Google Glass is very much an experimental piece of hardware and it turns out the software has been built with that ethos in mind, too. With root and a few carefully-crafted ADB commands, you can enable a ton of experimental features the Google has built into the Glass software.

Over on Github, Zhuowei Zhang has posted the whole list of Glass Labs features, and how to enable them. Zhuowei isn't a Glass explorer though, so it's been up to me to be the guinea pig and actually try this stuff.

Check these out:

CLIPLET("CLIPLET", 4, false),
DING_ON_LOAD("DING_ON_LOAD", 31, false),
GCAM("GCAM", 0, false),
HO_USE_SVC("HO_USE_SVC", 3, true),
VSTAB("VSTAB", 1, false),
WINK("WINK", 37, false);

All of these are properties that go in Glass's build.prop file, in the form of "persist.lab.[NAME]=true". If you happen to have a rooted Glass unit, you can find full instructions on Zhuowei's Github.

These experiments are probably still works in progress. Some of these settings barely work, some might work but I have no idea what they should do, and some work really, really well and should probably be turned on by default. If you'd like to see some of the cooler ones in action, here's a video:


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"Wink" is one we've heard of before, it enables winking to take a picture. Before you had to enable this with a third party app, but now a quick build.prop edit and you're up and running. Wink works perfectly. I've been using it pretty extensively and haven't had a false positive from blinking; it's a very deliberate motion.

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Wink works pretty much the way I laid out in the XE4 Teardown. In the settings you'll see a "Wink" card, where you can enable winking, or swipe over to help and see a bunch of tip cards.

Turning Wink on requires that you go through the calibration first. Glass displays a live action video of someone winking, which, in my teardown, I though was very odd. There is good reason for the video, though. You have to nail the timing for wink to work. It's a 1 second wink, not a 0.8 second wink, or a 1.2 second wink. It's 1 second. It's like a form of eyeball Guitar Hero.

Once you understand Wink is an exact timing thing, it works very, very well. You don't get false positives and Glass doesn't miss an intended picture-wink. Winking to take a picture even works when Glass is off - that's right, anytime Glass is on your face, just wink, and you've taken a photo.

'Ok Glass' Everywhere

"OK_GLASS_EVERYWHERE" does exactly what it says on the tin. Enable this, and you'll be able to say 'Ok Glass' on just about any screen. The default Glass setting is to only listen on the "Ok Glass" screen, which is crap. Enabling this makes Glass feel a lot more intelligent - it is always listening.

View Website

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"WEB_BROWSING" does not enable some kind of awesome Glass web browser, but it does enable the option to kick you out to a web browser, which is probably my #1 Glass feature request. Often I run into a situation on Glass when a search will bring up the Google result I want, but have no way to read them. This gives us an escape hatch.

With this enabled, a tap on a Google result will bring up the option to "View website, " and tapping on it will fire off the web browsing intent. Glass doesn't have a built-in web browser, so it's up to you to bring your own. Installing Chrome will sort of work; Chrome will open up, kick you out to the normal Android interface and start loading your web page, but the Glass UI jumps back on top after a second or two. It doesn't really matter, there would be no way to scroll with Glass, anyway.

The important part is that Google has given the Glass community a spot to plug into. We just need someone to make a Glass-controllable browser now. Please.

Touch Voice Menu

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"TOUCH_VOICE_MENU" will bring up an alternate menu layout when you tap on the "Ok Glass" screen. Normally you can scroll up and down the  vertical list with the touchpad, but this breaks every voice option down into an individual card. This alternate version is wildly inefficient: The normal vertical list will scroll from top to bottom with a single, long swipe; this version takes a whole swipe for each card. It's neat that we can enable it, but it blows compared to the default design - that's probably why it's not default.

Video Stabilization

"VSTAB" is supposed to enable video stabilization, but it's not anywhere near "done" yet. When you flip it on and record a video, it looks like Glass is struggling to do something, but it's failing miserably. The live video feed stutters and tears while recording, and while the finished video isn't as bad, it's still jumpy and freezes a lot. I'm not sure if it's actually stabilizing anything.

This is behind a flag for a reason; it's just not finished yet. It's great to hear Google is working on video stabilization, though. Glass videos all have a trademark "foot step shake" when someone is walking; eliminating that would be great.

There's also a "VSTAB_CALIBRATION," but that doesn't seem to do anything. I didn't spot any new settings to calibrate anything.

Other Settings

Those are just the most interesting ones, but I'll give a quick run down of the others:

"CLIPLET" makes "take a picture" take a 5 second video, and generally breaks the entire picture taking process. There is a huge amount of camera lag when you enable this, and the Glass screen turns completely black while you're recording. It's a big mess. Microsoft Research has a product called "Cliplet," which is a cinemagraph maker. So maybe this is a new, crazy, broken camera mode.

"COMPANION_API" sounds interesting; like they have a lot more planned for the MyGlass app, which is internally called "com.google.glass.companion." I haven't bothered trying this because it would undoubtedly require a special version of MyGlass, which I do not have.

"DEBUG_LAUNCHER" adds an option to launch an Android home screen app in Settings -> device info. It just crashes on my Glass unit though. I'm not sure if that's something I broke or if it's just not ready yet.

"GPS_DEBUG_CARD" adds a completely blank card to settings! Scary.

Either "LONG_TAP_TO_SEARCH" or "LONG_TAP_UI_SEARCH" should let you disable the Google Search long press, which is great, because it is annoying.

"NAV_USE_LOCAL_GPS" would presumably use Glass's GPS chip instead of your phone's (if it even has one) but it doesn't work. I tried.

