Italian Google Glass competitor, GlassUp, finished fundraising and is blowing into development. The bluetooth-enabled tech specs, which will be compatible with Android, iOS, and possibly with Windows, will show email, texts, social media updates, and third party apps via a unique screen placed on the side of users’ field of vision, instead of the front (à la Glass). With an Italian eyewear company working to make the glasses fashionable, and a non-invasive company attitude toward the specs’ camera capabilities, GlassUp has the potential to become the cheaper, kinder, gentler answer to Glass. We talked to CEO Francesco Giartosio about his competition, the glasses’ future audience, and what it’ll take for augmented reality wear to become mainstream.
The High Low: Who do you expect to be your main audience for GlassUp? More men or women…?
Francesco Giartosio: Initially more men, because they are more represented in the geek, tech fans, and extreme sports categories.
THL: At launch, at least, what do you expect to be GlassUp adopters’ primary use for the technology?
FG: We think sports, particularly cyclists maybe. [Athletes] will use them similarly to the current Nike app [FuelBand]: to measure steps, distance, speed, heartbeats, driving directions, slope grade, time elapsed, compare to average, etc.
THL: Have you gotten much feedback regarding your much more accessible price point than that of Google Glass? In general, are you taking any heat from Google regarding your product?
FG: We are starting to have fun in teasing Google — it’s also a marketing strategy, admittedly. We think we’ll keep doing it when opportunities arise.
THL: Can you talk more about the potential augmented reality ban on tech-enhanced glasses? How do you expect to circumvent the ban because of your camera’s placement?
Shows what GlassUp will do, not what it’ll look like.
FG: If you mean the privacy issue, actually we plan to make the camera version very recognizable. We don’t want to hide it because we believe it would be impolite — we don’t want our users to spy on their neighbors.
THL: Speaking of that, does any other company place the screen similarly to GlassUp?
FG: Almost all the other companies (Oakley, Vuzix, Ericsson, Sony, etc.) use or plan to use a position similar to Google, a separate screen. We’re the only ones able to use the eyeglass lenses themselves.
THL: Right now there’s so much talk surrounding whether wearable tech, in the form of glasses, can ever be fashionable. We imagine you must believe that it will be! How long do you think it’ll take before the look becomes more widely accepted and mainstream? What will it take?
FG: Concerning eyeglasses, aesthetics is very important. We think that the look will become mainstream only when the [tech] disappears in normal eyeglasses, except for extreme sports. In fact, we’ve heard that now Google is pointing to industrial users, for their warehouse and maintenance workers. Probably they have realized that their glasses would end up in a drawer very quickly, so the only people who will use them will be those who are obligated to by their bosses. Expect strikes.
Moreover, the news describes often the feelings of people who try Google Glass, but they never mention the feelings of those who talk with someone who wears Google Glass, which are unpleasant. The fact is that Google Glass makes you disagreeable to other people.
THL: Are there any GlassUp developments coming soon that you can tell us about?
FG: Not that we can tell you about, sorry. Actually, we’ll become much more silent from now on. We made noise to raise funds and awareness, and it worked more than expected, now we need to go ahead with the development and nothing else.