First software update, version XE5, responds to queries "wicked fast" and adds support for Google+ notifications, among other improvements.
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Google Glass, a wearable, network-ready computer and display screen packed into an eyeglass frame, has been in the hands of a small group of developers for just a few weeks, but Google is already sending the device its first post-release software update.
Not all Glass units have received the update. The few thousand Glass developers testing the device can confirm the software version they're running through the Device Info card. The update is designated XE5.
The software update frees turn-by-turn navigation from its previous dependence on the MyGlass Android app. This lets iOS users now ask Glass for directions. Doing so presents this not particularly confidence-inspiring warning message: "Please keep your eyes on the road and obey applicable laws. Do not manipulate this application while in motion. Directions may be inaccurate, incomplete, dangerous, not suitable or prohibited. Data is not real time and location accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Tap to continue."
The update brings a number of other improvements as well. It adds support for incoming Google+ notifications, with the ability to comment and +1, and for incoming Hangout notifications. It also opens up public Google+ sharing of Glass content.
It extends a shortcut action to invoke Google search -- a prolonged press on the Glass frame -- so that it's available from anywhere in the user interface. In version XE4, search could be activated only when the device was awakened.
Google Glass is faster now. Version XE5 accelerates the speed at which spoken queries and messages are transcribed to "wicked fast."
Google also has improved battery life with a more restrictive sync policy: it now requires both power and Wi-Fi connectivity for background uploads. Battery power representation has been made more accurate as well, according to Google.
The update also adds crash reporting and improves Glass's on-head detection system.
There's now support for international number dialing with SMS, and the Device Info card now displays the device serial number. A hop animation has been added to indicate when a swipe action is not allowed. And there's a new recipient-list mosaic for messages.
Looking ahead, the Glass Mirror API bug report list suggests possible future features. Among the posts accepted for evaluation, there's one asking for the ability to customize the "ok glass..." command initiation phrase. Not all the Glass developers agree this would be a good idea, but it's being considered.
If Google ultimately rejects command phrase customization, it might want to consider adding voice pattern authentication. Right now, when Glass is listening for "ok glass," it does not care who says the phrase. This makes it easy for people to interfere with someone else's Glass usage.
Other Mirror API suggestions include integrating Glass with Google Goggles, which would allow image recognition and QR code recognition, for example. Glass developers also have asked for the ability to trigger the camera programmatically and for native Android application support.
Update: Google's official post about the update, which went up after this story was filed, does not mention the decoupling of turn-by-turn navigation with the Android MyGlass app. Although turn-by-turn navigation appears to be accessible for Glass users who aren't using Android phones and MyGlass, initial testing suggests some turn-by-turn functionality might still be missing. Testing with a paired iPhone produced a turn-by-turn map but also a "Searching for GPS" message. We've asked Google to clarify.
Correction: Despite claims by Glass users that they could access turn-by-turn navigation without MyGlass and a test that suggested as much, the Glass update XE5 does not provide that functionality Google has confirmed. We apologize for the error.
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