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Prying Eyes: Dissecting Google Glass

16 Jul 2013  | Scott Torborg, Star Simpson

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Editor's note: Tremendous skill is required to tear down Google Glass. That is, if you're even lucky enough to have one to take apart in the first place, because it's still quite hard to come by. SparkFun, in cooperation with Scott Torborg and Star Simpson, took a look inside this controversial gadget and they graciously agreed to share their findings with us as a way of giving back to the engineering community. So let's take a look at what makes Google Glass tick!

Google Glass teardown

It's surprisingly simple.

What is this Glass thing anyways?

Google's latest and hottest gadget needs little introduction. Since its public unveiling in April 2012, the tiny head-mounted Android computer has been collecting controversy and sociological analysis. It is currently available in limited beta to eminent members of the tech community and to a selection of "Glass Explorers." As members of the latter program, we are delighted to be able to explore Glass.

Growing up on a rich diet of dystopian tech fiction, we were filled with both intrigue and concern about Glass and decided to take our model apart to bring you a detailed view into the electronics guts of the device.

Gargoyles represent the embarrassing side of the Central Intelligence Corporation. Instead of using laptops, they wear their computers on their bodies, broken up into separate modules that hang on the waist, on the back, on the headset. They serve as human surveillance devices, recording everything that happens around them. Nothing looks stupider; these getups are the modern-day equivalent of the slide-rule scabbard or the calculator pouch on the belt, marking the user as belonging to a class that is at once above and far below human society.

—Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Google Glass

The receiving ceremony

Once a Glass Explorer is invited to purchase Glass online, they must schedule an in-person pickup appointment at one of three "Glass Studios" in Mountain View, Los Angeles, or New York. At this appointment, a Google employee walks you through the setup and usage of your Glass unit.

We arrived a little early for our appointment Sunday afternoon at the Mountain View Google campus, and found a good sized group of people mingling on the lawn in front of Google's Glass building, most already wearing Glass units, setting a scene somewhere between a garden party and a camera-wielding press mob.

Inside, in a space called "The Garage", a temporary retail-showroom-like space had been set up with tables, stools, and mirror stands, where staff members walked Glass Explorers through the software features of their new face computers.

At the door, a friendly greeter took us into the Glass Studio, offered us mimosas, and showed us the device colour selection wall. On this wall, Explorers could choose between and try on the spectrum of available colour options, with models in Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale, Cotton, Sky.

Forty-five minutes of Glass user interface training followed, including setup, phone pairing, and linking Google accounts. We were also shown how to re-bond Glass with another phone later, by resetting to factory settings from the Glass "settings" pane.

Glass arrives in an attractive, easy-to-open box. A few included accessories are included:

  • Tinted shield
  • Clear shield
  • Charger / AC adapter
  • USB cable
  • Drawstring soft case

 Google Glass

The build quality is what you'd expect from a device that costs as much as a high-end laptop. Everything fits together precisely, and has a solid feel and great surface finish.

Our Glass tour guide also gave us access to the Mirror API, the platform on which "Glassware" apps are built.

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