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Google Glass Welcomes the Masses — For One Day Only

| April 14, 2014
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Google engineer Ian McKellar wears Google Glass during the Google I/O developers conference at the Moscone Center on May 15, 2013. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Google engineer Ian McKellar wears Google Glass during the Google I/O developers conference at Moscone Center on May 15, 2013. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Getting a big tax return and not sure what to do with it? For just $1,500 (plus tax), you can join the exclusive face-computer club whose members are often referred to as “Glassholes.”

On Tuesday, Google is loosening the velvet reins of the “Explorer” program and letting anyone plunk down the cash for Google Glass. Google will even throw in a free sunglass shade or lens frame.

Amid privacy concerns and class-war heckles, the move is Google’s first attempt to get Glass into the hands of the masses. On a recent Google+ posting, the company said:

“Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too”

Until now, the privilege of owning the controversial face computer has been reserved to participants in smaller campaigns. When the product launched at Google I/O in 2012, 2,000 pre-orders were accepted. Then last year the company doled out about 8,000 Google Glasses to winners of the #ifihadglass Twitter campaign. Now any old “mom or baker” can join the club.

For those Glass wearers worried that their elite status will be tarnished by an influx of randoms, don’t worry — this egalitarianism is strictly limited. The sale is a one-day-only event, and supplies are limited. After April 15, Google Glass will return to being a symbol of the geek elite. As Wired’s Mat Honan writes, “Glass is a class divide on your face.”

“The question is what does it do for someone other than serve as a status artifact on their face? The smartphone is a very productive technology. Does the Google Glass substantially enhance your ability to do things beyond what you can already do with your smartphone?” asks Fred Turner, who studies media and technology at Stanford.

Turner says that part of the problem is that Silicon Valley is marketing to itself.

“If you actually go to the Google Glass marketing website, you see a picture of a male biker and female golfer: wealthy, hyper individuated, really very much in pursuit of their own individual success, all of which are characteristics of a kind of Silicon Valley type and make sense in the Valley, but that’s not what the world is made of; Valley folks who want to enhance their personal productivity by being online while they ride their bikes,” he said.

And while some tech workers might trade privacy for productivity, many people feel differently.

According to a recent report put out by market research firm Toluna, 72 percent of Americans would not purchase Glass because of privacy concerns. Also listed among reasons people don’t want the product: safety, distractibility and concerns about being mugged.

In an article about his experiences wearing Glass, Honan wrote: “Again and again, I made people very uncomfortable. That made me very uncomfortable. … People get angry at Glass. They get angry at you for wearing Glass.”

If that sounds like fun, bookmark this page, set your alarms for 6 a.m. on April 15, and get ready to click “refresh.” And oh yeah, don’t forget the $1,500.

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About the Author ()

Adam Grossberg is an Interactive Producer with KQED News. Reach Adam Grossberg at agrossberg@KQED.org.

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