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IT & Systems Management

Google Glass may get more stylish with help from Oakley and Ray-Ban

Google is looking to reach a wider audience for Glass with some design help from Oakley and Ray-Ban.

Google announced Monday that it has partnered with the Luxottica Group, an Italian company that owns Ray-Ban, Oakley and other brands. Luxottica will help design, manufacture and distribute frames for Google Glass.

The partnership could help increase acceptance of Glass outside the tech sphere. It's currently used primarily by software developers and other "early adopters."

"This news represents our biggest step yet into the emerging smart eyewear market," a Google spokeswoman said.

Luxottica operates more than 5,000 retail stores across the U.S., according to Google.

"Luxottica's retail and wholesale distribution channels will serve us well when we make Glass available to more people down the road," Google said. The arrangement is focused for now on the U.S. market, it added.

Google will collaborate with Luxottica to design all Glass-compatible frames, starting with Oakley and Ray-Ban. Luxottica will manufacture the frames and help distribute Glass through opticians, kiosks and other outlets. Google will also continue to sell the device online through its Explorer program for early adopters.

It didn't say when new frames will be made available or how much they'll cost, and financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The Oakley brand is popular among law enforcement and military personnel, so the deal could potentially help Google to expand in those markets too.

Scott Strawn, an industry analyst at IDC, said the partnership could help Glass to gain wider acceptance. But the price will need to come down well below the current level of US$1,500, he said.

The new designs could make Glass less awkward and conspicuous to wear in public. "People tend to react differently to you when they see you're wearing Google Glass," Strawn said.

The partnership advances an effort already underway at Google to make Glass more appealing. Earlier this year it announced the Titanium collection, consisting of new frames and prescription lenses.

Google will continue to offer those frames and create its own with Luxottica's help.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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