clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Google encourages developers to push the limits by hacking Glass

New, 14 comments
Google Glass (STOCK)
Google Glass (STOCK)

Google doesn't want any reselling of Google Glass, and it will even shut down some key functionality if you even try to log into the headset with multiple Google Accounts. But that doesn't mean you can't hack into Glass at all. In fact, Google is encouraging hacking, albeit with clear boundaries.

At Google I/O on Thursday, the company hosted a workshop called "Voiding Your Warranty: Hacking Glass," that focused on what's possible if you were to root the prototype hardware — namely, running experimental apps. The reason Google hosted this workshop is to proactively address the inevitable roadblocks that developers will run into when loading early versions of their Glass apps onto the Explorer Edition hardware, which runs a modified version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), said Hyunyon Song, a Google X software engineer working on building the forthcoming Glass SDK.

This is a way to show you how to play around and go nuts

In the session, Laligand said just because the Explorer Edition of Glass runs ICS, "this does not mean at the time of our consumer launch that this is the version of the operating system glass will be based on, so keep that in mind." P.Y. Laligand, another Google X software engineer who was onstage with Song in the session, showed off Glass running an unaltered version of stock Android ICS, and he connected the headset to a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. The duo did all this without actually rooting the headset and thus voiding the warranty. Instead, they simply went into the headgear's settings menu and turning on the included Android Debug Bridge. While navigating around stock Android on Glass, the Glass user interface showed up as an app called Glass Home, allowing Laligand to move between the two user interface options.

Once Song and Laligand got around to rooting Glass, the whole thing was straightforward. They downloaded Android Terminal Emulator and Complete Linux Installer from Google Play, unlocked Glasses' bootloader, rooted a second demo device, and then loaded a version of Ubuntu onto the hardware included in the Complete Linux Installer app. Song ended the session on a cautionary note. "I want to make some disclaimers here," she said. "This is not really the Glass team's recommended way of creating a Glass experience. This is more really a way to show you how to play around and go nuts in terms of gaining that root access."

There are recovery methods, and a default Glass image will be made available at a later date for those who want to return their Explorer Edition headset to its original state, Song said. "But there is a chance your device could get stuck and if that happens Google will not support it," she said, adding that the consumer version of Glass likely won't leave an Android Debug Bridge so easily accessible to users.