Google Glass Explorer program expands with invites and new hardware

You still can’t get Google Glass(s goog) in a retail store but more people can actually purchase the wearable device directly from Google. Starting in the next few weeks, Google is allowing each Google Explorer to invite three others to purchase Glass. In a Google+ post on Monday Google said that current Glass owners who paid $1,500 for Glass can also do a one-time hardware swap.

Theoretically, the new program could increase the total number of Glass owners by a factor of three. Since roughly 8,000 Explorers previously purchased Glass, that would mean around 24,000 people wearing Glass; a solid number of total users. Google initially limited the program to gather feedback and improve the product; something it does monthly with software updates.

But Google is improving the hardware too. In the post, it says:

“We want to say “thank you” for all the amazing feedback we’ve been getting, so later this year, all Explorers will have a one-time option to swap out their existing Glass for a new one. This hardware update will allow your Glass to work with future lines of shades and prescription frames, and we’ll also include a mono earbud. “

It sounds like Google has worked out the mechanism needed to accept prescription glasses. That’s good news because in my testing of Glass with my own glasses, wearing two pairs of eyeglasses is less than ideal. The mono earbud is something I didn’t see coming but it’s still welcome: People near me can hear Glass when it’s speaking.

New Glass purchases, or previous owners that swap out hardware, will be able to have the device shipped directly to them.

Updated at 2:08 pm: The article incorrectly stated that original Glass Explorers were required to pick up their Glass at a Google location.