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As Schmidt speaks of caution, Google Glass gets hacked

Not long after Google's Eric Schmidt talks of how apps for Glass will require Google's approval, a renowned hacker/developer gains access to the gadget's operating system. But just what might that mean?

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Contributing editor Eric Mack covers space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack
3 min read

Hackers are starting to crack Glass. Google/CNET

Within hours of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt's revelation that apps for Google Glass will require Google's approval, a renowned hacker/developer has shattered the notion of locked-down Glass. More specifically, Jay Freeman -- aka "Saurik" -- has jailbroken it.

Freeman is also the creator of the popular Cydia app store for jailbroken iOS devices, and he tweeted a photo Friday afternoon that's apparently a capture of the "Device info" dialog for the pair of Glass he purchased from Google as a developer. It describes the device as "Jailbroken ;P"

Shattered Glass. Saurik.com

Freeman told Forbes that once he realized his Glass was running Android 4.0.4 -- also known as Ice Cream Sandwich and common to many 2012 era Android phones -- he began testing known Ice Cream Sandwich exploits and found one from a hacker known as B1nary that gave him root access and full control of the Glass.

Not surprisingly, Freeman isn't the only person tinkering with Glass. Hacker Liam McLoughlin has also been tweeting this week about his Explorer unit explorations.

What's not immediately clear to Freeman and others is what digital superpowers will be granted through Glass superuser access.

Forbes speculates it could be used to circumvent the "brick" treatment Google has threatened to anyone who attempts to sell his or her unit.

And the International Business Times describes the jailbreak as "paving the way for developers to install applications and modifications outside of Google's control." That sort of freedom could, one imagines, cause at least a little concern, given Schmidt's comment today that Google wants "to be very careful that this sort of new invention is not misused."

Google has already faced little ripples of backlash against Glass, with one Seattle bar banning the specs and a bill from West Virginia lawmakers that would ban wearing the device while driving.

Rooted Glass opens up another universe of possible problems. How about a side-loaded app to count cards at the blackjack table? Schmidt suggests it's that kind of potential that's already gotten Glass banned from Las Vegas casinos.

"They haven't even seen it yet," Schmidt said.

I've contacted Google about the jailbreak news and will update this post when I hear back.

As for my own superpower fantasies? I prefer to think up more entertaining possibilities, like the capability to change the default "attention" command for Glass. Rather than having to say "OK, Glass" to wake up the device, it would be far more useful to be able to scream "Nobody move a muscle, or else!" before snapping that perfect in-the-moment photo.

Update, April 27: Late Friday, Stephen Lau, Google's technical lead on Glass, posted the following to his Google+ profile: "Not to bring anybody down... but seriously... we intentionally left the device unlocked so you guys could hack it and do crazy fun shit with it. I mean, FFS, you paid $1500 for it... go to town on it. Show me something cool."