Will more attractive frames solve Google’s Glass perception problem?

new google glass titanium framesThey do look better, less sci-fi, more natural.

I think heads up displays are our wearable tech future. After using several fantastic smartwatches, nothing seems to solve the problem of eye-level information like Google Glass. Of course it brings a completely different kind of stigma in that you’re wearing a computer on your face, which really seems to weird people out. A common criticism of Glass is that it looks too geeky, and now it seems Google is taking steps to curb that complaint.

Following their partnership with eye wear designer Warby Parker, Google is piggy-backing on the designer’s Titanium Collection of frames with four new looks for Glass that Google is calling “The Titanium Collection”. Not very original, but Google isn’t known for fashion, so maybe it’s better they leave that job to the pros.

This also marks the beginning of Glass supporting prescription lenses. From the FAQ: “Google is in partnership with VSP Vision Care for VSP members and VSP eye care providers to receive reimbursement on Glass frames up to the frame allowance provided within their current vision benefit. The prescription lenses are also covered under the patients’ lens benefit offering through their VSP coverage.”

See the new frames in this Google promo vid:

This does not change the process by which you go about getting Glass, it’s still a very public BETA, and the Explorer program is still the gateway through which people acquire their own face computer. This is simply another iteration in the design of the heads up display, hopefully making them a bit more socially acceptable for people who are concerned about the design of the original Explorer Edition Glass. Google is pushing into very new territory, and that can make consumers squirrely. Restaurant owners asking Explorers to leave, law enforcement issuing citations for operating motor vehicles with screens visible to the driver, there’s a stigma to this product Google’s going to need to overcome. You know you’re in trouble when The Simpsons dedicates an entire episode to showcasing how socially awkward heads up displays are.

The Explorer program isn’t getting the job done. For as many people who are fantastic ambassadors for this technology, there are just as many Glassholes who taint the product in the minds of people who might be apprehensive about its capabilities and their privacy. Google is still publicly stating “the end of 2014” for the consumer launch of Glass, but they’ve got some significant PR hurdles to clear before then. These new frames at least area  step in the right direction.

RELATED: Chris Emerson Interview – Two Months as a Glass Explorer

Full Google FAQ below:

Q. Why are you announcing these Glass frames?

A. This marks the next phase in the evolution of Glass as we move towards a wider consumer launch later in 2014. We started with five colors and an overall design that could fit a wide range of Explorers, their lifestyles and interests. Today, we’re expanding our offering to a new group of Explorers, those who wear prescription glasses and enjoy sunglasses. The four new Glass frames and three shades will give even more people the opportunity to make Glass their own.

Q. How do I get Glass frames to fit my prescription?

A. Nothing has changed how an Explorer gets Glass: either go to the Glass website at www.google.com/glass and click “How to get one” to join our interest list or be invited by a current Explorer to join the program. Second, if you’ve ever needed prescription frames then the process for getting Glass frames will seem very familiar and we’ve laid it out in more detail below.

A Glass Explorer can select & purchase Glass frames that can accommodate prescription lenses in the accessories section of the Glass website. We have partnered with VSP (Vision Service Plan) to train Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) across the US on Glass and the prescription frames. Explorers can see the list of our Preferred ECPs during the ordering process (Explorers can however take your Glass frames to another ECP, not on this list, but the ones on the list have been trained on how to measure for, fit and use Glass). Once an Explorer receives Glass either at a Basecamp or in the mail, he/she then take the device to an ECP who can cut and fit the prescription lenses for Glass.

If an Explorer has an eyeglass lens prescription issued in the last 12 months, they can take their new Glass frames, Glass itself, and their lens prescription to one of our preferred ECPs to have the frame outfitted with prescription lenses. Your Glass unit does not need to be left with the ECP, while the frame does. The ECP then contacts the Explorer when the new frames are ready and the Explorer returns to the ECP for a final fitting. The Explorer needs to bring along the Glass device as the frames cannot be fitted without it.

If you do not have a recent lens prescription (issued within the previous 12 months), you will need to have your eyes examined on your first visit.

Q. How many different styles are there?

A. There are currently four styles of Glass frames. You can see them atgoogle.com/glass in the four styles (curve, thin, split and bold). We looked at the industry and all the styles that people love. Naturally we can’t make hundreds of styles in this first collection, so we chose the four iconic styles that would resonate most with a wide range of people.

Q. And how many shades are now available?

A. There are three styles of shades: classic and edge are new, along with active which came with the existing Explorer edition of Glass.

Q. Did the Google Glass team design these styles?

A. Yes.

Q. How much will the frames cost? And the shades?

A. $225 for the frames, however, Explorers should check their health benefits to see if they’re reimbursable. The shades are $150 each.

Q. How many Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) will be in this trained group?

A. Our partner, VSP, will be continuously training and bringing ECPs onboard to help fit Explorers in major cities. While we don’t go into specific numbers, we’ve had trainings already in NY, SF, and LA and we’ll continue to expand on that in the months ahead.

Q. Will the Glass frames be covered by an Explorer’s insurance?

Google is in partnership with VSP Vision Care for VSP members and VSP eye care providers to receive reimbursement on Glass frames up to the frame allowance provided within their current vision benefit. The prescription lenses are also covered under the patients’ lens benefit offering through their VSP coverage.

Q. When will Glass be available to the wider public?

A. Starting last fall, we’ve been slowly expanding the Explorer program and we’ll continue to do that until our consumer launch towards the end of 2014.