The potential of Google Glass has always been incredible, but no one I know has ever taken the design seriously, wearing it only in a giggly self-consciousness of early adoption like a character out of a Star Trek parody. Today, Google has announced that Glass’s lead designer, Isabelle Olsson, is taking the design mainstream–revealing more typical contemporary titanium frames called Bold, Curve, Thin, and Split.
Not only does this update open the door to people with prescriptions and those who love their sunglasses; it makes Glass 1,000 times more wearable to everyone outside of the Valley. But it would be 1,000,000 times more wearable if the Guccis and Pradas of the world got involved.
Contrary to rumors, Warby Parker was not part of the initiative, and the designs were apparently completed in-house. I’d urge you not to view these four homegrown frames as the only future for Glass. The carefully engineered Glass guts were always designed to be modular. This means that, in theory, any designer in the world could make frames for the platform. And herein lies Google’s greatest advantage.
Google has an open device philosophy (see: Android smartphones). That means Google could loop in every major fashion designer to make a bespoke Glass-compatible product. Contrast that to Apple, which is surely developing an iWatch–probably a barely customizable, cookie-cut iPhone that fits on your wrist. Outsourcing to other designers would allow Google to ride the viral waves of avant-garde fashions (something I believe the team was going for with the bold Glass version one), while risking someone else’s reputation each time a too-funky version of Glass was released.
In other words, with the Guccis of the world involved, Google could be at the cutting edge of fashion, offset criticism to another company, and, if anything goes wrong, Google would always have a dozen other partners releasing new lines for Fall 2015.
Because while the most cherished industrial designs of our age have been produced by a relatively small team hiding deep inside Cupertino, wearables will challenge the tech industry to be more than a pair of white earbuds, to weave themselves even deeper into our clothes and our culture. Could you imagine just one label selling khakis at Macy’s? Of course not. Hire a few geniuses, and tech is easy. But fashion is a means of personal expression and identity, making it an infinitely ebbing task that no one company will ever be able to develop alone.