Feature

Can the stylish folks at Warby Parker rescue Google Glass from dork purgatory?

The search giant is reportedly tapping the red-hot eyewear start-up for a dose of cool

If it lives up to the hype, Google Glass will allow users do some pretty cool stuff. Snap pictures of your kids hands-free! Pull up maps when you're driving alone! Video chat with all your billionaire pals when you're jumping out of an airplane! And so on, and so forth.

That said, Google still has a major hurdle to overcome: Getting normal, non-Silicon Valley millionaires to wear the thing.

Yes, Google masterminds Larry Page and Sergey Brin have a pretty sizable image problem on their hands. If runway models who make a living off their looks turn into big dorks wearing Glass, what chance do the rest of us normals stand?

Smartphones are pretty little computers you can stash in your pocket or bag. Glass, on the other hand, sits on your face when you're out in public. Smartphones suck you in. Glass makes you stand out. "The problem is getting the device to look like something other than, at best, a glorified Bluetooth headset," says Kelly Faircloth at BetaBeat, hitting the nail on the head. This, of course, is easier said than done.

Well, Google at least seems willing to tackle the virtually impossible: According to The New York Times, Page and Brin are reportedly tapping the design sensibilities of Warby Parker — a company known for selling stylish, affordable eyewear — to help design the next iteration of Google Glass. Talks are still in the negotiation stage, according to sources, and both Google and Warby Parker have declined to comment on the matter.

The report mentions the success of Nike's FuelBand, the trendy little training monitor that snaps around your wrist and beams data to your iPhone. The comparison doesn't fit perfectly — your wrist is, last time I checked, not your face — but Nike has hit on something important: Everyday users are much more likely to take to new technology when it's subtle, when it doesn't look like a new technology at all.

What would the ideal piece of Google Glass eyewear look like? Ideally, invisible (contact lenses!), but otherwise probably a lot like an ordinary, versatile pair of Warby Parker specs. As with any new technology, Glass is still relatively bulky, at least in its beta pre-order stage. And it'll probably be a few years before all the internal circuitry can be shrunken down to fit inside a standard tortoise-shell frame.

So can the folks at Warby Parker rescue the hapless face computer and take it beyond faux pas territory and into the future? At the very least they have a shot. Note how much style they injected into the otherwise boring financials of their most recent annual report. That right there says something.

Or, maybe Google's technology will be so undeniably good and compelling that users simply won't care about how it looks. Of course, if Wednesday's preview video of "real" users wearing Glass is a reliable yardstick, the dorky, groundbreaking, do-everything computer of the future still has a ways to go to convince us mortal-looking non-CEOs to shell out $1,500 for a pair.

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