Google’s working on high-fashion Glass. Where are the fancy smartwatches?


An employee demonstrates how a pair of Google Glass connected glasses are capable of reading barcodes on day three of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.(Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg)

Google Glass keeps getting more and more stylish. Google and Luxottica -- which makes Oakleys and Ray-Bans --  announced Monday that they are working together on new designs for the smart glasses ahead of Glass's expected but as-yet-undetermined consumer launch.

It's yet another step in the effort to make wearable devices into accessories that consumers may actually want to wear. Earlier this month, Google announced that it was adding four new styles to glass, including those that support prescription lenses, in a move that seemed like a bid to take the idea of Glass further into the mainstream. After all, if Glass starts to look like a normal pair of glasses -- or, even better, a cool pair -- then it's more likely that the general consumer will be willing to consider buying one.

The industry potential for adding smart chips and sensors into our accessories is enormous, but the offerings we've seen for devices that do more haven't exactly been stylish -- leaving the door wide open for high-fashion houses to make their mark on the next big thing.

Ever since it became clear that wearables would likely become a sector worth watching, analysts have said that fashion houses would be smart to partner with tech firms to make sleek, cool accessories that justify their price-tags by offering more than the potential for a nice compliment now and again. In fact, the Luxottica partnership raises some questions about why other luxury brands haven't already jumped at the chance to tap into an entirely new pool of money.

One might expect watch makers, for example, to jump at the chance to find new markets. Customers still aren't totally sold on Glass, but fitness bands have been very successful even despite the fact that their designs often leave much to be desired.


A hostess shows a Smartwatch by Sony at the Mobile World Congress in this Feb. 28, 2012 photo in Barcelona.(Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images)

And while the watch industry has actually been -- if you'll excuse the pun -- ticking along at a pretty good rate, it's starting to slow down. Sales were up in 2011 and 2012, according to the analysts firm Euromonitor International, but dipped in 2013.  Even luxury watch sales, which have been an industry bright spot, are starting to see their growth rates fall off.

But if a Rolex, Tag Heuer or even Fossil -- which leads the United States in market share -- jumped on board the wearables train like their brethren in the glasses world have, it would be able to ride the growth waves of both industries and make the watch look forward-thinking in the process. That's not so bad for a 146-year-old invention.

After all, it's not as if  designers would have to produce anything quickly. This latest news from Google certainly doesn't indicate that the firm's going to releasing Glass, particularly Ray-Ban or Oakley-branded Glass, any time soon.

"You’re not going to see Glass on your favorite Oakleys or Ray-Bans tomorrow, but today marks the start of a new chapter in Glass’s design," the company said in an official post on the Google Glass G+ page.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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