Google Glass review

Explorer Edition has ceased production, but its legacy lives on

Google Glass review
Google Glass review

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Glassware refers to Google Glass apps that developers create specifically for the wearable. It's modeled after the Google Play store and iTunes App Store, only the Glassware app list is less populated at just 64 apps, a very slow uptick from the 37 apps available seven months ago. Even Chromecast has more apps.

Ten of these 64 apps were created internally and Google Now is by far the most impressive Glass app. It's always located one swipe back from the "Okay Glass" home screen with contextual cards for information like the weather, sports teams I follow and directions to places I've recently searched for on Google.

Google Now app for Google Glass

Flight information automatically shows up a day in advance

Traveling anytime soon? Just like the Google Now Android and iOS app, this predictive software will dig through your email and bring up your flight information. Better yet, the weather will change, giving you the forecast to both the city that you're in now and the place you're about to go. Top that off with directions to the airport complete with the approximate travel time. It's all done automatically like you'd expect from a device from the future.

Google Glass weather app

Forecasts for both cities can be accessed

As you'd expect, Gmail is here and it pings you whenever an important message hits your priority inbox, Google Music plays songs with a "Listen to..." voice command and YouTube gives you an audience for your 720p #throughglass videos. You can't actually explore the rest of YouTube, though. The same applies to the write-only Google+ application.

Google's more straight-to-the-point Compass app shows the four cardinal directions and their intermediate directions, and reads the degrees aloud with the tap of the touchpad. The Stopwatch and Start Timer apps would replace Siri as my favorite way to countdown my time-sensitive tasks if it could set the clock with voice commands. Siri still wins for now.

The aforementioned Hangouts app now supports sending photos in replies thanks to April's upgrade to Android KitKat. Visually being able to answer "What are you up to?" with more than just text via voice dictation makes Hangouts a better experience. After all, snapping photos is Glass' biggest draw.

Google Glass games have been theorized with plenty of augmented reality YouTube videos of what the gameplay from the first-person perspective. Google's own Mini Games app takes advantage of all of the tiny sensors onboard to do just that. Its five AR games involve balancing objects in the world in front of you, shooting clay targets in the distance and playing tennis anytime, anywhere.

Third-party Google Glassware

Big name developers have already gotten onboard with Google Glass. Social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Path and now Foursquare are meant for sharing status updates, photos and videos to your timelines. Twitter and Google+ handle Google Glass best, pushing updates with a #throughglass hashtag, making photos from Explorers' first-person perspective easy to find.

The newest addition to the Google Glass app list includes Livestream and Shazam. Say "Okay Google, start broadcasting" and it'll will beam whatever you see to your video channel without delay. Curious about a song? The awkwardly phrased "Okay Glass, recognize this song" identifies the artist and title. These are smartphone app repeats, but Glass either gives you a neat new perspective or a hands-free way of searching.

Google Glass Twitter

Twitter messages end in with the unique throughglass hashtag

Evernote is now less than one button press away thanks to the voice-controlled Google Glass and IFTTT can automate everything in life including turning on WiFi-connected lights in an apartment without the need for an "easy button."

News gathering is also an act of the past with updates for CNN Breaking News, The New York Times, Mashable and Elle fashion. There was a Wall Street Journal app, but it has disappeared, a common occurrence among the budding Glassware app list. Explorers have hardly noticed.

Weather Alert, which is supposed to notify me of dangerous conditions, is one of the newest Glassware apps. In the end, I disabled all but CNN because apps, especially Mashable and Weather Alert, pinged me with too many unimportant alerts or false alarms to the point of annoyance. They need to work more like the iOS and Android Breaking News app that lets users dictate which stories are important to them.

CNN Google Glass app

CNN beams breaking news to your eye

Google Glass can also encourage lifestyle changes with sporty apps like Strava Cycling, Strava Run, Golfsight by Skydroid and the new LynxFit trainer. For the first time since carrying around a smartphone to aid my exercise routine, my two hands were suddenly free to grip my bike handles and not worry about checking a phone's screen to see how far along I was on my route. Food apps like AlltheCooks Recipes and KitchMe have the same effect. Washing your hands and cooking while reading the ingredients aloud without dirtying your phone is less messy with Google Glass.

World Lens Google Glass translation app

World Lens translators words right before your eyes

Word Lens, now a Google owned company, is toward the end of the alphabetically listed Glassware app store, but it's one of the most impressive apps by a third-party developer. It can scan and visually translates words in English to and from Portuguese, German, Italian, French and Spanish. It can overlay words on top of an existing foreign-language stop sign or menu using Augmented Reality, just like the iOS and Android app by the developer. It's a little more uncanny when seen through Glass.

World Lens Google Glass translation app

It overlays the translated word right onto the stop sign

Another useful Google Glass app offers closed captioning for real-life conversations. Before you call it creepy, keep in mind that Captioning for Glass is intended for deaf or hard of hearing. Conversations appear in the top right corner of the screen after saying the command "Okay Glass, recognize this." So far, it's an Android-only app, but could be extremely useful for people with disabilities.

Google Glass translation app with captioning

Google Glass closed captioning could help hearing impaired

More Google Glass apps to come

Google opened up its Mirror API so that web-based services can take advantage of Glass and now there is a sneak peek at the all-important Google Glass SDK. Developers are still waiting to download the final version of this app-driving software, but there's no official release date for the development kit.

Google Glass celebrities

Even 50 Cent is investing in an app called Hang w/

A lot of developers are also bringing their apps from iOS and Android devices and making the experience more personal. Hang w/ is once such video streaming app and it happens to be backed by rapper 50 Cent. Its goal is to allow people to broadcast and narrate interesting moments in their lives or follow people who are doing just that. Celebrity involvement could make Google Glass' point-of-view concept and apps like this the next Twitter.

When the final GDK makes its way to everyday developers, I expect the card-based Glassware user interface to explode with too much content just like my Google Glass timeline. Google would be forced to categorize apps and implement a rating system, and that's a good problem to have. New apps are going to be what makes this device useful more than hardware tweaks. Glass owners are currently in a state that's akin to the first iPhone without the iTunes App Store.

Matt Swider