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6/5/2013
06:21 PM
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Google Glass Enhances Camera Features

Software update lets users take higher quality pictures and dictate photo and video captions.

Google I/O: 10 Key Developments
Google I/O: 10 Key Developments
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Google has begun distributing the second software update for Google Glass, the company's widely publicized but still-scarce Internet-connected eyeglasses.

Following the XE5 revision issued in early May, which added some notifications, enhanced sharing and improved speed and battery life, June's update -- XE6 -- improves the camera.

The Glass camera takes 5-megapixel pictures and is capable of recording video at 720p. Its updated software takes several pictures in rapid succession and combines the data. Google claims this results in better pictures taken in low light and high-dynamic range (HDR) photos in bright settings.

[ Would you wear Internet-connected eye glasses? Read Google Glass 'Socially Awkward,' Americans Say. ]

HDR pictures are created by combining multiple images taken with different exposure settings. The effect -- vibrant, saturated colors -- was trendy a few years ago, when it had to be done manually. Now that it's built into many smartphones, it's less impressive.

Google associate product manager Sophia Yang has shared a series of images captured with Glass using the new software. The photos demonstrate that at least in some cases, HDR represents an improvement.

The software update also adds the ability to create photo and video captions using the speech-to-text technology available through Glass. When users share a photo or video, they're presented with the option to add a caption. By tapping the touchpad on the Glass frame, users can speak their caption and see it almost immediately transcribed. This could come in handy as a human-assisted form of facial recognition.

More sophisticated forms of facial recognition appear to be possible using Glass. Lambda Labs, for example, has announced that it is beta testing a facial recognition API for Glass.

However, Google last week said it wouldn't approve any Glassware -- third-party Glass apps -- that supports facial recognition. "As Google has said for several years, we won't add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place," the company said in a Google+ post. "With that in mind, we won't be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time."

Glass developers who are capable of implementing facial recognition on their own should be able to do so without Google's approval by rooting Glass and installing their own software.

According to Yury Pinsky, a product manager at Google, the XE6 update also improves Glass's on-head detection system, which turns the device off when it's not being worn. In addition, it brings changes to the cards used in Google Now for sports and adds a new card for birthdays.

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