More Google

For any skeptics who have doubts about wearing a computer on their head, Google (GOOG) is revealing more features and ways to use Glass, the high-end, visor-like gadget that the company plans to sell later this year.

Developers have built several apps for the gadget, including one for The New York Times that shows news headlines on a tiny screen and reads the full text of articles on command, Google said this week. Other programs will let users answer email and even comment on their friends' online photos by using a combination of head movements, voice commands and a tiny touchpad built into the gadget's earpiece.

Google Glass, smart glasses under development by Google, are seen in an undated handout picture released February 20, 2013.  REUTERS/Google/Handout
Google Glass, smart glasses under development by Google, are seen in an undated handout picture released February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Google/Handout (HANDOUT)

Analysts say Google needs a variety of apps to make the device attractive to consumers, in the same way that smartphones and tablets offer thousands of apps that owners can use for work and play. While Glass is a new kind of computing device, a recent survey of independent developers found a majority said they expect to be building apps for Glass in the next two years.

"It took us a long time to get away from the PC world. Smartphones took a while to take off. But now the level of acceptance for all kinds of devices has grown exponentially," said Michael King at Appcelerator, a Mountain View mobile software company that conducted the survey.

Google also announced Tuesday that the Glass device, which rests on the wearer's ears and nose like a pair of lens-less spectacles, will be available in models that can accommodate prescription eyeglass lenses.

"As I'm wearing Glass, I still want to be able to connect with you and make eye contact. I also don't want anything to get in the way of what I'm doing," Google representative Timothy Jordan told an audience at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, this week. "But we want Glass in our field of vision so all I have to do is look up quickly and there's the screen" -- suspended just over the wearer's right eye.

Google has kept a tight lid on information about Glass, doling out details primarily in marketing videos and carefully orchestrated demonstrations. But it's also been courting tech-savvy "early adopters" and software developers at events like the one in Austin.

Although it hasn't said exactly when it will begin selling Glass to the public, Google has promised it will be available by the end of 2013. It recently invited developers and members of the public to apply for the opportunity to buy an early model for $1,500. But the company says the retail price will be lower.

Google Glass, smart glasses under development by Google, are seen in an undated handout picture released February 20, 2013.    REUTERS/Google/Handout
Google Glass, smart glasses under development by Google, are seen in an undated handout picture released February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Google/Handout (HANDOUT)

In addition to a tiny camera and microphone, the Glass has a built-in GPS tracker and connects to the Internet through either a Wi-Fi signal or by using a Bluetooth link to a smartphone. It uses voice-recognition technology to accept commands and text-to-speech software to announce search results or read text back to the wearer.

Jordan showed off Glass apps created for several companies, including the Times, Evernote and the social network Path, according to video clips posted on YouTube. He used voice commands to snap a photo and then used taps and swipes on the touchpad to upload the photo to his Google+ account.

Moments later, Jordan showed a Gmail app for Glass that displayed the subject line of an incoming email and a photo of the sender, on both his device screen and a large screen behind him that his audience could see. Jordan then dictated a response and sent it back.

Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey