Google's plan to sell its Glass headset in an extended public beta test was a rather unusual move. It's not often you see consumer hardware get tested in public, particularly something like Glass that has raised a number of privacy concerns since it became available. However, Google says that the benefit of its extended public test period is that it can keep improving the device based on user feedback in advance of its eventual consumer launch — as such, the company is announcing a slightly modified version of Glass, both on the software and hardware front.
The biggest change in terms of pure hardware is that Google has decided to double the RAM in Glass — headsets will now come with 2GB onboard. Through a combination of a slightly bigger battery and software enhancements, Google says that Glass will now last 15 percent longer between charges, as well. The extra RAM "will allow for more Glassware [apps] to run in parallel and for each Glassware to start more quickly," says Steve Lee, a Glass product manager. "You'll notice the device generally feels a bit faster and more reliable."
The name of the game for Glass is continued small improvements
As for the battery life, Lee notes that devices with extra battery capacity starting shipping back in March, but that most of the increased usage time has come as a result of Glass's multiple software updates and refinements, particularly the one that's rolling out today. "There's some things we can do with hardware, but the more consistent improvements simply come with the OTA updates we do regularly," says Lee.
In addition to the battery enhancements, the new software will add a voice-activated viewfinder that'll help users frame photos better — a feature that Google says Glass users have been asking for. It'll also include the recently-added Google Now cards for remembering your parking spot as well as tracking packages.
While none of these updates will materially change the Glass experience, it's all an example of why Google is going through with its public beta — the company says all of these changes came as a result of user feedback, and it wants to continue to with its vision of a product that is continually getting better through small refinements. The new software is going out to all Glass users now, and anyone who buys the hardware going forward will receive the model with 2GB of RAM, including those who can now order Glass in the UK.
Unfortunately, Google won't be swapping out old Glass headsets for the updated ones this time, as it did in the fall when it added the ability to work with prescription lenses. And with Google I/O 2014 ready to kick off, it looks like this latest update means the company won't be dropping any details about a final, consumer-ready version just yet.