Google's futuristic, Internet-connected glasses -- known, and fantasized about, as Project Glass -- are now real enough, said company co-founder Sergey Brin today, that prototypes will be sold to developers for $1,500.
"This is new technology and we really want you to shape it," Brin said at the Google I/O conference for computer programmers in San Francisco. "We want to get it out into the hands of passionate people as soon as possible." They are not ready for sale to the public.
The glasses -- really a tiny camera, display screen and processor that fit over the upper corner of a pair of glasses -- are meant to display information literally before a user's eyes. The camera would allow people to transmit video or still images of what they're seeing to others wirelessly, allowing them to see your world as you live it.
Google said it had been quietly working on Project Glass for two years. But until now, the outside world had only seen fanciful versions of what the glasses might be able to do. Today, Google said, they're far enough along that programmers are invited to try them out -- and come up with all sorts of ideas for how they might be used.
"Obviously capturing images and video is only one of the things a wearable computer can do," said Brin.
To make the point, Google had parachutists jump out of a blimp over San Francisco, wearing the glasses. The 6,000 programmers and reporters at the meeting saw a live video feed from the skydivers' glasses as they descended, landing on top of the Moscone Center where the I/O conference was taking place.
The applause when the skydivers walked into the convention center was thunderous.
Google this spring had shown a fanciful video of Project Glass, suggesting what might be possible. Look up at the sky, and a weather forecast will appear on the little screen over your eyebrow. Head down the stairs into the subway, and the glasses will show you whether trains are on time. Walk down the street and get turn-by-turn directions. See something you'd like to share with friends, and the images your glasses shoot will go to their Google+ social-media accounts.
Brin said that's just the beginning. Programmers can place orders at this week's meeting, he said, and get a pair early next year. The company is counting on them to come up with new uses for a wearable computer before the glasses are sold generally.
"You have to want to be on the bleeding edge," Brin said.