Google’s Barges Likely Glass Exhibition Spaces, Lease Indicates

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The furor over Google’s mystery barges in San Francisco and Portland has reached a fever pitch over the past week. According to our sources the various reports about the barges being showcases for Google’s Glass retail efforts are correct.

Today, a report by The Los Angeles Times’ Chris O’Brien notes that most of the reporters going after this barge story have been looking at the wrong San Francisco lease. O’Brien notes that the correct lease’s purpose is the “fabrication of a special event structure and art exhibit only and for no other purpose.”

The sources we spoke to were still uncertain about the exact uses that all of the barges would be put to in the end, but aiding Google in showcasing Glass for its eventual retail run is the likeliest fate of the units docked behind San Francisco’s Treasure Island.

A story from CBS KPIX yesterday, which we mentioned earlier today, outlined a luxury showroom with a ‘party deck’ up top and spaces below for retail stores that could showcase Glass and other Google products. This report was said to be ‘pretty accurate’ by our sources.

The barges are composed of shipping containers stacked together, with cutouts that have had large bay windows put in place and then covered up. The shipping container is already a favored construction block of Google, which has used them for years to house data centers that can be easily expanded. The rationale behind using containers in this instance is that the barges likely won’t be a permanent home for the showcases, which could theoretically be disassembled and moved wherever Google needs them to be, on land or sea.

Lack of retail stores in which to demonstrate Glass effectively and publicly has always been a concern with regards to making the head-mounted computers available widely at retail. In my time with Glass, it became incredibly evident that people had no idea what they really did, how to use them or what the value proposition was. Poor demo conditions in many places that I showed them to other people limited them to what amounted to a head-mounted video camera. A proper mis-en-scène for Glass will be all-important for having people ‘get’ the thing, and apparently Google is working to provide just that.

News of the barges, which are being built by a shell company called ‘Buy and Large Llc‘ (an apparent Wall-E reference) was broken widely by Cnet last week, which speculated that they could be water-borne data centers. But, O’Brien notes, this report is actually chasing the wrong lease, one that was signed on August 1st, while work on the Google barge began last year.

A report from The Verge this week noted that the Treasure Island barge will likely be towed across to Fort Mason for display once it’s completed. The Portland Press Herald, which published the image above, snuck out to get some close-up shots of the one at Rickers Wharf this week.