Aiming at this market, Google is announcing on Tuesday a Glass for Work program to provide additional tools for business users, like tech support, and to explore how to sell Glass to more of them.
It will not necessarily be an easy sell. The privacy concerns about Glass could be an even bigger issue in certain work settings, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Consider meetings in which sensitive information is exchanged, for example, with a doctor or financial adviser.
Yet in many cases, he said, there are fewer privacy concerns about Glass in the workplace.
"I can think of a whole bunch of professions where Google Glass makes a lot of sense and poses almost no privacy risk at all and could be really valuable — everything from engineering to car repair to architecture to lumberjacking," Mr. Rotenberg said. "But what's interesting about all of those professions is that you're not actually interacting with a customer."
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Sullivan Solar Power, which installs solar panels in Southern California, is already using Glass; it created its own software to show technicians information like the electrical characteristics of a certain roof.
"Our construction guys and field techs, they're going up and down ladders, up on rooftops, around potentially dangerous equipment," said Michael Chagala, Sullivan's director of information technology. "To be able to have their hands free is obviously critical, and they can't bring a laptop up a ladder or see one in the sun."
Head-mounted devices have been around a long time in fields like the military, manufacturing and aviation. Glass is still just a prototype without features that workers say they need, like long battery life and protective lenses. And despite the initial interest, Glass remains a novelty at most businesses, in part because it is not yet publicly available, and for those invited to buy it, it costs $1,500. Sullivan Solar had to buy its first pair on eBay.
Yet tech investors and entrepreneurs see potential.
Start-ups that make Glass software for businesses are sprouting up, including Wearable Intelligence, Augmedix, CrowdOptic, APX Labs and Pristine. These companies have raised venture capital from investors including Emergence Capital Partners, DCM, Silicon Valley Bank and First Round Capital. Three other well-known Silicon Valley venture firms — Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — also invest through Glass Collective, a partnership.
Despite privacy concerns, health care has been particularly intriguing for Glass entrepreneurs.
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Six clinics, mostly in California, are using software from Augmedix. As the doctor and patient have a conversation, the software automatically enters the patient's information into an electronic chart. Because Glass includes video, the software understands even nonverbal communication; for example, if a patient points to the part of the body that hurts.
The lung surgeon at U.C.S.F., Dr. Pierre Theodore, uses Glass when he performs minimally invasive surgery that requires the doctor to rely on imagery to guide the surgical instruments. By using Glass, Dr. Theodore can see the images from scans and the live images at the same time.
"There's relatively little shift of attention between seeing the patient in front of you and seeing critical information in your field of vision," he said. "I believe it can be and will be revolutionary."