Glass hack runs native Android code on wearable

Efforts to hack Google's Glass have already seen unofficial Android apps running on the wearable, as Explorer Edition early-adopters get to work tweaking and modifying the headset. Google recently released the kernel source for Glass, but Mike DiGiovanni already has regular Android software up and running, as per this blurry screenshot through the compact lens block.

Google had always been clear that Glass was Android-based, but it was uncertain how much the OS had been modified in order to rework it for wearables duty. In fact, DiGiovanni discovered, "pretty much nothing has been stripped out" and the Glass functionality is simply slapped on top of the core platform.

That opens the door for modifications outside of what Google expects through its official Mirror API, the cloud-based system that funnels apps and services through to Glass as a display of sorts. Regular APKs can be loaded on the Android wearable itself, but if services want to take advantage of the inherent advantages of Glass that Google has on offer, they have to operate within the company's relatively strict guidelines.

When a native Android app is side-loaded, meanwhile, the regular Android theme shows itself, complete with the usual drop-down notification bar. The touchpad on the side of the headset works for navigation, going left and right through the interface with side-swipes, and back with a downward swipe, just as per Glass' own UI cards.

What remains to be seen is how the battery of the headset holds up when running native code. One of Google's aims by treating Glass' display as a window on the cloud is apparently to minimize just how much processing the device needs to do: that prolongs battery life. As we've already seen from other early reports, heavier use of the local hardware – such as when recording video clips – quickly takes its toll on runtime.

Still, the Explorer Edition is intended to be just that: an early iteration of the gadget for developers to pick apart, and Google undoubtedly expected just this sort of tinkering to take place. That should mean a far better product for the consumer market by the time the mainstream Glass edition arrives, tentatively predicted to drop in 2014.