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Saturday, May 18, 2013

New Apps Arrive on Google Glass

Google Glass, the company's Internet-connected glasses, will soon have seven new apps, including breaking news alerts from CNN, fashion features from Elle, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook posts and reminder notes from Evernote.

Google announced the apps, which it calls Glassware, Thursday at its I/O developers conference, the largest assembly yet of people wearing Glass in the same place. They join Path and The New York Times as the only apps so far available on Glass. The glasses also offer Google services like search and maps, connect to users' cellphones for text messaging, take photos and record video.

Just as apps transformed smartphones from cellphones into devices that have become essential to daily life for many people, so Google hopes that apps will make Glass more functional. Still, Google is moving slowly and cautiously in opening Glass to developers. Apps have limited access to Glass users' data, for instance, and for now, cannot include ads.

Google wants developers to experiment with building apps tailored to Glass, as opposed to just transporting mobile apps to the new device. Glass is different than phones because it is in a user's line of sight and has a smaller screen. So notifications, for instance, could easily be disruptive or unwanted.

Google has given Glassware developers four pieces of advice: keep it short and sweet for the small screen, make sure alerts are relevant, send timely information people need on the go and make tasks easier and more seamless than they are on other devices.

CNN's app, for instance, lets people choose which types of news alerts they receive (politics but no sports, for instance), and the time of day at which they are delivered. Then they can read or hear aloud a short summary and watch a video clip.

Similarly, Elle's app allows people to choose the sections of the magazine they want to see on Glass, swipe through photos from a story, hear a section of a story read aloud, add stories to a reading list for later and share stories with friends. At Elle, there is a team dedicated to taking monthly magazine content and turning it into real-time updates that make sense for Glass, like posts from the Elle Dispatch blog.

So far on Glass, photos are shareable only through Google Plus. With the Facebook app, Glass users will be able to share photos taken with Glass on Facebook. Twitter's Glass app lets people tailor their stream to only receive posts from certain people and transcribe new posts using voice. Tumblr's app shows a user's full feed or just select updates.

When people are using Evernote on the Web, they will be able to send notes, like a grocery list, to Glass, so it's accessible when they need it.

Another new app was built by three of the developers who received an early edition of Glass. It's a game called Ice Breaker that some people could say bridges the divide between the physical and digital worlds - and others might say creates some socially awkward situations. Glass users see a notification of someone who is also playing the game nearby, and the people introduce themselves and take a picture of one another, rate their conversation and earn points.

The Glassware will be available to people who signed up and paid $1,500 for an early edition of Glass. Though other developers are beginning to build apps for the device, there is not yet an app store where anyone can offer such apps.