Google Glass throws open its doors to developers

Google hopes to entice programmers to its Glass Developer Kit with offline access and demos, from real-time word translation to exercise tracking.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
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At Google's unveiling of its Glass Development Kit in San Francisco, the company showed off a third-party app that translates text on the fly. James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google unveiled its Glass Development Kit on Tuesday at a Glass hackathon, inviting developers to create new applications for its wearable technology.

The development kit, or GDK, gives developers access to parts of Glass that previously have been under lock and key. Developers now can write Glass apps that can work offline, in real time, and that utilize the hardware accelerometer and GPS.

Addressing the 100 or so developers who were invited to the hackathon, Timothy Jordan, Glass's senior developer advocate at Google, told them that even though the company hasn't made installing Glass apps easy, more than 83 percent of all Glass owners have installed at least one.

"The GDK will give you a way to build services for users in a natural and everyday way in their lives," Jordan said.

Up until now, developers have been able to develop only with the Mirror API. The GDK opens up more programming options, so that developers can access the location provider; control the camera; insert voice commands and triggers into the options menu; create live cards; and detect gestures on the touch pad.

Several companies also were present at the hackathon to demo apps they built, thanks to early access to the GDK. One of the most impressive was a Glassware app called Word Lens, which translates printed words as you look at them and replaces them with words from the target language.

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The app can take a German warning sign such as, "Bergweg betreten auf eigene Gefahr," and replace the printed words with, "Mountain path enter on own danger," when looking through Glass.

The app wasn't perfect, and its developers said that it might not work with smaller fonts, such as those on restaurant menus. But the app clearly showed Glass' potential utility.

Other apps demonstrated included AllTheCooks, for hands-free cooking directions and recipe management; Strava's exercise trackers for running and bicycling; the word game Spellista; and GolfSight, which can reveal fairway distances and help you keep score of your golf game as you play.

Google is not ready to reveal all its plans for Google Glass development. Jordan said he was unable to talk about user security, for example, beyond the remote locate and wipe features that come with Glass.

Glass owners can install new apps from their MyGlass home pages after 3 p.m. PDT today.