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Once a club for favored developers, Google’s Glass Explorer Program will open its doors to the general public on Tuesday, April 15, starting at 6 a.m. PDT.
Adults in the US are eligible to join, at a cost of $1,500 plus tax — apropos given that April 15th is the deadline to file tax returns in the US. That sum will buy the latest version of Google Glass, the company’s somewhat coveted and surprisingly controversial computerized eyewear. This is not the general consumer release, which presumably is still planned for later this year.
“Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better,” Google said via a Google+ post. “But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we’re trying something new.”
Previously Google allowed developers at Google I/O to join its program and asked others seeking Glass to demonstrate their worthiness by tweeting some high-minded or laudable planned use for the device in conjunction with the #ifihadglass hashtag.
Now the barrier to entry will be lowered, but only temporarily: Google says the number of spots in its program is limited.
So too is interest in using Glass. A Forrester report last year said that only 12% of US online consumers would be interested in computerized eyeglasses like Glass. As a point of comparison, 28% said they’d be interested in wearing a computerized watch.
Google recently unveiled a version of Android suited for just such a watch. Its Android hardware partners are expected to release Android Wear watches later this year. Apple is also said to be working on a computerized watch.
Rather than trying to convincing consumers to embrace something few appear to want, Google has started promoting Glass as a tool for enterprise use. The company has launched an initiative called Glass At Work to woo developers working on projects that could bring Glass to the workplace.
Though Glass is still being offered only to individuals in the US, researchers in the UK obtained several Glass headsets and used them to test how Glass could be useful to Parkinson’s patients. Other pilot programs at medical institutions, such as the one at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, suggest that Glass has a future in healthcare and other industries where professionals could benefit from technology that doesn’t tax the hands.
To win over the general public, Google needs to find a way to convince people that its $1,500 eyewear isn’t a symbol of elitist excess, of disregard for privacy, or of social cluelessness.
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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful … View Full Bio