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Google updates Glass to Android KitKat, kills video calls before one-day sale

On the eve of its one-day Glass sale, Google announces a roll out of a bevy of features -- and a roll back of an important one -- to its wearable headset that will bring it up to speed with the latest Android operating system.


While Google's Glass wearable is still proving a polarizing frontier in personal computing -- making headlines this past weekend when a reporter had it ripped off his face and smashed on the ground -- the company is quietly chipping away at its long list of features it would like to pack into the face-worn headset ahead of a eventual retail release.

On Monday, Google announced that it will be rolling out a Glass update -- called XE16 -- to users later this week that will bring the device up to its latest Android iteration, KitKat, meaning not only will Glass get better battery life, but developers can also now design applications for it using the latest Android software development kit (SDK) alongside its specialty Glass SDK. Google has typically released monthly updates for Glass, but held off in March to make the jump to Android 4.4.

More noteworthy, however, is that Google has decided to disable Glass' video call functionality due to poor performance and lackluster usage; fewer than 10 percent of Glass users are making video calls with the device, the company reported.

"We hold ourselves to high standards for the features that we build, and video calls aren't living up to these standards," reads Google's blog post. "For this reason, we've made the hard decision to remove video calls from Glass until the experience is better."

The announcement of the upgrade to KitKat comes a day before Google plans to let anyone purchase its Explorer prototype edition -- still for the same hefty price of $1,500 paid by the last year's early adopters -- for 24 hours only. The sale starts at 6 a.m. PT on Tuesday.

Other feature add-ons in the update include automatic voice command sorting by frequency and recent use, bundling of photos in Glass' timeline view, photo replies when using the Hangouts messaging app, and an easier way to send general Glass feedback to Google.

Update at 7:55 p.m. PT: Clarified that the update will be released later this week.