During Google's I/O developer conference in May, Scott Stein reporting for C/NET stated that you had to look closely on the Google I/O show floor, but a few Google employees were wearing Glass prototypes with actual prescription glasses attached. Designed in-house at Google, they actually look good with crisp modern lines. Shortly thereafter a Google patent surfaced confirming a solution for prescription glasses that will be sold in retail store kits which will provide consumers with a wide array of materials and parts. Its sounds like the "add-on" could be a killer market-in-the-making for Google.
A Google Glass Arm for Prescription Glasses
Google's patent FIG. 13 below illustrates an assembly, that according to Google, "could include a module (#714) paired with a wearable structure in the form of eyeglasses (# 712) that are adapted for connection with the module. In general, the frame could be similar to a frame associated with prescription glasses or sunglasses."
As shown in FIG. 13 above, the frame could include two matching arms 740A and 740B. The arms could include batteries, control circuitry, communication devices, and the like, which could be connected to the arms by wires, traces or the like embedded within the arms.
Also shown in patent FIG. 13 is a module (#714) that could be adjusted to appropriately position Google's Glass (#754) display over the user's eye at the point of attachment to arm 740A or 740B. Additionally, the module could have a housing that splits into display and arm portions that could rotate relative to each other as shown in patent FIGS. 10A-C below.
According to Google, the rims of the glasses could be made of aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, nickel, gold, or various alloys. If hinges are used, they could be spring-loaded or the like to apply a comfortable pressure against the user's head or to accommodate a range of different head sizes comfortably. In some embodiments, arms can be made of a plastic material with internal metal reinforcement to allow bending or to prevent breakage.
Retail Google Glass Kits for Prescription Glasses
According to Google's patent filing, various combinations of modules and wearable structures will be packaged in retail kits. Google's filing describes a wide array of parts that users will be able to choose from, including different frames, side arms, regular frames and frames with an integrated camera.
You're also given the impression that you'll be able to modify your existing glasses by exchanging parts that support Google's Glass Arm. The patent filing wwas is a little fuzzy on this point. The noted C/NET report stated that "Google's own in-house design team" may be getting into this business. So we'll have to wait and see how this all plays out in the future.
Google points out in a further example shown in patent FIG. 15 below, that a separate magnetic element #886 could be used to connect a Google Glass Arm to a metal side arm of a metal framed pair of glasses. The Google Glass Arm is noted as having magnets built-in. What's not clear here is whether they're talking about Google supplied metal frames or those found off-the-shelf at an optical shop.
A Strapping Design
Google's patent FIG. 16 noted above illustrates a further example in which the Google Glass Arm includes a strap (# 892) extending from the inside surface of the arm (#868) to the exterior housing. The filing states that the strap could be made from a flexible material that could further be elastic or elastomeric to allow both flexibility and stretching around head-worn items like a cap or hat.
Some people today have their reading glasses on a chain or strap, so perhaps this is what they're enviioning here as well. The ability to have Google Glass on a strap that could be quickly attached to their prescription glasses only when needed by means of a quick magnetic application. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how well these applications actually pan out before judging them.
At the end of the day, Google's Glass project is likely to support a massive future parts business that the industry or Wall Street never saw coming. Considering that half of the civilized world wears prescription glasses, this segment is likely to be beating down the doors to get their hands on parts so as to add that cool "smartware" factor to their everday boring eyeware. Well, I'm sure that's the sugar high that Google's executives are envisioning at the moment. And who knows, perhaps it'll play out that way too. Time will tell.
Google originally filed their patent application under serial number 344063 back in Q1 2012. The patent application was published recently by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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A Note of Interest: See the YouTube video about a new Google Glass Competitor trying to get off the ground