In a sign that Google's computerized eyeglasses, known as Project Glass, are nearly ready to be released, documents describing the device have been published by the Federal Communications Commission.
Google needs approval from the FCC before it can distribute devices that utilize the radio spectrum, just it does for mobile phones. The company's filing asks the FCC to keep the technical details of its glasses, identified as A4R-X1, confidential indefinitely. The covered documents include the block diagram, the operational and technical description, schematic diagrams and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antenna specification.
In a letter to the FCC, Warwick Wong, Google's compliance specialist for Android, argues that revealing these exhibits would help Google's competitors. Companies either believed to be working on augmented reality glasses or known to be working on them include Apple, Microsoft, Lumus, Olympus, Valve and Vuzix, among others.
[ For more on Google's much-anticipated glasses, see Google Demos Its Augmented Reality Glasses. ]
Another FCC document, the SAR report, indicates that Google Glass compares to Apple's iPhone 5 in terms of the amount of radio frequency (RF) energy absorbed by users: The highest specific absorption rate recorded for Google's glasses is 0.924 watts per kilogram. Apple's iPhone 5 lists a SAR rating of 0.972 for users' heads (LTE Band 5), with lower ratings for other scenarios. The limit set by the FCC is 1.6 watts per kilogram.
Such exposure is generally considered to be safe. The World Health Organization says, "To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use." Nonetheless, WHO acknowledges the need for further long-term research studies. And wireless-enabled glasses may deserve closer scrutiny because they are intended to be worn on the head and presumably will be sending and receiving data for longer periods of time than a mobile phone.
The first version of Project Glass is known as the Project Glass Explorer Edition. Developers who attended Google I/O last year had the option to pay $1,500 for Project Glass Explorer Edition, thereby enabling them to write software for Project Glass before public availability. The Explorer Edition glasses are expected to rely on a Broadcom 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi radio and a Bluetooth 4.0 low energy system for wireless connectivity.
Google on Monday and Tuesday held a hacking event in San Francisco for a limited group of developers participating in its Google Glass Explorer program. The company required attendees to sign a strict NDA to prevent details from leaking.
A similar event is occurring on Friday and Saturday in New York. The purpose of both events is to familiarize developers with the hardware and with the Mirror API, a RESTful API through which developers can create code that communicates with Google's glasses, by way of a Google-hosted cloud service.
Google has said only that Project Glass Explorer Edition will be available in early 2013. However, given the nature of hardware and software development, it wouldn't be surprising if Google waited until Google I/O 2012 in May before releasing its glasses to developers.
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