Google Glass Hacked To Display Grand Theft Auto GPS

Back to video-games, this time with the Google Glass. Considering that lately the Glass has been tested for all sort of activities, we decided to give a chance to the Glass to prove its value in this area as well. Regarding this matter, Mike DiGiovanni the well known Android developer has succeeded to beam in real time the GPS interface of the Grand Theft Auto, to the user’s Glass, thus turning it into a secondary screen.

If you are one of those players who have played the GTA 5 till exhaustion since its release, then this arrangement might not work for you. Mike explains that in order to build this system he had to improvise a lot. First of all, in order to establish a connection, the game has to run on a computer. Considering that Grand Theft Auto V is out of the question, Mike tried to use the GTA 4, but this didn’t work either. Given these failed attempts, Mike succeeded in the end to boot on its system the GTA 3, released in 2001.

If you are wondering how everything works, then here it is. Mike found a way to create a device-to-device communication system, using a PC application able to capture the screen area where the on-screen GPS of the GTA is displayed and then send it to the Glass using the available Wi-Fi network, where another app from the Glass is taking the visuals sent by the GPS and displays them on the Glass’s small screen. Mike also mentioned that the latter app is created on the plain and simple Android SDK , because even though Google promised at some point to create for developers the possibility to establish a device-to-device connection, from their PCs to the Glass units, this didn’t happen. We are still waiting for Google to release the official Glass SDK platform, as well.

Even though Mike’s system is pretty invasive for the Glass, it has proved our point and in conclusion, you can use the Glass as a secondary screen. Not to mention that it also brought up a couple more questions and new ideas. What would it be like to simply say “Glass, set new waypoint” instead of going through system pause every time you need to do some settings? How would it feel to watch signature video chats in the same time you play a game? And, as a game addict, would you buy this device just to have a different game experience? Even if you wouldn’t, we bet you still believe this is quite interesting.

About the technical details, Mike says that you can watch the game at nearly ten frames/sec and the delay is minimum. He mentions that the system is working good enough to let you drive around while you are only looking at the Glass. Mike jokes about it and says that there could be some virtual pedestrian victims, but the car can be driven smoothly on the street.

But don’t get your hopes up, because the necessary app is not available yet and Mike still has some work to do with it. The developer plans to release the full version as soon as possible. Another inconvenient is that the battery of the Glass is drained in one hour tops because it has to support both the heavy app and the Wi-Fi pairing. On the other hand, Mike is decided to wait until Google launches the official Glass SDK and finish the app when this will be done. If you don’t know who Mike is, then you should know that he created the winky app for the Glass, which allows you to take a photo by simply winking your right eye. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to check some more of his work, visit his personal website .

During an interview for TechCrunch, Mike DiGiovanni made a few relevant observations related to the Glass project and its development stages, and talked more about his personal projects with the device. Read further for a summary of the interview.

The setup

Mike explained that he built the system because for the moment there is no official way to create a real time connection between the Glass and another computer. And while some older versions of the Glass and even the application My Glass made this possibility real, the current Glass version doesn’t have them anymore.

The system he built is pretty similar to the GPS navigation features of the Glass in a regular automobile. So, the setup establishes a communication channel between the computer software and the Glass app. When the setup is complete, you can play GTA and watch the GPS route on your Glass display.

Realtime updates

The system goes up to ten frames/second and as we mentioned above, you can play the game almost in real time on Google Glass. For the moment, this is the maximum the system can do, and it would be pretty hard for it to perform a videogame at the same level it renders a regular video.

Technology used in the system

Mike developed the app on Android’s old platform SDK. If rumors are true, we should be seeing the lights of the GDK for Glass this month. Working with the standard Android SDK can be pretty tricky, but Mike has moved on from that stage considering how much he worked by now with this platform. Apparently, there is a lot of unexplored potential on the SDK platform, a topic which Mike approached at the event Screens 2013, in Toronto. During the same event, he gave a few examples of developments for the Glass that could be made on Android’s old platform.

Data transfer to/from the Glass?

Mike says that the tech part of the system is pretty simple. A basic software is extracting the part of the screen which shows navigation information and sends it via network connection to the Glass’s display.

However, the network could get congested and the images received on the Glass don’t look very good either.

But Mike is decided to build an entire software for this feature of the Glass, if the project will turn out to be realistic. The main idea would be to transform the map data into a non-bitmap data in order to obtain a better image on the Glass, and in order to personalize the game map. The solution Mike used is pretty much the basic hack you could do for any videogame. This way, the data transmission between the Glass and any other PC would be improved, as well as the game rendering on the Glass.

No matter how you look at the issue, it is clear that if allowed, the Glass will be able to do a lot of things for us. The example provided by Mike is just the beginning of wearables in the second screening technology. This area hasn’t been explored well and we’re sure there are a lot of new things and features to discover along the way.

Huge battery consumption. Could this be a problem?

Actually, this could mean problems, because the Glass cannot support this activity for more than an hour.

The thing that drains most of Glass’s battery life is powering the screen. When Mike’s software is working on the Glass, it keeps the display on continuously so the energy is drained in minutes. And turning off the display is not actually a solution, because every time the display is turned off, the SDK platform on which the software is built exits all applications, meaning you would have to re-open everything from time to time.

Mike believes that we will have our solution as soon as Google launches the Glass platform, GDK. The hacks Mike is temporarily proposing until an official solution cannot be used safely. So, for the moment, we should wait for Google to make a move.

Building the system

Mike spent a couple of hours doing the hardware setup, and another couple of hours for the software. Again, the setup he constructed is merely scratching the surface of the concept, and he is using his mobile phone as a router between the Glass and his computer. If this fragile concept would be continued and grown, then all these tiny issues would be fixed in no time.

Bottom line is, Mike will continue to work on this project as soon as the new GDK platform is out, so that it would be clear what improvements and developments he should bring to the table. Until then, we wish Mike all the best and hope to hear soon about the new gaming experience on the Glass.