SAN FRANCISCO -- After teasing people with bits of images and information about the development of its computerized glasses, Google made a splash today, showing off Google Glass in a wild demo at the company's annual Google I/O conference.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin ran on stage near the end of the keynote sporting a pair of the glasses, which have a processor and memory and are expected to include 3G or 4G wireless access, along with motion and GPS sensors.
But that wasn't all Google had planned.
To loud cheers from the crowd of about 6,000 developers and reporters, two men jumped out of a plane flying over San Francisco and parachuted to the roof of the Moscone Center where the conference is being held. During the descent, they were wearing the glasses and streaming live video of their jump from them.
Once they landed, other people repelled down the side of the building while wearing the glasses - and then yet another team, this time on bicycles, wore the glasses and biked through the conference center and up onto the keynote stage.
The glasses streamed the whole spectacle onto giant screens onstage.
Dubbing an early edition of the glasses "Google Glass Explorer Edition," the company announced that developers attending Google I/O can pre-order them. The offer is only for developers and the glasses will cost $1,500 and won't be available until 2013.
"We created Glass so you can interact with the virtual world without distracting you from the real world," said Google designer Isabelle Olsson. "We don't want technology to get in the way."
Olsson noted that the Android-based glasses have a small screen, which they positioned right above one of the user's eyes so it adds to their experience without blocking their senses.
She also noted that the glasses, which come in several different styles, also are capable of taking pictures or video by touching a spot on the side of the frame.
"When you have a companion camera that's always with you, you can capture fleeting moments of your life that otherwise would be lost," said Google Glass team leader Babak Parviz. "You can record how your life is like through a first-person point of view."
Parviz also noted that with computing power, the glasses someday will offer users an immediate information source.
"If you have a question, now you might ask a friend or go to a library. Or you might do a search on your cell phone," he told the audience. "What we aspire to do is make that much, much faster. Someday, we would like to make it so fast that you don't feel that you have to go seek knowledge somewhere. We want it to be so fast that you think the question and then you know the information. That fast. It may not be today, but someday."
During the demo, Google showed people wearing the glasses while playing tennis, biking and playing with their babies. All the while, the glasses are taking pictures and images.
The demo, however, did not show anyone looking up information via their glasses or using the display screen. They also were not used to make a phone call or video call.
"Capturing images and sharing video is only a part of what a wearable computer can do," said Brin.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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