Google has signed on Italian optical wear firm Luxottica to help it design and build future versions of its Glass face-based computing system, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal confirmed by Google to TechCrunch. The news comes from Luxottica itself, which says it will build new versions of Google’s wearable, which could theoretically be branded under Ray-Ban, Oakley, Miu Miu, Armani and many others that Luxottica counts as sub-brands.
Google previously announced that it would be offering its own in-house prescription frames that work with Glass, with a price tag of $225 without the lenses. Luxottica signing on means that the company gets some big-name backing from one of the biggest eyeware manufacturers in the world, and that’s bound to help it do some work in convincing critics that its eye-level smart device has potential in the general consumer market.
Luxottica and Google have already been working together on Glass projects for the past year, but there’s no word on what the result of the project might look like, or what the terms of the deal are from a financial perspective. Still, short of Google announcing a solid release date for the consumer launch of Glass, this is a strong signal to its developer community and industry watchers that it’s still committed to making this a product you can buy on store shelves eventually. Google itself cites Luxottica’s experience selling eyeware to consumers as a key factor in its decision to partner with the company, and in an email sent to TechCrunch it says that it will collaborate with Luxottica on all Glass-compatible frames resulting from this deal, and that it will focus on the U.S. market initially.
Integrating Glass directly into existing eyeware form factors would go a long way towards helping make ordinary users comfortable with this still quite futuristic trend in connected devices, so I’d expect to see something more out of this partnership than simple frames that can support Glass in its existing form. Otherwise, I suspect we’d see something like the frames it already launched to support prescriptions for Explorers, but with name brands attached.
We’ll likely know more about Glass and its consumer launch by the end of this year, as that’s long been the rumored date for when Google might launch a version anyone can buy. Now that the Luxottica connection is public, I’d expect more details from that partnership to make their way out around any other consumer news, too.