Google Expands Glass Program, This Time to More Developers

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-12-01

Google Expands Glass Program, This Time to More Developers

Google is again expanding its sales of Google Glass to waiting developers who want to buy early units so they can use them and create innovative new apps that could help expand the future Glass marketplace.

The expanded Glass availability to select developers apparently began toward the end of November and became publicized by recipients of the invitations, who then posted news of their windfalls on the Google+ Glass page and other Web pages. Under the program, an as-yet-unknown number of additional developers will be able to purchase their own Glass devices for $1,500, plus shipping.

The invites to developers who have not yet been able to get their hands on early Glass devices were very straightforward, according to one celebratory Google+ post. "Hi there," read the note from Google. "The Glass Explorer Program brings together bold, creative individuals who want to shape the future of Glass. When you asked us how to get Glass on this site, we told you there would be more chances to join the Explorer Program. Well, here's your chance. Click on the purchase code below to begin your adventures with Glass."

Other developers received a message with slightly different wording, according to a Nov. 26 story by Engadget. "When you asked us how to get Glass on this site, we told you there would be more chances to join the Explorer Program ... someday. Well, today's the day," the alternate message stated. "The sneak peek of the Glass Developer Kit (GDK) is available now, making it possible to build new and innovative kinds of Glassware. We're now inviting you, as a developer, to purchase Glass, become an Explorer and join us in taking the next step in developing for Glass."

Little other information was forthcoming from Google about the expansion, based on a Nov. 27 email inquiry from eWEEK. "We previously issued a statement on the expansion of the Explorer program, which is still true," according to a reply from a Google spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous. "As we've said for several months, our goal is to continue to expand our Explorer program ahead of a wider consumer launch down the road in 2014."

A lot has been happening in the world of Glass lately. Earlier in November, a report surfaced that said Google is in talks to make Google Glass available with prescription lenses for wearers of prescription eyeglasses. The report said Google has been in talks about such an arrangement with VSP Global, a nationwide vision benefits provider that also makes frames and lenses, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. The article added that "the discussions are in early stages, and so far, the companies have no formal agreement."

The possibility is intriguing nonetheless because it adds interesting possibilities to Google's previously acknowledged plans to create a version of Glass that could be used by people who wear eyeglasses. VSP already provides vision plan services for Google's employees, The Wall Street Journal reported, and is a major provider in the eye health marketplace, with a network of 30,000 eye doctors, covering some 60 million people insured in its plans.

Google Glass doesn't come with traditional lenses, but some users have modified them to work with their own existing eyeglasses. Still, to make Glass work with prescription eyeglasses, an integrated approach like an agreement with a company such as VSP is probably a good idea to help such a project succeed.

Google Expands Glass Program, This Time to More Developers

Earlier in November, Google offered a sneak peek at its Glass Development Kit, which will soon be unveiled to allow developers to gain even broader control and innovation in their next designs and features for Google Glass apps. The GDK is an add-on to the Android Software Developers Kit that lets developers build Glass apps, called Glassware, that run directly on Glass. Unlike the Mirror API, Glassware built with the GDK runs on Glass itself, allowing access to low-level hardware features, according to Google.

In a related Google+ post, Google revealed that five additional useful and innovative Glass apps are now available for use by Glass Explorer users. The new apps were built using the new GDK, according to Google.

Earlier in November, Glass users were treated to device software updates that added several improvements, including the ability to access their personalized Google Calendar appointments and upcoming events while using Glass. Also added in the update is an easier first-time setup process and simpler commands for using Glass to go to work or to get home.

In October, Google began a new Glass program that allows existing users to invite up to three friends to buy their own eyewear-mounted computers now, before they go on sale to the general public sometime later this year. The invite-a-friend program is being viewed by Google as a way to expand its Glass Explorer Program, which is the name used for the first test users of the innovative devices. Existing early Glass users will also now have a one-time chance to trade in their current Glass devices for the latest model, which includes improvements and updates.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first surfaced in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development. It was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.

Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.

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