Google gets patent to make Glass look like ordinary specs

New design, if used, could make wearable computers look less dorky

Google appears to be redesigning Glass to make the wearable computer look less nerdy and more like ordinary eyeglasses.

With the company's computerized eyeglasses, users can take photos and video, view maps and weather reports and read news stories with a tiny see-through display screen that sits above the user's right eye.

Google received a patent on Aug. 12 for a new design for Google Glass that would replace a separate display screen with an image shown in front of or inside the right lens frame. (Image: U.S. Patent Office)

That display screen, as helpful as it is, also draws attention to users wearing Glass. Some users have complained that Glass looks dorky, while some businesses, including a cafe and a casino, have banned people from wearing them in their establishments for fear that users might be surreptitiously recording others.

Now it appears that Google is working to give Glass wearers a look that would more easily blend in with regular eyeglass wearers.

The company last week received a U.S. design patent for a wearable display device that is part of the eyeglasses, but that doesn't stick out in front of them.

Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, wears the company's Glass during a product demonstration at the Google I/O 2012 conference in San Francisco. (Image: Stephen Lam / Reuters)

The new computer, which would be built into the frames of the glasses would give users an image, like a map or weather forecast, in front of or in the right lens.

However, it's unclear whether Google will use the new design.

"We hold patents on a variety of ideas," a Google spokesperson said in an email to Computerworld. "Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents."

While creating Glass without a separate display screen could make the wearable computers more marketable, it also could fire up a privacy storm with people concerned that they would no longer be able to distinguish computerized eyeglasses from regular glasses.

"Google Glass has other problems, like being pointless and annoying, but making you look like a total geek is part of the problem, so changing the look is good," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Being undetectable is a problem too, however. People are getting pretty upset about potentially being videoed without their knowledge& I imagine some will call for some kind of notification that a recording is being made, and a penalty for disabling it."

Read more about personal technology in Computerworld's Personal Technology Topic Center.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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