You might say the first technology people wore on their face was eyeglasses. That likely started more than 700 years ago.
About nine months after Google first started shipping its wearable computer Google Glass, it is melding the old technology with the new by offering eyeglass frames as a $225 upgrade to the $1,500 device (which is still not yet widely available).
Google’s frames have a techie chic aesthetic and are made of titanium, with four different styles of varying thickness and shape, and eight different colors.
They should work for most prescriptions — except perhaps for people who need especially thick lens — and can be fulfilled through VSP and partially reimbursed through insurance.
Adding support for people who need corrective vision was the plan all along and the most common Glass feature request, according to product director Steve Lee.
Though Glass owners are a small market — there are about 30,000 of them — outside providers had unofficially made prescription lenses before Google was able to get its own version out the door.
The Google frames, which are screwed into a standard Glass unit, have the added effect of making the device a bit more incognito. Sure, it still sticks out a bit, but it blends into the familiar curves of the technology we’re used to seeing on people’s faces.
If Glass owners have the device integrated into their eyeglasses, they might also be more likely to wear them all day long.
“It changes the psychology of Glass,” Lee said. “I get a lot less attention in public.”
Google is also now offering three options for sunglass shades that can be twisted onto Glass (it already had one).
But there are two limitations of the new frames that seem like more than a small annoyance. First, it might be more than a little inconvenient to have to charge your eyeglasses when they run out of batteries.
Lee’s response: Glass lasts much longer than it used to — a full day if you don’t use too much video.
And second, the sunglasses can’t be layered on top of the eyeglass frames. If you attach frames to your Glass, you’d have to use a screwdriver to take them off, so it will be hard to switch between sunglasses and regular glasses.
Lee’s response: If that’s important to them, people can get prescription lenses that adapt to daylight.
Google isn’t the only company making a device with a face-mounted display. Samsung is reportedly planning to launch a competitor as soon as this fall, according to a report this week in the Korea Times.