Google Glass always looked impossibly dorky, no matter how many Vogue fashion shoots and leading fashion designers Google threw at it. That’s part of the reason why the search giant discontinued Glass for consumers in January earlier this year.
What if Google Glass had been released with a different design, though? Would it have been more successful? A new patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office demonstrates a Google Glass design that could have been–and may still be?–one that is more flexible and (slightly) less intrusive. It probably wouldn’t have solved Glass’s fashion problem. But perhaps the next iteration of Glass won’t need to.
The patent in question was originally filed in September 2012, seven months before Glass’s limited launch in April 2013. Instead of the spectacles-like approach of previous models, the patent shows a variation on Glass that resembles something between a flexible head lamp and a Bluetooth earpiece. The device rests around one ear, then snakes its display in front of your eye, without any glass frames to hold it in place. The patent claims the band would be adjustable.
The design is still pretty goofy, at least in pictures. It jettisons the aspect of the design that no one was really complaining about — the glasses — while keeping the weird crystal puck hovering in front of the eye, which is the aspect of the original design that did unnerve people. So it seems unlikely this would solve the problems Google had with the way Glass was perceived outside of the tech gargoyle circuit.
But broad appeal may not be what Google’s after. In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google had been quietly distributing a new version of Glass “aimed at businesses in industries such as health care, manufacturing and energy.” The hardware resembled a wireframe-free “curved rectangle” that can attach to existing glasses, and was tested by surgeons to “get advice from colleagues remotely or to instruct medical students” and field workers “fixing expensive machinery with help from co-workers back at headquarters.” There’s no way to know if the patent shown here reflects an actual, forthcoming design. (Google has not responded to a request for comment.) But one thing seems certain: Google is owning its dorky DNA.