At a hackathon for Glass Explorers, Google revealed the full set of development tools for its nascent on-your-face platform. It also revealed five new apps, built with the new "GDK" (Glass Developer Kit), to showcase just what Glass can do when devs are allowed to pop open the hood and start tinkering.

The new Glass app lineup highlights five apps, all Glassware built with the new tools:

  • Spellista, an interactive word-puzzle game
  • GolfSight, which provides distance to the hole, course information and scoring information
  • Allthecooks for recipe finding and sharing
  • Strava, a cycling ride-tracker app
  • Word Lens

Word Lens is a perfect example of how the forthcoming GDK will empower developers—and it's just really cool, too. Point Glass at a chunk of text in a foreign language, a street sign, for example, and Glass translates the text and can actually drape the translation right over the object itself. Whoa.

This is exactly the kind of stuff we've been waiting for. And the other apps may lack that whoa factor, but they have plenty of utility on the golf course, in the kitchen or on your next bike ride.

Until now, the Mirror API—which mostly just let apps throw information onto the Glass display—was the sole development tool available for the wearable device. Plenty of early developers pushed the Mirror API to its limits, and new apps for Glass, known as "Glassware," continue to pop up.

Still, the Mirror API didn't offer developers the same access to Glass's nuts and bolts that Google built its own native Glass apps with. According to Glass developer advocate Timothy Jordan, the GDK was designed to feel familiar to existing Android developers.

Harness The Full Power Of Glass

The GDK will allow Glass developers to harness the full power of Glass. Most notably, apps built with the GDK have direct access to the hardware itself. That means new GDK-built apps can interact with the full array of sensors built into Glass, including the gyroscope, GPS, camera and perhaps even that mysterious wink detector. They'll also open the doors for a more immersive app experience that isn't as constrained to the Timeline Cards setup we're used to now.

The capabilities on display in the new GDK-powered apps are impressive, to say the least. While I've just downloaded them myself (and will be testing them over the next few days), they considerably expand Glass's existing functionality—and make a far better case for wearing Glass than throwaways like the CNN news reader.

With more than 10,000 Glass units in the wild, it's the perfect time to take the wraps off of the new GDK. Around 1,500 Glass units shipped to attendees who pre-ordered at Google I/O back in 2012 (myself, #961, among them). After that, the program opened to the next wave of Explorers via Google's #ifihadglass contest. After crowdsourcing invites to existing Glass Explorers, Glass is already in the hands of many eager developers invited in the last few weeks—in fact, Google is shipping the devices overnight. 

Developers can get their toes wet with a few new tools now, namely GDK-based utilities for the compass, stopwatch and timer, available as a sneak peek on GitHub now. A full GDK developer preview will be available in the coming months, with an official release to follow. Want to know more? Watch Jordan walk Glass Explorers through the GDK preview at the latest Glass hackathon.