Glass is one step closer to a more human Google

By Nathaniel Mott , written on February 20, 2013

From The News Desk

"Welcome to a world through Glass." That's the lead copy on the newly-launched Google Glass -- now just Glass, apparently -- website, which offers the first glimpse at what Glass may look like in the real world.

The accompanying video doesn't sport a ukulele, a rooftop ballad, or a trip through a bookstore, but it does show how the average person will use Glass in their everyday lives. The new video isn't about impressing a room full of developers with skydivers or BMX bikers -- it's about making Glass, and Google, more human.

Interacting with Glass is as simple as saying "Okay Glass," and telling the device to take a picture, record a video, search Google, or perform a variety of other functions. Starting with the simple phrase allows Google to avoid false prompts -- how often do you hear "Okay glass" pass through someone's lips? -- and creates a conversation of sorts. It's a reaction to the ubiquitous "Now what?" Google wants you to hear while you're wearing Glass, perpetuating a constant conversation with your digital life.

Google has been working to abandon its staid image, launching massive internal initiatives to forge a new, design-savvy company. This is evident in many of Google's new products, from the latest versions of Android and Gmail to the new Google Maps for iPhone and Google Now. This isn't the "white background and empty search box" Google of the past, it's the warm, inviting Google of the future.

Talking to Google doesn't feel like talking to a robot. Part of this has to do with Google's "voice," heard when using Google Now or Google's Search apps, but part of it has to do with the sheer power Google has baked into its voice-controlled products. I imagine that these products will only become more powerful as Google develops them, and it isn't hard to imagine a future where even the "Okay Glass" or "Google..." won't be necessary to interact with the company's services.

This ubiquity, in conjunction with the company's rapidly evolving design sense, make for a more approachable Google. Gone are the days when Gmail looked like an email client trapped into the 90s. Gone are the horrible icons and interfaces of Android (well, partially, anyway). Gone is the notion that Google doesn't "get" design -- and, by extension, its users.

Perhaps the greatest sign of this new focus on the user and developing products meant for humans is the extension of the Glass Explorer program, which previously allowed developers to pre-order a special, early-production edition of Glass for $1,500. Google has started a new competition to allow "bold, creative individuals" to join developers in the waiting line. (The competition itself is dubious, given its reliance on the #ifihadglass hashtag on Google+ and Twitter, but the reasoning behind it is what's important.)

These individuals, who are tasked with telling Google how they would use Glass in a new, creative way, are given equal footing with developers, the people Google normally caters to. These are the people who might not know a single Java command or what an "API" is but understand how people work and what they might wish to do with "face-based computing," as Quartz's Christopher Mims put it.

Designers. Creative individuals. A breakthrough technology that promises to change the way we interact with our devices. Just a few months ago those words would have never been applied to Google, but that's starting to change. From the technologies it is developing that will benefit the everyman as much as or more than the prototypical "geek" -- think self-driving cars, Glass, Google Now, and others -- to the services that millions of people use every day, Google is finally reaching users on a basic, human level.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pandodaily]