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At some point before or during the Google I/O conference next month, Google is expected to release its first Project Glass product, Google Glass Explorer Edition, an eyeglass frame packed with a Wi-Fi-enabled wearable computer and display.
Although wearable computers have been around for years in various forms such as network-enabled wristwatches, Project Glass represents the first attempt by a major platform company to extend the recently developed mobile ecosystem to a consumer-oriented head-mounted device.
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As such, Project Glass is being closely watched and already has competitors of a sort, including the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses and the Epson Moverio BT-100. If Project Glass proves to be useful and sells well, Google will be lionized for expanding the market for mobile hardware and cloud computing services beyond handsets and tablets. If it fails, Google's future as a hardware company, foretold by its Motorola Mobility acquisition and established with its Nexus and Pixel devices, will be called into question.
So it is that Google has been feverishly teasing the arrival of Project Glass with developer events, contests, and strategic exclusive interviews, to suppress the premature backlash and to prime interest among developers and the general public. Google is pulling out all the stops to help Glass succeed.
With the recent disclosure of API details at the SXSW conference last month, Google made it clear that developers will be able to extend Project Glass. The formation of the Glass Collective ensures that nascent Project Glass-oriented companies have the financial nutrients to grow and to support Google's effort to establish a platform driven by sound and vision rather than touch.
In his blog, venture capitalist and browser pioneer Marc Andreessen endorses Project Glass enthusiastically. "The thesis of Glass is profoundly transformational -- to integrate connectivity and information directly into your field of vision and into your normal daily life," he writes. "Instead of having a phone in your pocket or a tablet in your briefcase, why not have the Internet in your field of vision when you want it -- and why not feed the Internet with live video and audio that matches what you see and hear at any time."
John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, sounds just as sanguine about the prospects of Project Glass. "New platforms are rare, but can be transformational, when they're based on great products with robust APIs, powerful distribution and outstanding entrepreneurs," he says on his company's site. "That's exactly the goal of Glass and the Glass Collective. At KPCB, we've done this before, with funds making early bets on new platforms for mobile devices, social networks and Java."