Google launches Google Glass contest, patent offers sneak peek into possible hardware features

Google has announced a competition that will allow 8,000 non-developers to get their hands on a prototype of the company's much-anticipated Google Glass glasses.

The competition, open to US residents only, asks prospective participants to explain how they plan to use the smart glasses in 50 words or fewer. Selected 'Glass Explorers' will have to pay $1,500 (£985) for the privilege of early access to the product.

"We're looking for bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass," Google said.

"We're still in the early stages and, while we can't promise everything will be perfect, we can promise it will be exciting," the company added.

Google Glass allows the wearer to connect to the web, take pictures, record videos and perform a range of other functions. A YouTube video (below) released yesterday shows off some of the key aspects of the device, including the user interface and some initial features, such as voice commands, video chats and the ability to share content through social networks.

Meanwhile, a detailed Google Glass diagram obtained from a patent application submitted by the Mountain View, California-based firm in August 2011 has revealed more about possible features of the device's hardware. The application describes an "electronic device [with input and output structures] including a frame configured to be worn on the head of a user."

Among other things, the patent points to a "heads-up display" through which the user can interact with the interface, an "augmented reality," an on-board computing system, a video camera, a sensor and a finger-operable touchpad.