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Cracking Open: Google Glass Explorer EditionBill Detwiler cracks open Google Glass and discovers the wearable computer's sturdy construction also makes repairs impractical.
Not since the iPhone or iPad has a gadget-generated more buzz, then Google Glass. So, of course, I wanted to take it apart and explore its internal hardware. Now, unfortunately, as I'll show you, this version of Google Glass wasn't built to be easily dissected or repaired. I'm Bill Detwiler, and this is Cracking Open. According to Google executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, Glass is still probably a year-ish away from hitting store shelves, but through the company's intuitive development style, Google is shipping 10,000 or so Explore units, like the one I'm wearing, to developers, beta testers, and winners of Google's If I Had Glass contest. And while the company may make a few tweaks to the product before launch, these test units still give us a good idea of what to expect in terms of overall design and hardware. So let's look at the specs. According to Google, Glass has a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot video at 720p. It supports 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Audio is provided by a bone conduction transducer, and the display is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. As for buttons and connectors, there is a Listen button, On-Off button, Capture button, a touch sensitive area, and a micro-USB port. There's also a Status LED and a rear-facing sensor array. Now, Google notes that Glass has 16 Gigs of flash storage; 12 of which are available to the user. But they don't specify what processor the unit has or how much RAM it comes with. And normally, this wouldn't be a problem. As fans of Cracking Open know, this is the point of a show where I show you how to pop off the gadget's cover and get it to the tech inside. Unfortunately, Glass was less than cooperative. Cracking Open Google Glass begins by removing the frame and nosepiece. Now, thanks to a single Torx T5 screw, this processes relatively simple. Removing the camera and display assembly's plastic cover was also relatively simple. Unfortunately, this is where my Cracking Open came to a screeching halt. I tried everything I could think of to get inside Glass' main and rear modules. Prying, poking, even heating, nothing worked. And because I wasn't given the green light to destroy this unit during my teardown, cutting the plastic off wasn't an option. So what are the CPU and RAM specs for Glass? Well, luckily, there are published reports of a developer using an Android debugging utility to pull information on the CPU and RAM from the operating system. If his information is accurate, Glass has a Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 processor, which was also used on the Amazon Kindle Fire, and 1 Gig of RAM. Given what other developers and journalists have posted online, Glass also appears to have a gyroscope, accelerometer, and ambient light sensor. Now, I know this Cracking Open wasn't as thorough as most, and I hate not being able to show you the circuit boards and chips inside Google Glass. But as there are so few of the Explore Edition units available, and given that they cost $1,500 each, I just couldn't risk damaging it. And perhaps, that's the biggest takeaway from this half teardown. Given the camera and display assembly's construction, it's not inconceivable that you could replace it if it broke, but I don't see any way to safely get inside the main or rear modules. If they break, you'll likely need a complete replacement. Now, for more information on Google Glass, including real-world tests, check out Rachel King's non-nerd's guide over on sister site, ZDNet and of course CNET's full review. Now, to see more teardown photos and read my full hardware analysis, limited as it maybe, go to techrepublic.com/crackingopen. I'm Bill Detwiler, thanks for watching.