NeatoCode Techniques
Secret Sensors in Google Glass

Google’s new wearable heads up display, Google Glass, is shipping to testers now. The official specs and API don’t mention sensors, however. It turns out, if you turn on debug mode and get native Android apps running on it, then there’s a full set equivalent to a standard Android phone, however! 

It’s disappointing that the official API provides no way for someone to write an app that uses these features - there’s no public way to write augmented reality apps for the platform without this - but it is exciting thinking what hackers and Google themselves will do with it. The official API only supports getting locations via web requests and location notifications every 10 minutes:

When your Glassware receives a location update, send a request to the glass.locations.get endpoint to retrieve the latest known location. Your Glassware receives location updates every ten minutes.

However, an Android app pushed to device using debug mode and listing sensors reports this:

  • MPL Gyroscope
  • MPL Accelerometer
  • MPL Magnetic Field
  • MPL Orientation
  • MPL Rotation Vector
  • MPL Linear Acceleration
  • MPL Gravity
  • LTR-506ALS Light sensor
  • Rotation Vector Sensor
  • Gravity Sensor
  • Linear Acceleration Sensor
  • Orientation Sensor
  • Corrected Gyroscope Sensor

And location providers:

  • network
  • passive
  • gps

The really exciting thing is that having these sensors allow augmented reality apps to be written. Here is a video of a Glass app showing the orientation sensor changing as the user looks left and right, combined with the location from the GPS location provider:

The combination of orientation, where the user is looking, and location, allows augmented reality features of Android apps like the Yelp monocle to work. Look around you and have the Glass show info on cool restaurants just as you look toward them, look at an outlet in a Starbucks and tag it on a map for others to find and take a picture at the same time, look left and right and see the subway stations you are looking for displayed in the heads up even if buildings are the way, etc..

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