With Rx lenses and more frames, Google leaps toward Glass launch

Google Glass frames starting to get limited insurance coverage, as well

With the official release of Google Glass expected later this year, the company is taking big steps to make its computerized eyeglasses ready for launch.

Google announced in a blog post that Glass is now compatible with prescription lenses that can be used with four different titanium frames. The company also noted that vision insurance policies, with companies like VSP Global, may help cover the cost of the new frames.

"If we had a nickel for every time someone has asked about prescription lenses for Glass...well, we'd have a lot of nickels," wrote Google's Glass team in the post. "Whether you wear prescription glasses or just want a new look, we've got four feather-light titanium frames designed just for you."

Early adopters of Glass can check out the new frames, which are known as the Titanium Collection, starting today. Google also is offering two styles of twist-on shades to go with the frames.

"This marks the next phase in the evolution of Glass as we move towards a wider consumer launch later in 2014," Google said on its Glass FAQ page.

After originally saying that Glass was set to launch last year, the company changed its tune and said the launch would be in 2014. Google hasn't specified exactly when.

"Those things are absolutely necessary if Glass is ever going to be a mainstream product," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Current Analysis. "First, many of us need prescription lenses, so to be mainstream, you can't ignore a large segment of the market. Second, many people don't want to proclaim themselves -- first thing you see -- to be both geeks and total Google supporters."

And he added that giving users a choice in frames is helpful but Glass wears still "look like they've been assimilated by the Borg." Google, therefore, still needs to do some work on the glasses' overall look.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said that by adding frame choices, the option for prescription lenses, and insurance coverage are all big steps toward getting Glass ready for an official launch. "I think the insurance plans are critical to the success because then they can be thought of as regular glasses," said Kerravala.

Gottheil, however, said he doesn't think Glass is ready yet.

"They're still inching closer, but not a big jump," he explained. "They're too expensive. There's no killer app.They still look odd and the ick factor is still present."

What would that killer app be? That's the big question, according to Gottheil.

The wearable computers are designed with a translucent screen that sits slightly above the user's right eye. The screen can display information like the weather forecast, Gmail messages, directions, news alerts and search results. The user also can send emails or text, and also can post comments, photos and video to social networks.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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