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Google Partners With Makers Of Ray-Bans To Make Glass Socially Acceptable

Tired of a seemingly endless fount of “Glasshole” jokes, Google just took a major stride in making its Google Glass face-mounted devices cool—or if not actually cool, vaguely wearable.

In a post on its Google+ page, the Glass team announced a major new partnership with the Luxottica Group, an Italian company that quietly owns more than 80% of the world’s eyewear brands. That massive portfolio includes not only iconic eyewear makers like Ray-Ban and Oakley but also the eyewear divisions of Prada, Persol, DKNY, Versace, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and, well, the list goes on.

According to Google, it’s aiming to introduce more options for Explorers, its name for the people who paid $1,500 and up to test out Glass:

[Luxottica will] bring design and manufacturing expertise to the mix, and, together, we’ll bring even more Glass style choices to our Explorers. In addition, Luxottica’s retail and wholesale distribution channels will serve us well when we make Glass available to more people down the road.

News of the new design partnership comes after Google tried its own hand at eyewear design this January, launching four respectably chic frames custom-made for Glass. As a Glass owner, I found the frames tempting and handsomely crafted, but at $225, pretty much impossible to justify.

Unfortunately, it might be a while before the Luxottica deal bears fruit: Google says we won’t be seeing Glass-friendly Ray-Bans “tomorrow.” Okay, then when? In a world where the smartwatch seems to be the wearable of the times (pun fully serendipitous, I swear), Glass is potentially too far ahead of itself. Even Google admits that it might be playing the really long game:

When the first eyeglasses appeared in the 13th century, they took off and over the next 700 years, they evolved over and over, with the first bifocals appearing in the 18th century, and the monocle and sunglasses shortly after. Nowadays, glasses are global phenomenon—a reflection of both function and fashion. We see Glass as the next chapter in this long story.

Ultimately, creating luxury glasses fitted to Google Glass isn’t all about looks. Nor is it just about keeping vocal, eyeglass-wearing Glass Explorers happy. If Glass has any potential for traction with mainstream consumers in the long term, it needs to take on a less socially conspicuous form—like the assistive devices we already wear on our face.

As an early proponent of the device, I’d love anything that makes Glass look less like Glass—and makes me more comfortable wearing it in public. After all, many of us Glassholes are just like you (just subtract $1,500). Yes, we’ve proven ourselves dangerously susceptible to the siren song of the near future. But gadget enthusiasm aside, some of us just want to blend in. 

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