Google's science-fiction-like virtual reality glasses will start shipping next year with a price tag of $1,500 -- but most buyers won't be able to get their hands on a pair just yet.
The under-development glasses, a stealth project hatched in the company's mysterious Google X lab, are still buggy, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said Wednesday at Google's I/O developer conference. Google also faces regulatory hurdles that prevent the glasses from being shipped anywhere but the United Stat,es.
So for now, only U.S.-based attendees of this week's I/O developers conference will be eligible to buy the "Google Glass Explorer Edition." Those who want the glasses can pre-order today and will get the gadget early next year.
Expect some wild bidding for secondhand sales on eBay. Google made the glasses a focal point of I/O's opening day keynote.
A parachute team jumped out of a blimp wearing the glasses, then turned the spotlight over to a group of glasses-equipped BMX bikers who tore across the roof of San Francisco's Moscone Center. A rapeller finished the demo by scaling down the walls of the conference center.
The whole time, a livestream broadcast their point-of-view to attendees in the conference hall and on a Google+ hangout.
"This is pretty wild," Google cofounder Sergey Brin, wearing his own pair of Google glasses, told the standing-room-only crowd. "I've never seen that perspective before."
He later added: "I'm so glad all that worked. I wasn't really expecting it to."
The small "Project Glass" team explained how the project evolved over the past three years from a bunch of wires and computers connected to giant ski goggles to a slimmed-down form factor that weighs less than most sunglasses.
The glasses contain a powerful processor, multiple microphones, a small speaker, a camera, a number of wireless radios and a number of sensors, including gyroscopes that make the glasses "aware" of their location in the broader physical world.
But Brin and his team didn't show the crowd much of what the glasses are supposedly capable of. Though the first-person perspective was unique, even Brin admitted that it was "only part of what a computer can do."
If the glasses aren't ready to be sold, why go through such a spectacle to demonstrate them?
Brin said the crowd of developers gathered at I/O is among "the smartest and most creative in world," and the Project Glass team wants their input.
"You can help us think about new possibilities," Brin said. "We're a pretty small team, so there's only so much time to try various kinds of functionalities."
Google also unveiled on Wednesday its new Nexus 7 tablet, a device that aims more at Amazon's Kindle Fire than Apple's iPad. Designed by Google but built by Taiwan's Asus, the seven-inch tablet will sell for just $199. It is available now for pre-order in the Google Play market and will begin shipping in mid-July.