I've always thought Google Glass was cool. Then again, I had a Casio Calculator watch when I was 8-years-old, experimented with LARPing at 12, and have been writing about technology for 20 years.
As it turns out, once I wore Google Glass out in the real world, I quickly discovered my idea of cool wasn't quite mainstream. The “glasshole” phenomenon is very real. For most people, Google Glass is strange at best, and at worst an existential threat to other motorists, homeland security, and the MPAA. Google is doing its best to change that, and it might just have a prescription for success.
Over in the US yesterday, VSP, America's largest provider of optical insurance, announced it would include Google Glass in its coverage plans. It won't pony up the full $1,500 (£900) Glass price tag, but it will help pay for custom prescriptions lenses that work with the device. This is a big step for wearable computing.
The original Glass came with some sporty non-prescription lenses, but they definitely made you stand out. The new frames come in four styles (Split, Think, Bold, and Curve) that will fit a lot more faces. The frames are detachable, so theoretically, a user could switch between styles depending on their mood, although the process does require a screwdriver. Google designed the frames in-house, but the company says it is looking to partner with outside firms in the future.
This move solves two problems for Google. Firstly, it makes it easier for current spectacle wearers to adopt Google Glass. These are folks already used to wearing something on their face; the computer is just a little extra weight. Secondly, it helps make wearable computers a little more invisible to the rest of us.
The fashion gap is one of the biggest threats to wearable computing. It is easy enough to get away with sporting a Fitbit – an ugly bracelet type device isn’t such a big deal. But add in a smartwatch and Google Glass and it is time to start taking the Borg jokes seriously. Just strapping on the massive Galaxy Gear makes you look – and feel – like an extra from the 1980 version of Flash Gordon. (Great – now that will be in my head all day).
There are signs the industry gets it. This VSP deal is a step forward. So are elegant designs like the Pebble Steel. The Steel isn't the smartest smartwatch on the market, but it is the most wearable. That’s why the Kickstarter-backed startup has sold more than 200,000 units of a smartwatch that outshines industry giants like Sony and Samsung.
Google Glass is still a product for a very specific minority, a minority that I suspect has a familiarity with LARPing that is well above the national average. But sometime soon, it may be something that normal people actually wear.
For more, check out our article on why Google Glass could be revolutionary, and also the video above.