating: 4 Barges out of 5)
The popular athletic app has a new version avaliable for Glass. It's an unobtrusive way to check your time, speed, and distance when running or cycling. We tested it out on a stationary bike, and the use was natural. It was easy to check the stats when we wanted, and also for them to vanish when we'd rather concentrate fully on the road. The makers of it say that they have allayed safety concerns, because the Glass automatically goes to sleep and only comes back on when the user activates it, and it won't require messing around with pockets the way a phone app would.
GolfSight (Coolness Rating: 3 Barges out of 5)
If you need to impress your golf buddies with the latest gadget (and you've already tried the Uroclub), GolfSight is a good way to do it. The app calculates your distance to the pin, tracks your score, and even alerts you to upcoming hazards. It's a redesign of an exiting app for Android, so it already has 25,000 courses ready to go, including local ones like the Presidio. Heck, forget impressing your friends. Try beating them.
Spellista: (Coolness Rating: 0 Barges out of 5)
A word jumble game doesn't sound like a breakthrough at first, even one that lets you create and share your own levels. But controlling the game with your head movements is pretty nifty. The app launches with nine levels already available, but it's banking on user generated content (we saw a Red Sox-themed jumble, to which we say really?) to carry it forward. It's the very first game developed for Glass, and it's clear that the kinks are still being ironed out—like trying to make something that's fun.