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The value of eyewearable devices and patents

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The hype for Google Glass will be tested tomorrow when the public has its first crack at buying the device. That hype has clearly infected corporate giants, with Facebook announcing a $2 billion deal for Oculus VR and Microsoft reportedly spending between $100 million and $150 million to buy six issued and 75 pending patents from Osterhout Design Group.

There appears to be a run-up on patents covering eyewearables as companies jockey for IP position ahead of consumer launch. The patent battle between Samsung and Apple has not gone unnoticed as awards of hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake. The emerging wearable market is poised for faster growth than the mature handheld market, so today’s IP will define the dominant players over the next 20 years.

But what does this mean for consumers? Google’s plans for introducing its eyewearable device as a consumer product in 2014 remain shrouded in mystery. Google has offered Glass as a $1500 development and use-case experiment to innovators it calls Explorers. Tomorrow, the device is open for a single day to anyone interested in buying Glass at that price-point.

The decision to offer Glass more broadly, if only for a day, has led to much speculation. Is Google trying to gauge public interest ahead of a legitimate launch date? Is the company purging stock of the Explorer edition in favor of an updated Glass edition that will retail at a lower list price? And what of the actual consumer launch? Will it still be in 2014 or is it being pushed back to 2015?

One thing is for sure: Glass remains the most hyped mobile device and wearable. Without even an official release date, it has evoked the full range of responses from consumers, industries and lawmakers, from unbridled enthusiasm of the many ways it can contribute to humanity to fears of privacy erosion and illegality. These fears and hopes are common to the introduction of many breakthrough technologies.

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