Google Glass hops into business with tech partners

Ray Lane on Google Glass partner: 'This is a profound change'
Ray Lane on Google Glass partner: 'This is a profound change'

"There are more technologies people made fun of than not," said Ray Lane, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who's been a CEO, advisor and investor in technology since before Mark Zuckerberg was born. "Look at Google's driverless car, robotics."

The technology currently being mocked is Google Glass, the wearable computer which has been parodied on "Saturday Night Live." Some wearers have even been attacked in San Francisco in what may be an anti-technology backlash. At last month's Google developer conference, reports indicated that top Google executives did not wear the devices on stage.

Yet Google Glass is partnering with technology start-ups, which may help it find a place in the business world far more important and profitable than may be possible as a merely expensive personal computing accessory.

CrowdOptic is a company that streams the video a Google Glass wearer sees through his or her camera to another screen. Lane has invested in the company, which was recently named one of five certified Google Glass partners.

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The technology was tried out during the NBA season by the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers. Some players wore Google Glass with CrowdOptic during warm ups, and what they saw was transmitted on to a large screen for fans to see.

The Philadelphia Eagles plan to use the technology from the sidelines this season, and CrowdOptic has agreements with Sony for its new SmartEyeGlass, with International Speedway, which owns most NASCAR tracks, and with a Northern California ambulance company called ProTransport-1, which wants EMTs to wear the glasses and transmit the condition of patients ahead to the ER.

"I can 'inherit' the view of a low-orbiting satellite or a drone or any device," said CrowdOptic CEO Jon Fisher about the technology's potential market reach. "We've been talking to a number of public safety and service guys to do some things that allow governments to be more efficient ... you can beam into something 10,000 meters away that you can't see with the naked eye."

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Google Glass
Source: Google

But it's not easy. Competing for Wi-Fi in a basketball arena, for example, takes the right technology platform.

"To be able to do this in high density ... is difficult," said Fisher.

He chose professional sports as the first market to debut CrowdOptic because it was splashy. But beyond sideline antics, Fisher said officials in one national sports league (which he won't name yet) are testing the use of Google Glass with CrowdOptic on referees for better review of disputed plays. Among CrowdOptic's investors are NFL greats John Elway and Ronnie Lott.

"They're both savvy technology guys," said Lane.

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Privacy, however, could be an issue, as people (or patients) may not realize video is being streamed to another source. Fisher and Lane don't seem to have a problem with that.

"We, as a society, are going to have to adapt for the better good," said Fisher. "With these devices we can, in some cases, have superhuman powers, and that's quite an offset to any privacy issue."

Lane believes younger consumers "are a little more comfortable with trading off the advantage of speed and technology to give up a little privacy."

CrowdOptic has raised $5 million in funding so far, much of it from Silicon Valley Bank. Fisher sold his last company to Oracle, and he's coy when asked when he might also sell his new venture.

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He still doesn't really know what it's worth, or what it can do. Neither does Lane.

"That's the great thing about Silicon Valley," said Lane. "It's the only place in the world I know of that invents technologies that are disruptive technologies, (and) then the applications are thought of in the future."

—By CNBC's Jane Wells