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Sergey Brin: Smartphones are 'emasculating'

During a talk at TED, the Google co-founder says Glass improves on the smartphone experience.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin at TED 2013.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin at TED 2013. Screenshot by Dan Farber/CNET

Mobile phones may generate the fastest-growing segment of Google's revenue, but the experience of using them still bothers Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Speaking at the TED Conference today in Long Beach, Calif., Brin told the audience that smartphones are "emasculating." "You're standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass," he said.

Using Google Glass requires a fair bit of rubbing as well, and the prototypes have fewer hardware features than most phones. But Brin said they improved on smartphones in certain ways, particularly in having a camera ever-ready to start snapping pictures. (The same camera is also the source of the most serious privacy concerns raised by Glass.)

Brin said the ideal search technology would surface information before a person had to ask for it, and that he has been working on the problem for 15 years.

"This is the first form factor that can deliver that vision," Brin said.

During the last two years Google has made significant strides in making Glass more comfortable and attractive, Brin said. The original version was "like a cell phone strapped to your head," he said.

Brin's remarks came on the last day people can apply to become a Project Glass "Explorer," getting a prerelease version of the device for $1,500. To apply, would-be Glass owners have to pitch Google on Google+ or Twitter using the hashtag #ifihadglass.

Anyone left out of the pilot program will have a chance to buy Glass later this year when it becomes broadly available, Brin said. The price tag will be below $1,500, he said, though he did not suggest a price target.