MICHAEL LIEDTKE

San Francisco

Google helped to create a world brimming with digital distractions for people spending more of their lives tethered to the internet. It’s a phenomenon that seems unlikely to change, so Google is working on a way to search for information, read SMSes, watch online video and post photos on social networks without having to fumble around with a hand-held device.

The breakthrough is a wearable computer – internet-connected glasses that Google began secretly building more than two years ago. The technology progressed far enough for Google to announce “Project Glass” in April. Now the futuristic experiment is moving closer to becoming a mass-market product.

Google said this week that it’s selling a prototype of the glasses to US computer programmers attending a three-day conference that ends today. Developers willing to pay $1 500 for a pair of the glasses will receive them early next year.

The company is counting on the programmers to suggest improvements and build applications that will make the glasses even more useful.

“This is new technology and we really want you to shape it,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin told about 6 000 attendees.

“We want to get it out into the hands of passionate people as soon as possible.”

If all goes well, a less expensive version of the glasses is expected to go on sale in early 2014. Without estimating a price for the consumer version, Brin made it clear that the glasses will cost more than smartphones.

“We do view this is as a premium sort of thing,” Brin told reporters. He acknowledged that Google needs to fix bugs in the glasses and work out how to make the battery last longer so that people can wear them all day.

Those challenges didn’t deter Brin from providing conference attendees on Wednesday with a tantalising peek at how the glasses might change the way people interact with technology.

Google hired skydivers to jump out of a blimp hovering 2 130m above San Francisco. They wore the internet-connected glasses, equipped with a camera, to show how the product could unleash new ways for people to share their most thrilling – or boring – moments. As the skydivers parachuted on to the roof of the building where the conference was held, the crowd inside was able to watch the descent through the skydivers’ eyes as it happened.

The Google X lab has also developed a fleet of driverless cars that cruise roads. They also dream of building lifts to transport people into space.

While wearing Google’s glasses, directions to a destination or an SMS from a friend can appear before your eyes. You can converse with friends in a video chat, take a photo without taking out a camera or phone or even buy a few things online as you walk around. – Sapa-AP