MOUNTAIN VIEW -- For a limited time Tuesday, regular Americans will have the chance to join a Silicon Valley elite -- the early adopters of Google Glass, the eyeglass-like computers that so far have been sold only to people hand-selected by Google.
However many Google Glasses are sold Tuesday -- Google won't say how many are available -- the result will be that even more of them will be out in public stirring up envy over the latest wearable technology and fears over their wearers' ability to photograph and video anything within eyesight and post it instantly onto the Web.
Google has said it hopes to bring Google Glass to the mass consumer market sometime later this year. So it's unclear what Google's trying to accomplish by offering an unspecified number of units for a limited time beginning at 6 a.m. Pacific time -- for a cool $1,500 each.
The company did not respond to requests for comment Monday but posted on Google+ that "Our (Google Glass) Explorers are moms, artists, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven't found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback, too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we're trying something new."
Using touch and voice activation, Google Glass users can access many of the same tools and toys enjoyed by smartphone, laptop and tablet users -- except in a lighter, wearable package. Angela McIntyre, research director at the Gartner research firm, said Tuesday's sale will appeal to "early adopters who are very interested in what new technology can do in terms of giving them capabilities they've never had before and interact with their social media in new ways -- say, post video to social media and share it with friends in ways that are easier than they've been able to do before."
"Generally," she said, "consumers don't understand the real value of Google Glass. They just need to be educated about it. When the price comes down, more folks will be willing to give it a try."
J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst with the Forrester tech research firm, said the one-day online requests will give Google prime market data on where consumers stand on the issue of Google Glass.
"They're trying to get some market research on how far they've come in changing perceptions of Glass," he said. "It's an interesting moment for them to collect some really high-quality intelligence to find out how tarnished their brand is and find out what demand looks like. Google is very sophisticated in collecting and interpreting data and they're going to learn a lot from this experience."
Gownder said Google on Tuesday may receive a lot of requests from companies and corporations that want to use Google Glasses everywhere from operating rooms to agricultural fields to engineering job sites -- or from hotels and restaurants that want to be able to greet guests without the need for a keyboard or tablet.
With speculation that only 10,000 people own Google Glass, Gownder added that it's important for Google to expand the user base to encourage developers to create new apps, services and support for the nascent technology.
Google Glass has been getting pounded from people concerned about its wearers' ability to shoot and post images -- along with the power to instantly access the Internet just an eyelash away.
Derek Crandall, 36, of Howell, Mich., owns a company that makes mobile websites and gets lots of positive -- and some negative -- attention whenever he wears the Google Glass that he's owned for three months.
Last week, while walking around a Michigan Best Buy wearing his Google Glass, Crandall heard employees' walkie-talkies barking with the message, "Glass in the building, Glass in the building" as employees oohed and aahed over his computerized eyewear.
Then, just 15 minutes later, he went to eat lunch at a restaurant where the hostess took one look at his Google Glass and said, " 'Wow, those are invasive.' It was a complete 180."
The first time he wore them at a restaurant, people started taking Crandall's photo on their smartphones without asking, an intrusion he finds ironic, given the concerns that Glass wearers can take people's images without permission.
Whether he's greeted with envy or scorn or just plain curiosity, Crandall said, he typically offers to let people try out his Google Glass.
"People fear the unknown," he said.
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
To apply for the chance to buy Google Glass, go to www.google.com/glass/start/how-to-get-one.