"QUICK_QR_CODE" doesn't seem to do anything, but then the only thing I could think to try was to take a picture of a QR code. Nothing happened.

"THIRD_PARTY_VOICE" sounds like it would enable developers to plug into the voice menu, which is exactly what Glass needs. I didn't try this because you would need to write an accompanying native Glass app that adheres to a completely undocumented and possibly broken API.

There are also settings for switching the server your Glass unit connects to: "DEV_SERVERS," "KANNADI_DEV_SERVER," "PRODUCTION_SERVERS," "STAGING_SERVERS," and "TESTING_SERVERS." I haven't tried messing with these, because, well, if you've ever read the Glass Terms of Sale, the Glass Team sounds like they are vengeful gods, who would not look kindly on being poked with a stick. I don't want my $1500 gadget to be remotely obliterated.

(I'm sure this is just a case of temporary sanity on my part and I will probably not be able to resist trying them later. I'm not expecting much, though.)


Wasn't that fun? Hopefully this was an inadvertent peek at a few future Glass features.

If you actually have Glass and want to try this stuff out, be warned, my Glass boot up is now a little shaky and pops up a few crash messages while it's warming up. If you're doing to try anything, I can whole-heartedly recommend "ok_glass_everywhere." It really changes how I think of my device, and should be a default setting. If you play around with this and spot anything neat, let me know! Glass Labs is definitely the first thing I'll check for changes in the next update.

Source: Github, Thanks Zhuowei Zhang!

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com/ Silver Fang

    Glass seems very impractical to me.

    • jacob

      and that's why you don't lead tech innovations.

    • joser116

      As much as I'd hate to agree, I agree.

    • Simon Belmont

      So, don't buy it (when it's available to the general public). Problem solved.

      When using it becomes more tenable to you, then you can take the plunge (or not). Choice is king.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It is unless you find practical uses for it. Just like with anything else. I can already think of many. And so can Google, and the team that's working on future software updates.

      • Style Council

        Like wearable computers that were the "next big thing" backk in the 90's. Nothing screamed dork louder, so they died until the Palm Pilot made PDA's cool - in part by being incredibly good organisers.

        Smart phones took the concept further, and again can be slipped away & don't look geeky when in use. Bluetooth headsets are a great idea, but have limited appeal. Why? because they scream dork!

        Google glasses may have some appeal, and maybe some practical application (aside from stalking & filming others without their consent, but let's not go there) but the dork factor really needs to be taken into account before predicting mass appeal.

    • ScottColbert

      So how are things in ludditeville? People said the same thing about virtually every invention we now take for granted.

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    If "QUICK_QR_CODE" is what I suspect it is, it's potentially rather exciting. I had been thinking about how cool it would be if Google Glass automatically recognized QR codes, and other types of identifiers, without needing your input. Just walking around your world, when it sees and manages to focus on one, you're instantly greeted with information about it. I'd love to see that for barcodes, too, and just about anything Goggles can recognize. It would make QR codes a ton more useful than their current slow, deliberate fashion of how they work, and it would produce something very similar to a sixth sense in how the information in the world around you provides you with information the people standing next to you don't have.

    So it's possible that, much like the blink feature, this could allow glass to just notice QR codes when they're in its field of vision, without a command being needed.

    That said, I bet you the flag is relying on another feature that's not implemented yet: some sort of power-saving always-on camera state, where it merely flips on the camera for a single frame every two seconds or so (kind of like WiFi polling for hotspots) so it isn't draining the power as much as literally being always on, but polls frequently enough to catch things like this if you actively look at them for a moment. Could be very cool.

    • VandrĂ© Brunazo

      It can't be completely without any input from you, or that would mean Glass would be on 100% of the time recording camera input into ram. That would eat your battery too quickly. It's likely similar to the wink feature, that you at least need to tap your Glass to turn it on. But that alone would already be pretty nice to me.

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        Did you read my comment? I addressed that issue.

    • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

      I don't think they will do away with user input because of the "decide for me, but let me have the final say" design guideline. Because a QR Code entering Glass' field of vision is different from the person actually looking at it, as the person might as well just be looking away, thinking about life, and then something pops out like "Hey come try these tacos" -> which would also hurt "It's not my fault" and "sprinkle encouragement", and possibly others I can't remember right now. Not cool.

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        They wouldn't make it the standard state, and likely not the default. But an option? Absolutely. They've had many similarly disruptive features in many other products as options.

        • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

          Oh yeah, sure. What I meant to say is that this couldn't possibly be made default behaviour. But yeah, sure, as an option, why not? :D

  • fajitatt

    Can you report on how much of a negative impact "OK GLASS EVERYWHERE" has on the battery? Thanks so much for this great info!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.breszkovics Danny365

    I can't even wink with my right eye without making weird faces.

    • VandrĂ© Brunazo

      It only has a camera on your right eye. You could wink with both at the same time and Glass would still think it's a wink.

      But now that I think of the weird faces some people do when trying to wink with one eye. I kinda regret telling you ;) "So... do you have facial muscle paralysis or are you trying to take a picture?"

      • Guest

        Did you read my comment? I already addressed that issue.

  • cabbiebot

    Very cool stuff.

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    Does anyone know if Glass will be ever available to be used with your left eye? I ask this because I'm blind from right eye, but I would still like to test glass eventually.

  • FrillArtist

    Funny how people are so quick to swallow the privacy pill.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gmlevinmd GARY LEVIN

    Now I understand what Glass is capable of. This description was very good. Most comments and evalulations lose it with techno jargon. Now I have to have it...Must haves...web browser with scrolling......perhaps audio "scroll down" "scroll up" or a touch feature on the temple piece of the glass

  • shadowx360

    Smile, Ron, you're on Google news!!